Meet James! James is a long time MUD member, a talented musician, a passionate builder and a wonderful friend. Recently, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with James checking out his work and getting a behind the scenes glimpse into his creative brain. Read our interview below!

1. What are you working on currently?

“Window trim. The old trim was badly damaged and needed to be replaced. I went with a Craftsman style that would be a nod a bygone era but also with clean and modern minimal lines to give it a fresh understated elegance.” 

2. How has MUD helped you in this project?

“MUD has been instrumental in helping me complete projects that require specialty tools I don’t have room to store or the funds to purchase. Things like air compressors, nail guns, table saws and safety equipment. Being able to borrow and rent these tools at affordable rates or as part of the membership makes executing certain projects much more attainable. It’s an incredible resource that I feel super lucky to have access to. I can’t shut up about it to anyone who will listen.”

3. Is building and working on a home something you always wanted to do, or a new found passion?

“It’s something I’ve always done in some capacity but in the past I’ve been restricted to the tools I own. I lived in a converted van for a number of years and really got my feet wet building that out into a comfortable space that allowed me to tour the US and Canada as a musician for the years leading up to the pandemic. I did that mostly with hand tools. It took ages. Having access to more heavy duty power tools that are the right ones for the job makes tackling projects much less daunting and way more fun.” 

4. What is something new you have learned about yourself through this project?

“I’ve learned that we’re all just a bunch of window trim. Messy and unsightly underneath this thin veneer of decorative distraction meant to sell a picture of something much more put together and fanciful than the reality of what lies beneath. It’s all smoke and mirrors and it’s kind of beautiful.” 

5. Did you grow up around tools and building?

“To some extent. My Dad was fairly handy. But in general, I just take a lot of pleasure in creative endeavors. Writing songs, cooking, illustrating or building something. It feels really good to make something with your own hands.”

6. Do you have any advice for people just starting out on home remodel projects?

“You’ve got this. Take it slow and steady. You can learn anything through a youtube video or from a book or from someone more experienced. Never be ashamed to say, “I don’t know how to do this, can you show me?”  The world is your oyster whether you snatched it off a plate at a fancy restaurant or pulled it straight from the sea yourself. At the risk of over indexing on the oyster analogy and blatantly ripping off Nike: Just slurp it.”

7. Have there been any unforeseen challenges?

“Oh yes. I like to see things done the right way so I have a hard time cutting corners. Every time I see something done wrong or poorly made it’s a challenge to not create another project for myself. It’s a balance between improving the space but not spending a lifetime chasing perfection. It doesn’t exist. Another unforseen challenge is that I’ve become increasingly insufferable as a guest at peoples houses because I can’t help but point out past shoddy workmanship as I salivate over the prospect of ripping out their walls and rebuilding everything from the ground up for them. Every year my Christmas card pile shrinks.”

8. What is your favorite music to listen to while you work?

Very hard to answer this because I listen to hours and hours of music while I work and I like everything. I like house music and high energy stuff when I start my day. Especially if the work is hard. For that I’m usually rocking a dance music playlist I made on Spotify called Les Beats Du Jour that ranges from house to high energy club music. Loving Duke and Jones at the moment. When the work is tedious, like painting trim, I like jazz and folk music: Salvador Sobral, Chet Baker, Julie London, anything Burt Bacharach. When the work is detailed and requires a lot of attention, I like classical. Also taking time to explore things I don’t normally listen to when no one is looking, like ABBA. I’ve been missing out. Have you heard “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” ? Shit slaps.

9. What is next? Do you have other dream projects in mind?

Mid-century Danish style furniture! Like an Ikea chair if it was made by a crusty old Nordic fisherman with incredibly hip tortoise shell glasses and five lifetimes of experience. Or an A-frame cabin and I build out all the cabinetry inside and for years people go, “Wow who built this!?” and I just smirk like an a-hole and point at myself with a stub where my index finger used to be because I didn’t use a push stick on the table saw. SERIOUSLY, USE A PUSH STICK. But between the day job, night job and side jobs there just aren’t enough free hours in the day to do that yet. I say yet, because I never plan to die, ever. So truthfully I have all the time in the world. I do graphic design/UX design when I’m not performing or recording music. I’m also moonlighting as a comic book illustrator/writer from 12am to 4am most nights. I also have debilitating ADD. But you probably could never guess that from my impossibly long and varied list of passions!” 

10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with the MUD community?

Thanks for existing. I have such a huge appreciation for what a place like MUD does for the community at large and its individuals. It’s so unpretentious, accessible and inclusive. A true gem of the Garden city. Also, why are all you people so nice? What’s your angle?

If my maritime analogies didn’t immediately turn you off, catch me serenading the interiors of Cranky Sam’s April 19th or the cavernous halls of the Highlander Brew Pub June 13th. Maybe this singer songwriter will route out a special place in your heart?


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