By Johnny Whiteside
Burbank-based musician James Intveld stays so busy that just having a conversation with him is exhausting. From California honky tonks and Texas dance halls to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to European Festival dates, Intveld’s sincere brand of country, R&B, rockabilly and swing keeps him perpetually in demand. Music has driven the singer since childhood. At age 12 he was competing at North Hollywood’s world-famous Palomino club’s weekly Talent night and became a fixture on the local C&W circuit before he graduated high school.
Currently enjoying a hard-earned break after a full year of his own appearances and international tours with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer John Fogerty, Intveld is happily spending time with his family and preparing for next Saturday’s show, with his six-piece Swing Sinners band, at Pasadena’s Grace Hall.
Versatility has always been Intveld’s calling card. His multi-instrumental prowess and strong, expressive vocals are consistently impressive and his dark, intense good looks have afforded him an extensive list of film and television credits, covering everything from supplying the vocals for Johnny Depp‘s title character in the John Waters classic “Cry Baby” to acting alongside Billy Bob Thornton in 2004 drama “Chrystal,” and even directing his own Western, “Miracle at Sage Creek,” starring the late David Carradine.
But for Intveld, music and performing always come first. The 52-year-old singer, who now divides his time between homes in Burbank and Nashville, has averaged approximately 200 shows annually for over three decades, a rigorous schedule that’s enhanced his artistic reach and resulted in a stunning repertoire. Whether his own slew of well-crafted originals or vintage country and jazz classics, Intveld’s musical store verges on encyclopedic. “It’s quite a crazy number of songs.” he said. “Especially when I’m tooling through Texas playing the honky tonks and people call for songs. You’ve got to keep them happy and dancing, so I just pull ’em out of the hat, and it surprises my own band, guys I’ve been playing with for years.”
It hasn’t always been an easy path. Intveld began his professional life playing with in a trio his brother Ricky and close friend Pat Woodward. Billed as the Rockin’ Shadows, they quickly established themselves as local favorites and by the early 1980s, while James opted to concentrate on his own career, Pat and Ricky both graduated to working in Rick Nelson‘s band. Tragically, both were lost, along with Nelson, in that fatal December 31, 1985 airplane crash, and it was only a last-minute change in plans that kept James, who often accompanied them in a behind-the-scenes capacity, from boarding that DC-9.
The grim reality added even more psychic gravity to Intveld’s music, yet despite it all, he never broke his pace. With three first-rate albums to his credit and an endless stream of his own gigs, Intveld has also collaborated with such local stars at Dwight Yokam, Rosie Flores and the Blasters and, most recently, Creedence Clearwater Revival founder Fogerty, with whom he’s appeared everywhere from London’s Royal Albert Hall to the most-recent Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in Manhattan.
Intveld relishes the prospect of next week’s swing session.
“Originally, I just wanted an excuse to have a band I could play the drums in,” he said. “So I started Jimmy & the Gigolos, came up with some standards, wrote some charts, moved the kit up front, and I played drums and sang. Then we got a private party job and they wanted me to front the band, suggested I hire a drummer — it was easier to navigate, and everybody liked it. Then the swing craze hit and that’s when we came up with the Swing Sinners, playing the Derby, the El Rey, Merv Griffin had a club in Beverly Hills, we were all over. We did it on and off for eight years, when I wasn’t on the road. Then that scene died out and the money for a swing band wasn’t there, so we only played four or five times a year. When I left for Nashville a while back, there was a lot less of it going on but now I’m getting calls again, it’s fun and I really enjoy doing it.”