James Wakeling

Tunes by James Wakeling

  • Way Out West
    Straight · 1990-2000 · Easy · Instrumental · E · 4/4
  • Danza
    Ballad · 1990-2000 · Medium · Instrumental · E · 3/4
  • Falling Backwards
    Straight · 2010-2020 · Medium · Instrumental · D · 4/4
  • First Light
    Ballad · 2010-2020 · Easy · Instrumental · B · 4/4
  • The Still Dark Night
    Ballad · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · C · 4/4
  • To Elgin
    Other · 2010-2020 · Medium · Instrumental · F#/Gb · 6/8
  • Whirling Dervish
    Fusion · 2000-2010 · Medium · Instrumental · A · Odd meter


Born in Brisbane, James started piano lessons with local music teacher Geoff Goon at the

age of eight. Following his older brothers lead, he switched to guitar two years later. Self

taught initially he returned to Mr Goon’s tuition as a guitar student in his mid teens. At

seventeen he was accepted as an external student at the Queensland Conservatorium of

music in 1977 were he undertook AMEB exams. In 1980 James enrolled at the Brisbane

College of Advanced Education to commence a diploma of Secondary School Teaching.

Upon graduating he taught music and drama at the Gap State High School for just over

two years. After resigning from the Qld education department at the end of 1985 he spent

a year successfully preparing for the Associate Diploma in Music Performance from the

AMEB. Throughout this period James played in a variety of different music groups. The

new wave band Felony during Brisbane’s punk explosion of the late 70’s and early 80’s,

Vocal jazz ensemble SCAT including a tour of California in 1984, pop duo The Blue in

1986 and flute and guitar duo Parrot Laureate.

In 1987 James moved to Sydney to form the duo Snakes & Ladders with his sister

Margot Leighton. For four years, firstly in Sydney then in Melbourne he made his living

as a professional musician specialising in pop covers and original songs including

performances on TV and as part of the Spolleto Fringe Festival in 1989. Whilst

performing with Snakes & Ladders James took voice lessons with renowned Australian

tenor Gregory Dempsey.

Seeking a change in musical direction, in 1990 he enrolled at the Victorian College of the

Arts completing an Honours degree in improvisation in 1994. In the first year of the

course he was awarded the prize for best student. After completing the VCA course

James performed with the Brian Brown Ensemble at the Montsalvat and Wangaratta Jazz

Festivals, Judy Jacques’ Lighthouse at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Lucky Star

Band throughout Victoria (Port Fairy Folk Festival,) New South Wales (Opera House,)

and southeast Queensland (Woodford Folk Festival.) In 1997 he toured India as part of

the Natya Sudha dance company celebrating 50 years of India’s independence. From

1998 he has played frequently with traditional Irish singer Kathryn Clements at various

events including the Port Fairy Folk Festival. James spent three years in Continental

Drift, the house band at the Titanic Theatre Restaurant. In 2000 he was guest soloist with

the Bendigo Symphony Orchestra performing Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez. He

currently performs as a duo with saxophonist Robert Vincs, world music trio the Nexus

Project with Serge de Lucio and Scott Dunbabin and his quintet the Last Band Standning.

In 2004 James opened the Famous Blue Raincoat with business partner Kaz Seed. A

restaurant and music venue, it has been operating successfully for nine years and in 2010

received the Hobsons Bay Business Excellence Mayoral achievement award. With the

success of the ‘Raincoat,’ James and Kaz started a new venture with Sam & Kath Anicic

in 2010. Pip & Seed is a gourmet deli, green grocers and organics store.

A prolific songwriter and composer, James has written a musical called Private Eye

(1985), a mini rock opera entitled Sometime Somewhere (1989), a concerto for guitar and

orchestra and a vast number of instrumentals & songs, one of which, The Ballad of James

Alexander Leighton, was a finalist at the Port Fairy Folk Festival song writing contest in

1995. His composition Way Out West was recently included in the first edition of the

Australian Jazz Real Book.

James has played on CD’s with Judy Jacques Lighthouse, Going for a Song (1997,) the

Lucky Star Band, Bursting Moon (1997,) Continental Drift, Rearranging the Deckchairs

(2003,) and Moonlight Drive @ the Famous Blue Raincoat (2005,) In addition he has

produced CD’s as a soloist, String Theory (2010.) as well as a compilation CD of

performances from the Famous Blue Raincoat called 41:G12 Music from the Famous

Blue Raincoat (2008). The Nexus Project CD, First Light will be released toward the

middle of 2013.

Throughout his career James has taught guitar privately and in schools most recently

tutoring VCE students at Williamstown High School. He has written a series of Guitar

tutors, which are as yet unpublished.