As an integral part of Nashville’s music scene, it’s easy for someone like hit writer Tommy Lee James to target the market he’s in. “We’re catering to a specific outcome in our line of work. I wanted to go back to the days when music was a little more naive and less thought out.” From that aspiration came The Wontons - a semi-fictitious band, born of James’ audacity to let go and let the music speak for itself. “This project was all about moving forward with an inspiration and not worrying about where it goes. I had no attachment to the album’s outcome - I just knew I wanted to do it.” And though the creative process requires a certain vulnerability and risk, it’s a process James is proud to own. “This is the first project I didn’t collaborate with anyone on. I wrote all the songs, played all the instruments but drums… In the end this is all my fault.”

The concept began with an inescapable itch to “make the record that I didn’t make in 1981.” Though originally drawing inspiration from 80’s pop-guitar jangle bands like The Cure, The dB’s and REM, he soon realized he couldn’t escape other influences. “My favorite music through the years, classic Music Row songwriting practice… I couldn’t shake them even if I wanted to.” But more important than the overall sound was James’ plan of attack in achieving that sound. “I wanted to go back to not over-thinking anything. I wanted the creative process to be easy.”

In the end, the process was just that. As the sole writer of each song, James’ laid back approach was evident in lyrics and melody - much of which he wrote just days before recording. “I would show up and the engineer would say, “what do you want to do today?” He’d get a click track going for me, and I’d put a guitar part down and then another and kept adding instruments.. It was fun to try and go in and replicate what I was hearing in my head.”

Many of the song’s subjects were driven by current affairs. “I began The Wontons project about a year after my dad passed away. A few of the songs have a heaviness and a life theme… ‘Sometimes I Cry’ in particular is about the things I didn’t say, but wish I had.” Others on the album are more light hearted and fun. The finished product is hard to put into the carefully curated genres of today but James is good with that. “I like that the melodies are pretty, but the guitars are loud. I wanted that balance”

The Wontons is a 10-song album James categorizes as “garage power pop.” “I like the raw edge of it. Pop and raw are almost an oxymoron.” As for the name? “I got the name from my daughter. She had an imaginary band called The Wontons. I stole it from her…” And though happy with the album, James left the project with more than the final  mixes. “The process cleansed my writing pallet and left me inspired for the next writing experience.”