10 Minutes with Aiden James

Philly's gay musical son returns to the Tin Angel on March 27, but not before coming clean on Andy Bell, mixed martial arts and his upcoming album

Photos courtesy of Aiden James

Just meeting him, you’d probably never know he’s received rave reviews from music critics around the world (even Alan Cumming said he was “spot on” in that adorable Irish brogue of his) because Aiden James doesn’t ever let it go to his head. The singer-songwriter’s got too many other things to think about these days – like recording his next studio album.

That doesn’t mean the scruffy gay songster and self-described “coffee lover and rule breaker” – isn’t a rock star. He’s been playing gigs around the world to a loyal following of fans for the last few years – many of whom first got a taste of his musical stylings on Logo’s Pop Lab along with the Scissor Sisters, La Roux and other gay-friendly acts that have hit the big time. He’s been in good company since he first launched his live album. And things are looking up.

The handsome crooner has also been loyal to his Philly roots despite a very busy tour schedule. As he gets ready to play the intimate Tin Angel on March 27 (7 p.m.) we checked in to find out the secret to his success, where he likes to hang his hat when he’s home and if he ever gets tired of playing his hit single “On the Run.”

Welcome back to Philly, Aiden.

Thanks! I have to say I miss the LA. sunshine.

It’s a great time to be playing a gig in Philly now that spring’s made it here. When was the last time we saw you in Philly?

Hmm. The last Philly show was August, I think. It’s hard to remember.

Anyone who keeps up with you on Facebook knows you seldom stay in one place for long. But you’ve been a fixture on the hometown music scene for years. Where are are some of your favorite places to perform?

I am? A fixture? That sounds so “home improvement.” Hopefully I’m of those fancy ones that Kohler would make. You know, those faucets you don’t even have to touch for water to come out. (laughs) I like performing at the Tin Angel for the simple fact that it’s packed butts-to-balls with my fans and friends. I love them.

And you recorded your live album there a few years ago. What about when you’re not working – where do you hang with friends when you’re back home?

I like to chill in Rittenhouse Square with a to-go cup of dark-roast coffee. Or jog along the Schuylkill River. I hit up the clubs and bars, too, for the nightlife.

Since you’ve been around the world, what’s your impression of the music scene here in the City of Brotherly Love?

There is an effort, however, I find people get stuck here. I learned early to tour as much as possible.

Where have you been touring?

New York City, Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas, St. Martin, the Bahamas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Milwaukee. I’ve even been billed with some cool icons like Andy Bell from Erasure.

He’s a legend. And also gay. What’s it like being an openly gay artist on today’s music scene?

It’s fine. I mean, I’m just myself. It’s rare that me being gay is even brought up in that way. People don’t care.

Besides Andy Bell, have you had a chance to work with any of your other musical heroes?

My musical heroes are my friends in the biz, like Garrison, Natalia and Adrianne Gonzalez (of The Rescues). I’d love to work with Matt Morris, Ingrid Michelson, Imogen Heap or Adele.

What else do you have planned this year?

I’m cutting a new record. And it’s consuming me. I will also be headlining in P-Town this July.

Congratulations on the record and P-Town! I hope we can get a listen when it releases. As you get to know your fans all over the world, they may think they know you pretty well – especially since your songwriting is so honest. But what’s something that may surprise people?

I’m a first-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do – Korean Martial Arts. I train three times a week in mixed martial arts.

Besides kicking our butts, if you weren’t in music, what would you be doing?

Probably finding a way to get into music.

Aiden James, March 27, 7 p.m., Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St., 215-928-0770.