James Rhodes has no formal academic musical education or dedicated mentoring. The title of the debut album “Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos”, hints at the suffering that dogged Rhodes’s childhood and early adult life. Classical music became his solace and key to his survival. It was Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, not Faith Hope and Charity, that offered comfort.
In 1993, mental health issues stopped him taking up a scholarship to the Guildhall. A chance meeting, 10 years later, with Franco Panozzo, agent to Russian concert pianist virtuoso, Grigori Sokolov. Panozzo arranged for James to have a brief tutorage by the renowned piano teacher Edoardo Strabbioli in Verona Italy.
Suffering further setbacks due to health issues it was not until 2008, when Rhodes met his present manager, Denis Blais, that he was encouraged to record his first CD. This enabled him to bare his soul and put many of the ghosts of the past to rest.
With Blais, Rhodes also created a distinctive and unique approach to how the classical piano repertoire should be presented. Uncomfortable with the austere and traditional ‘white tie and tails’ recital they decided it was time for the performer to communicate directly with the audience. Rhodes was going to introduce his own programme notes and share what it takes to perform these works of art using fascinating anecdotes about the composers and his own life experience. Delivered in his unique trademark stand-up style he creates an immersive experience that has won him and classical music a dedicated new following.
2008/2009 saw his profile go from complete unknown to rising star, attracting celebrity followers such as Stephen Fry, Derren Brown and Sir David Tang. Having performed in non-traditional classical venues such as the 100 Club, the Tabernacle and Proud Galleries, James built on this new revolutionary performance approach. The pinnacle performance being at London’s historical Roundhouse where he was the first classical pianist to perform since it’s reopening. His debut CD Razor Blades Little Pills and Big Pianos also went to number one on the iTunes chart.
In October 2009 James appeared in his first documentary on BBC Four’s CHOPIN: THE WOMEN BEHIND THE MUSIC. He also released his second album “Will all Freudians please stand aside”, which also made it to No1 on the iTunes chart.
In March 2010, Rhodes became the first core classical pianist to be signed to the world’s largest rock label Warner Bros Records. His 1st album with Warner Bros, “Bullets & Lullabies” became his 3rd No1 iTunes album. That summer he was also the first solo classical pianist to play the Latitude Festival sharing stages with international stars such as Florence + the Machine and The National.
Within three years of his debut, James presented and performed in his very own television series JAMES RHODES: PIANO MAN on Sky Arts which first aired in December 2010 – January 2011.
In September 2011 he performed alongside Stephen Fry in A CLASSICAL AFFAIR at the Barbican Centre. Then in October 2011 James performed an 11 date tour of Australia which kicked off at the Melbourne Festival to a sell out audience.
Returning back to his original label Signum Classics, Rhodes released his 4th album “JIMMY: James Rhodes recorded live at The Old Market Brighton” in May 2012.
In September 2012 he has his debut performance in the US at the International Beethoven Festival in Chicago.
2013, James performed in Hong Kong, Vienna, the Barber Institute in Birmingham, Royal Albert Hall, Cheltenham Music Festival, Waterfront stage at Latitude Festival and a series at Soho Theatre in London. He also presented and performed in the acclaimed television documentary NOTES FROM THE INSIDE which aired in August 2013 on Channel 4 in the UK.
2014 was a very busy year for James, releasing his 5th studio album “Five” in the summer and launching his new label, Instrumental Records. A live in concert DVD, “Love In London”, recorded at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End was also released this year.
James filmed a new series for Channel 4 called DON’T STOP THE MUSIC that aired in September 2015 in the UK. James is passionate about the power of music to change lives and is shocked at the state of music education in the UK. This two-part documentary followed James’ attempt to give schoolchildren the chance to learn a musical instrument by calling for an ‘instrument amnesty’ – a mission to collect unused musical instruments from around the country. James’ campaign managed to provide schools all over the UK with over £1million worth of instruments.
James also presented and performed in Channel 4’s PIANO NIGHT, interviewing celebrities including Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Rusbridger and Derren Brown at the piano.
His Sunday Times and international bestselling memoir, Instrumental, published by Canongate is a brutally honest, moving and compelling story that was almost banned until the Supreme Court unanimously overthrew an injunction in May 2015.
Instrumental recently reached No. 1 in Spain on the ABC non-fiction list. His SoundCloud and YouTube channels have had over 10,000,000 views, and he has over 500,000 listeners per month on Spotify.
In 2016 James headlined some of the most important festivals in Spain, including Sonar by Day (Barcelona), Festival de Verano de San Lorenzo (El Escorial Madrid) and Veranos de la Villa (Madrid). He will also embark on tours to Germany, Italy and South Africa later in 2016.
James has also signed a new two-book deal with Quercus. The first of these will be out on 6th October 2016, entitled How to Play the Piano.