Hear the recently released title track from James Dupré’s new album, Home and Away, and see behind-the-scenes photos.
Some contestants on TV singing competitions make a splash for a moment in time and fade into obscurity. And some, like James Dupré, go on to leverage their distinctive voices into actual careers.
After a four-chair turn on 2014’s Season 9 of The Voice, where he landed a spot on Adam Levine’s team, Dupré was handpicked by Randy and Mary Travis as guest vocalist on the 2019 Music of Randy Travis tour. Before that, he had starred in 2015 movie The Price, opposite Travis.
Just how fitting that is, is perhaps articulated best by one of the most famous fellow baritones around, Travis himself: “James Dupré has a voice and a delivery that leaves you shaking your head — so pure, so strong, so effortless. I could listen all day! His talent deserves notice by all — writers, producers, labels, and listeners!”
Named one of “10 Country Artists You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone, Dupré has shared his impressive pipes from the Ellen DeGeneres Show to YouTube, where he’s amassed more than 11 million views.
For his new record, Home and Away, he wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs and recorded with Grammy-nominated producer Matt McClure (Lee Brice).
A former EMT-paramedic, Dupré lives in Nashville now, but he’s a native of Bayou Chicot, Louisiana. When he married his longtime girlfriend, Kelsie Menard, back home in Louisiana in 2018, friend and mentor Randy Travis, along with his wife, Mary, were in attendance. In 2019 Dupré and his new wife welcomed their first child together.
We talked with Dupré about Randy Travis, the new record, and what gumbo’s got to do with it.
Cowboys & Indians: Congrats on the release of the new album, Home and Away. Tell us a little bit about what’s special for you about this record, the title track, and presenting songs of your own creation.
James Dupré: Thank you! I actually wrote or co-wrote all but one, “Higher High,” which was written by some friends of mine. I wanted to include that song among all of my originals because I felt that strongly about it. It’s a special thing to be able to take something you created out of thin air and then release it to the world. There’s a mix of proud moments and anxious moments that you feel, in anticipation of what people will think and say about it. At the end of the day though, if you’re proud of what you’ve created as an artist, that’s all that really matters.
C&I: Tell us a little bit more about the “Home and Away” music video shoot. We love the BTS photos!
Dupré: That was a fun day! I wanted to do the shoot somewhere in small-town Texas because of its rich high school football culture, and they did not disappoint. The scenes from the football game, the cheering crowd, the sunset over the field, all make the video so fun to watch. For the scenes from inside the house, the director just told me to “look sad, walk around, and sip your bourbon.” For a guy like me, that came as naturally as breathing.
C&I: You were handpicked by Randy and Mary Travis as guest vocalist on the 2019 Music of Randy Travis tour. Tell us about what Randy Travis’ mentorship and friendship have meant for you.
Dupré: I knew Randy for a short while before his stroke in 2013, when we worked on a movie together. To know him then, and see him overcome so many obstacles since, has been nothing short of inspirational. I’m so grateful to have witnessed his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well as the numerous standing ovations any time he makes an appearance at the Opry. He’s a living legend, my hero, and I hope to continue to learn from him as I grow in my own career.
C&I: Talk to us about some of the memorable experiences of that tour and what it’s like to embody those songs for such an iconic vocalist.
Dupré: When Mary and Randy asked me if I was willing to do the tour, of course I said ABSOLUTELY without hesitation. I knew soon after that it was going to be a big job, an important job. Randy Travis fans are extremely loyal to him, and I knew that I had to do these songs justice, otherwise I wouldn’t make it past the first song. This sort of opportunity doesn’t come around for anyone, ever. To be on stage, including the historic Ryman Auditorium, fronting his original band, singing those iconic songs while he’s sitting there enjoying the show — it was like being in a dream. Thankfully, I wasn’t expected to sound like Randy, because no one can. I sounded like me, but I really wanted people to feel the heart and emotion that made these songs so loved in the first place. From the rehearsals, all the way through the end of the last show, I learned what it’s like to work and play with true professionals, and I’m so grateful that he and his band welcomed me like I was always part of the team.
C&I: Going what must seem like way back, you were a four-chair turn on The Voice and then landed a spot on Adam Levine's team. When you think back on that moment and the subsequent experience of the show, what stands out for you?
Dupré: Thinking back to the beginning of my experience on the show, all of us contestants were just trying to not go home. All we needed was one chair to turn. The idea of having a four-chair turn seemed like too much to think about. When the day finally came for the blind auditions, I was nervous but confident. I was just ready to do it. When all those chairs turned, I was so full of adrenaline, it was all I could do to not pass out on stage. But I knew I was in; I made it. I felt like Team Adam was a great fit for me — he pulled me out of my comfort zone and made me think about performing in ways that most country singers wouldn’t think about. The highlight of the show for me came in the Battle Round, when I performed “Fortunate Son” with Dustin Monk, and we got to rehearse and work with John Fogerty himself. Being on The Voice will always be an amazing memory to look back on and cherish, and I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made because of it.
C&I: What have you been doing during the pandemic?
Dupré: I’ve been staying home in Nashville mostly, where I unexpectedly became a stay-at-home dad at the beginning of quarantine. Our baby girl, Rellie, was 6 months old at the time, so that’s been a fun distraction from all the craziness. That, and working on finishing up the new album, has kept me busy and looking forward to the future.
C&I: Music’s been a saving grace for lots of folks during these trying times, even though we can’t go to concerts for the time being. What songs are in heavy rotation for you right now?
Dupré: I’ve mostly been listening to my favorite country oldies, mixed in with some John Mayer. I’m also enjoying Kenny Chesney’s new stuff as well as Eric Church’s. And I’m pretty sure by now I know all the words to Little Baby Bum’s nursery rhymes. Ultimately, it’s been a great year to put out new music, and I know once we’re allowed, stepping back out onto a stage will be so refreshing and rewarding, more than it has ever been before.
C&I: You were blessed with a rich baritone and with songwriting chops, too. What singers and songs really inspired you growing up? How about the influence of Louisiana on your music and your creativity?
Dupré: As you know, Louisiana has a rich music culture, and growing up I never realized how unique it is in that way. The music was just always there. It seemed like everyone either knew how to play guitar, fiddle, or accordion, or at least knew someone who did. My grandparents listened to Cajun French music all the time, and it seemed so normal to me. I listened to that and country music mostly, and the Eagles, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Journey, and I could go on and on. I love songs and lyrics that have stories, especially stories that transport you to another time. Songs that make you feel — and not necessarily a happy feeling — just feel. When you add all those ingredients, I guess you can say there’s a good mix of influences, like any good bowl of gumbo.
C&I: What’s something that might surprise people to learn about you?
Dupré: People who know me well know that I’m a big science nerd, especially when it comes to weather and space. I actually majored in meteorology — that is, until the music bug bit me. I still love the weather, and I love to study anything to do with astronomy, but it’s a hobby that comes second to my first love, music.