When singer/songwriter James House thinks about the influences that led to his success, he remembers growing up on a ranch in Bly, Oregon.
“I grew up around my dad and three uncles who were singers and ranchers at the same time. Every morning when they got up to do the ranch work at four or five in the morning, they would sit around the kitchen table, drinking coffee and getting ready for the day's work. And then they would sing.”
The singing House Brothers took their show on the road for a while, becoming popular enough to appear on Arthur Godfrey’s national television broadcast.
“And so ranching and singing and drinking coffee became a ritual for our family,” James remembers. “I think I started drinking coffee when I was about eight or nine.”
House, whose many songwriting credits include “This Is Me Missing You” and “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” is still writing and maintains a busy tour schedule. You might see him appearing at the famed Bluebird Cafe in his hometown of Nashville. And when he sings, he often thinks of his dad and his uncles.
“They sang all the time. Any time they got together, they'd pour a cup of coffee and go through their kibitzing about life and what have you. And then they'd cut into a four-part harmony. And so that was the first music I heard growing up as a kid. So, my House Brothers Cowboy Coffee is a tribute to my dad and uncles.”
James says he’s been consumed with music since the age of nine--so much so that he doesn’t have a hobby. He didn’t plan to become a coffee baron. Oddly, though, he was prepared for this new venture.
“I'm a coffee junkie. I try all kinds of coffee. This coffee is an incredible mixture of coffee from both Brazil and Papua New Guinea. It's got this hint of chocolate, but there's a fruity edge to it. And I tasted more coffees than you can imagine leading up to this. It's almost like tasting wine. They do this whole thing for you where you smell the beans, and they crunch it up, and you smell that, and then they make the coffee for you. So, I went through a lot of beans and a lot of roasters to find the right coffee.”
The coffee comes in bags or vintage cans decorated with photos of The House Brothers--the men who inspired James’s life work and this new enterprise. The coffee can be purchased online at housebrotherscoffee.com
“And it actually kind of keeps snowballing here,” James says. “One of the local co-ops is wanting to sell it. It's in their store. And then there's another little store in Dickson County that wants to do it. It’s exciting.”
James is also excited about the work he does twice a month with an organization called Songwriting with Soldiers. He’s among a core team of Nashville’s top songwriters who collaborate with veterans nationwide to help them share their experiences in song.
“That's pure songwriting,” James says. “I see the immediate results, what it does for these men and women. There are about ten of us that work with the vets. It’s incredibly fulfilling watching and helping these vets, and these families heal. Just doing a little part, like helping them by taking their words and putting them to music, is extremely important to me at this point in my life.”
So, James is taking time to stop and smell the coffee after nearly 50 years of playing guitar (enough to require a recent successful operation to repair a wrist damaged by tendonitis).
“I've been lucky enough to kind of chase it all and have some success with music. And now, with the coffee thing, once a week, I get on the phone and say, ‘Hey, would you be interested in putting this in your store?’ And you know, if nothing else, we've made a really great coffee.
“And I'm still doing music. That hasn't changed, but this is just something I just needed to do, and I felt like it would be a good tribute to Dad and the guys.”