Growing up in Western Australia, James joined his first choir at age 7 and was hooked on music from that point on. As years passed, and he moved from school to school, he joined every choir they had to offer. During this time, he also taught himself the basics of playing piano/keyboard. At 13 his music teacher introduced him to the bass guitar, which he still dabbles in to this day. He played with his classmates in various bands over the next two years before discovering his passion for brass.
In 2006, at age 15, he began to learn cornet under Derrick (Dick) Langley, who played for the Rockingham Salvation Army Brass Band, of which James quickly became a member. He enjoyed playing 2nd cornet before shifting to tenor horn when the band gained a surplus of cornet players. When he moved to Midland in 2011, he intended to join the Midland Salvation Army brass band, but they had disbanded years prior, so he gathered members of the community and led a new brass band alongside his younger sister Elspeth, who played 1st cornet. As the band gained members, James took up whichever instrument sat unplayed, until he moved to Victoria in 2015, where he decided to take a break from playing music.
In November 2017 Derrick Langley died peacefully at the age of 98, and the news of his passing galvanized James to resume his musical pursuits. He soon after joined the Cranbourne Lions Concert Band where he plays 2nd and 3rd trumpet, the Dandenong Salvation Army Worship band, where he plays bass guitar, and most recently the City of Greater Dandenong Brass Band.