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New England-born singer/songwriter James McKenna got his start musically, while serving in the US Navy. In 1998, soon after his discharge, James took a job as a bouncer for a bar in Boston to pay for tuition at UMass Boston where he majored in music.
His experiences at the bar inspired him to write one of his first and most popular songs, Seven Cigarettes. With the help of a friend, he cut a rough demo which he gave to a fellow employee for some constructive criticism. He was immediately asked by the bar owner to play a gig there. After two shows he attained a residency at another local club and eventually ditched the bouncer job for one as a paid musician. paying his way through school by playing countless shows in New England bars and clubs.
James built quite a following as he attained a BA in Music w/Focus in Voice from UMass-Boston. Packing up his gear and trekking across the country, he started the grind all over again, getting a day job and playing the bars at night. Soon after, he fell in with fellow New England transplant and up-and-coming producer, Billy Schleifer. The two teamed up to record the EP Seven Cigarettes and formed a band in order to perform around Los Angeles. Their collaborative project, McKenna, released the album “I Am” digitally to internet retailers including iTunes and Rhapsody earlier this year.
By day, James works as a teacher of special education, helping kids with personal challenges to learn self-control and return to a regular school environment. He draws inspiration from their struggles, channeling the themes of self-affirmation over stereotypes in songs like “I Am”.