Born on April 29, 1972 in Winter Park, Florida; son of a car dealer and a housewife; married Amy Jane; children: James Daniel; Education: Attended the University of Alabama. Addresses: Fan Club--P.O. Box 587, Smyrna, TN 37167.
Twenty-five-year-old country music singer James Bonamy is at a point in his career that is teetering on the edge of stardom. Although he had a rough start with his first song called, "Dog On A Toolbox," Bonamy has shown the persistence and talent needed to set a foundation of success in the country music industry. "I haven't set a timeline for myself, but of course, I have dreams. No specific goals, really, except I want to do this for 20 or 30 years. The whole hope for me is to be able to support my family, whether as a singer, a musician, a songwriter, or a producer, for many years, because I love music," Bonamy explained in The Pantagraph.
Bonamy was born on April 29, 1972 in Winter Park, Florida, but was raised in Daytona Beach, Orlando, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. His dad was a car dealer and his mom was a housewife. He has an older brother, and the family was a close knit one that laid the foundation for his success in music. Bonamy's parents brought him to the Grand Ole Opry when he was just five years old. As a kid, he was always singing in the house. At age nine, he sang the Charlie Daniel's hit "The Devil Went Down To Georgia," in a school variety show. At age 12, he went to see Kiss, which was the first concert he attended. The Kenny Rogers song "Love Will Turn You Around," was the first single record he ever bought. In addition to his own musical interests, his father would drive him around in his truck while listening to country singers like Johnny Paycheck, Bobby Bare, Moe Bandy, and Joe Stampley. Bonamy also hung out with his dad's friends while they all listened to the music of Conway Twitty, Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and George Strait.
Despite his interest in music, Bonamy excelled at and focused his attention more on sports than he did on his guitar while he was in high school. He earned letters in football, soccer, tennis, and track. What did influence him musically were the rock sounds of groups like Bon Jovi and Poison. He learned to play the songs "Wanted Dead Or Alive," and "Every Rose Has It's Thorn," although he favored country music. He went on to the University of Alabama, completing his freshman year. He followed his older brother there, where he watched him play football. It was in college that he realized his calling was in music and not in sports.
Bonamy's first big break came at age 19 when he had the chance to sing on "The Country Boy Eddie Show" in Birmingham, Alabama. He had heard that Tammy Wynette had gotten her start on the show. His performance was a success, even though his act was on the air while the farm reports were given. Bonamy then quit college to sing and work in Orlando, Florida's Church Street Station Historical District. There he sang for the house band while supporting himself by working at a gift shop.
He spent two years on stage performing on the Country Music USA show at the Opryland USA theme park and earned a quick following. Chely Wright, Ty Herndon, and Ken Mellons were also successful performers at the show. However, he soon realized that working theme parks was very different from the real music business. Before he left, he met his future wife, Amy Jane, who was from East Texas and was also working at Opryland at the time. "I never thought that I'd be married at this age," Bonamy stated on the Country Stars website. "But when you meet 'the one' you know. It's a strange feeling to be so sure about something. But the more I got to know Amy Jane, the more certain I became."
Unfortunately, Bonamy's debut single, "Dog On A Toolbox," received no airplay. It was withdrawn from release because at the time there were too many country songs that were about dogs. "It was just a case of bad timing," Bonamy explained to Chet Flippo in Billboard. "There had been a couple of dog songs out, and ... dog songs don't program. So the label felt it best to pull it." Although the song's lukewarm acceptance set back Bonamy's next release by several months, "What I Live To Do" became a hit, along with the video.
The album What I Live To Do is about playing, working, loving, and going the extra mile. Songs on the album like "Amy Jane," "All I Do Is Love Her," and "The Couple," are about understanding people's emotions. "Devil Goes Fishing," and "Jimmy and Jesus," reflect the moral values Bonamy says he got from his upbringing at home. "Making music gives me an opportunity to capture all the things I'm about. We picked the album title because it's true. If you listen to this record, all those songs are different parts of me, who I am and what I'm about," claimed Bonamy in the Country Stars website. "It's family, fun, relationships with other people, believing in something." To him, having fun but keeping a strong sense of moral values are essential for a good life.
Bonamy's second album on Epic Records, Roots and Wings, showed a more toe-tapping country music side of him. The album was somewhat of a dedication to his new son. "And that whole roots and wings theme 'a part of me stays grounded so the rest of me can fly,'" remarked The Tennessean's Tom Roland, "is a clever dichotomy that Bonamy is able to get across." Mike Kraski of Sony Entertainment stated in Billboard that "This is a deep album. It's a maturation process. James has a much clearer sense of who he is musically, and it shows."
Bonamy is more focused on the direction of his career than ever. Debbie Zavitson, Epic A&R Director, works very closely with him to select songs. About every other week they meet and listen to tapes. On "song day" a publisher comes into the office every half hour and plays three new songs. The first question Bonamy asks himself is, "is the song me?" He believes he should be able to relate to the lyrics before actually recording.
Since his debut on the music scene, Bonamy has received a significant amount of recognition for his efforts. Entertainment Tonight selected him as the Hot New Country Male, while the Academy of Country Music nominated him for Top New Male Artist. His single release "The Swing," was Country Music Television's Video Pick of the Week and was once ranked at 27 in their Top 100 Countdown. The hit "I Don't Think I Will," reached No. 1 on Billboard's country chart in 1995. He also became immortalized when he was inducted into the Music Valley Wax Museum.
Bonamy is very devoted to his wife, Amy Jane, who sings back-up vocals in his band, and he often dedicates the last song of his shows to her. Their son, James Daniel, who was born in 1997, travels with them on tour. The four-legged members of the family include Holly, who is part Lab and Border Collie, and Mookie, who is a white Chihuahua. At the family's home in Smyrna, Tennessee, Bonamy cuts the grass and washes and irons his own clothes. His mom, Paula, who runs his fan club, sends eight by ten glossy photos to his female fans that show off her son's wedding ring. "I'm glad they think he's handsome," she stated in People. "But hopefully it's the music that counts."
by Bill Bennett
James Bonamy's Career
Sang in "The Country Boy Eddie Show" in Birmingham, Alabama at age 19; performed at Opryland USA; moved to Nashville; signed recording contract with Epic Records; released What I Live To Do, 1995 and Roots and Wings, 1997.
James Bonamy's Awards
Named Hot New Country Male by Entertainment Tonight; Country Music Television's Video Pick of the Week for "The Swing"; inducted into the Music Valley Wax Museum.
- Selective Works
- What I Live To Do, Epic, 1995.
- Roots and Wings, Epic, 1995.
- The Advocate, October 17, 1996, p. 14D.
- Billboard, April 19, 1997.
- Dallas Morning News, September 6, 1996, p. 33.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 13, 1996, p. 17.
- The Palm Beach Post, October 11, 1996, p. 39.
- The Pantagraph, March 28, 1997, p. D1.
- Sarasota Herald-Tribune, January 24, 1997, p. 8.
- Tulsa World, October 1, 1997, p. D3.
- USA Today, July 28, 1997, p. 4D.