James The Mormon Stages a Comeback

James Curran – better known by his stage names James The Mormon and JTM – was one of the most prominent faces of Utah music last decade. His reach beyond the state was massive, thanks in large part to smart social media plays, inventive collaborations, and great timing. 

For example, James pushed Facebook video hard at a time when Mark Zuckerberg was dolling out visibility left and right for early adopters of the new feature. This boost, coupled with Facebook’s powerful targeting, helped James hit Latter-day Saints all over the world with his music. James’ music was inspirational, well produced hip hop that wasn’t explicitly religious but wasn’t afraid to document the imperfect life and thoughts of a Latter-day Saint. James was an aural rough stone rolling that resonated with a lot of listeners.

When Latter-day Saints saw slick music videos by an unknown artist collaborating with Mormon mainstays like David Archuleta and BYU Athletics, it was easy to click and take a chance on James. It was even easier to embrace him once they heard the music. James hit #1 on the iTunes charts, charted on Billboard, and even collaborated with Taylor Bennett. 

But times change. In an interview with NPR, James explained that the constant grind coupled with challenges to his faith led to some serious difficulties in his personal life. So he took a step back from music.

In that time, President Russell M. Nelson, the leader of the global Latter-day Saint faith, began to vigorously encourage religious adherents to reclaim the “Latter-day Saint” title and distance themselves from the “Mormon” nickname the faith had endured in its first hundred years and outright embraced in its second hundred years. What was James The Mormon to do with that cultural shift? 

Then the European Union passed their GDPR legislation, which cracked down on the rampant use of cookies on the internet. This legislation prevented third parties from tracking users as they had previously done, and massively impacted Facebook Pixel. Pixel was the tracking service that made Facebook’s ads so gosh darn effective – and spooky. Facebook lost $1.3 billion to fines from the European Union over their tracking products. Once Facebook became GDPR compliant, suddenly Facebook ads were wildly less effective.

Then the global pandemic hit. Apple sunsetted iTunes. And then TikTok took off, and nobody was talking about Facebook video anymore. And they’re still not. It’s all reels. Reels reels reels to infinity.

So here is James Curran – facing a rebrand, the loss of all of his search engine optimization, the decline of his primary social media platform at the hands of a foreign government, a global pandemic that canceled live shows, and deeply personal challenges behind the scenes. So what does he do?

He founded a tech company. He fell in love. They fall apart.

And then he finds comfort in the same thing he always has: making music. When talking about all of this with James, he points to his song “Light of the Moon” – a dancy, melancholy track featuring Olly Kersey – as the track that perfectly encapsulates the tumultuous last few years.

“It’s my favorite song I’ve ever written,” he said. “It’s also the name of my upcoming album. This track goes through a two year relationship I had with a single mother who lived in Harlem, NY while I lived in Utah. It was the first time that I truly loved someone more than I loved myself, and ended giving up what felt like my soul and sense of self.” 

In the song, James repeats the phrase, “I’m hurt, but I love it.” 

“This represents the feelings we feel when we stay in situations that repeatedly hurt us,” James says.

“My mission as an artist has been fluid,” he said. “At first I wanted to highlight those of us that are diverse and ‘normal’ within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with hopes to be a bridge to the rest of the world. Nowadays, I find myself with a mission to make music that connects with people through vulnerability and positivity.”

James has been quietly releasing songs again since the beginning of 2023. But lately he’s been feeling the pull to fully reclaim the James The Mormon identity and to do more with what he’s been blessed with. 

“I never thought I’d say this, but I miss performing for my fans,” he said. “My hope is to reconnect with the people who truly loved James The Mormon, and show them how much I’ve grown as JTM. I want to do two big shows this year and release this upcoming album Light of the Moon. Light of the Moon highlights the last eight years of heartbreak and everything I’ve learned from almost finding love.”

The album promises a more vulnerable and introspective JTM – one he hopes will resonate with listeners just as much if not more than his anthems.

Before he launches into this deeply personal new phase, he wanted fans to be able to rediscover his old hits and celebrate together. Ahead of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a semi annual event where thousands of Saints from around the world make a pilgrimage to Salt Lake City to gather together for a weekend of sermons – James The Mormon held a concert to allow fans who were in town to come see him for the first time. 

The show was held in Provo, Utah at Velour Live Music Gallery. Openers included Christian duo Northwest Stories and Utah’s own HEEVA. The show sold out.

“I’m in the best place I’ve ever been,” James says. “I know it’s been hard to be a fan over the years but I’ve truly accepted my purpose as James The Mormon, and I’m excited to reconnect with all of you that are willing to give me another chance.”

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