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October 28th, 2023

Meet NewSong Finalist Beth // James

Beth // James is an indie-Americana duo from Austin, Texas, made up of award-winning singer-songwriters Mikaela and Jordan Burchill. After two dazzling EPs, and their original song “Lion Eyes” in Spike Lee’s Academy Award-winning feature film BlacKkKlansman, the duo is back with their debut album “Get Together,” recorded and produced by James Petralli of White Denim.

The duo will be performing as finalists at the 22nd annual NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition, held on Saturday, November 18, at Citizen Vinyl in downtown Asheville, N.C. Learn more and purchase tickets HERE.

NewSong Music: What sort of music was playing in your house when you were growing up?
JORDAN: Both my parents were musicians, so growing up so we had a lot of music playing in the house. My dad was a jazz band director at a local college and I was lucky enough to be around a lot of jazz. All the big band stuff — Basie and Ellington — and great guitar players like Bill Frissel and Pat Metheny. I also got really into Al Green as a kid. I loved basketball and the NBA had a commercial with the song “Love and Happiness” I was hooked. The first album I bought was Al Greens greatest hits. 
MIKAELA: My dad was a big music lover and was always playing music in the house. Some of his favorites were Emmylou Harris, The Beatles, and anything bluegrass. I definitely got my eclectic music taste from him. Some of my favorite records as a kid were Paula Cole’s This Fire and Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club, but as I got a little older I got very into soul and r&b. I really listened to everything.
What was your journey to music?
JORDAN: Both my parents are really great musicians. My dad is a great jazz guitar player and my mom is a fantastic singer and piano player. I went to college for music at University of North Texas. I graduated with a Jazz Studies degree on guitar. My dad was my teacher growing up. He’s truly a world-class teacher. His students have gone on to play with Snarky Puppy, Leon Bridges, Snoop Dogg, and the Lumineers and have won multiple Grammys. I feel eterally blessed to have gotten to learn from him when I was a kid. 
MIKAELA: I always loved singing and music. My parents noticed when I was young. I started taking piano lessons at 7 and grew up singing in choirs from age 8-18. Through choir, I learned how to harmonize, perform, and got exposed to tons of different music — classical, Broadway, and basically every famous pop song of the last 70 years. 
I’ve studied many different vocal styles with many different amazing teachers and got my degree in vocal jazz from the University of North Texas — where Jordan and I met! 
What is the first song you wrote that you were proud of, and why?
JORDAN: I think the first song that I wrote with Mikaela. We wrote a song called “Lion Eyes” (which later got placed in the Spike Lee movie BlacKkKlansman). I remember after writing that together I was like, “Damn, we are a good team, this is a pretty good song.” I definitely haven’t written “the one,” though, yet. It’s the ultimate goal to write a song that you have no critiques about. I don’t think I’ve written that one yet.
MIKAELA: Probably a song I wrote when I was like 20 called “Fall With You.” I entered it in a bunch of songwriting competitions and got to play at Kerrville and Telluride. I really didn’t know at all what I was doing back then but I think that was the first time I really got recognition for a song I wrote and thought, “OK, maybe I’m good at this, I should keep writing.” Like Jordan said, though, definitely still trying to write “the one”! 
What is your writing process like?
JORDAN: Lately it’s been changing. I have a ton of voice memos with chord progression ideas and I have a ton of notes with lyric ideas. I like to go to those to start ideas. We’ve also been sitting down and just writing a song based of a specific idea/topic lately and I really have been enjoying having the parameters of having that.
MIKAELA: My best songs start in the car usually. For some reason inspiration tends to hit when I’m driving alone, so I just take out my phone and leave a little voice memo with melody and usually a few lyric ideas. Then I’ll take it to the piano annd home to Jordan to piece together. I’m trying to be better about writing when I don’t feel inspired, though.
Share a musical adventure from this summer with us.
JORDAN: This summer we got asked to play an Americana Festival in Germany called Static Roots Festival. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time playing music. The fest was amazing with a really great line up of artists and the attendees just loved music. They wanted to hear the songs we’ve written, wanted to talk to us, and they had specific records they wanted to buy. It felt really good. Hopefully we’ll make it back over to Germany and the UK again next summer. 
MIKAELA: We toured out of the country for the first time this summer and it was amazing! Definitely agree with everything Jordan said, and another favorite moment from that tour was a show we played at a tiny town in the UK. It seemed like everyone from the whole town came out to the show and were so attentive and excited to listen to music! They really listened to the lyrics and were so kind. A group even invited us to tea after to show and told us all about the town’s history. It was magical and I can’t wait to go back!