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Mother Ode

James’ honest new record mines parenthood for gold.
 

Jennifer James, photographed at Nara, has just released a new album.

Singer-songwriter Jennifer James, 31, has a full house. She lives in Friendswood with husband of 12 years Kyle Sapaugh, their four young daughters who range in age from 2 to 10, and a 23-year-old daughter the couple adopted six years ago. How does she find the time and space to create?

“I sometimes shut the door of a walk-in closet when the kids are in bed,” says the striking brunette, whose green eyes light up when speaking of her two loves: motherhood and music.

James, who started jotting lyrics when she was 6 years old, has a straightforward, stripped-down approach to songwriting that’s reminiscent of a folk-tinged Faith Hill. Recording became a much-needed outlet amid the challenges of motherhood. “I had to do music before losing my mind,” says James of making her self-titled 2012 album while pregnant. Last month, she celebrated the release of How Does It Feel, a new 12-song effort featuring a complete arsenal of guitars, bass, drums and organ. Moody and pensive, it candidly documents ups and downs in James’ full life.

The song “If I Could” addresses the multiple tragedies that one close family member has endured, while “Make You Mine,” the first single from the album, is based on James’ experience with adoption. “It’s about opening your heart and making that child yours,” says James, who cites musicians like Ryan Adams and Graham Colton as influences.

James, no stranger to Houston live-music venues such as McGonigel’s Mucky Duck (2425 Norfolk St.), says making time for her career is not just for herself but also for her family. “Working on music,” she says, “makes me a better mom, a better wife, and it makes me better at home.”