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James Baby (Songwriter)

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James Michael Kelly
Kelly at Cibar Lounge, 2021
Background information
Also known asJames Baby
BornNew York City, U.S.
  • Indie pop
  • indie rock
  • indie folk
  • mod-a-billy
  • Singer
  • Songwriter
  • Musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass
  • keyboards
  • harmonica
Years active2019 - Present

James Michael Kelly, also known as James Baby, is an American musician and singer-songwriter.

Early Life[edit]

James Michael Kelly was born in Beth Israel Hospital (now known as Mount Sinai Beth Israel) in Manhattan, New York City, to a working class Irish Catholic family. Shortly after, his family moved to Pasadena, Los Angeles, until returning to New York in 1995. Kelly grew up in Stuyvesant Town and attended the Epiphany Elementary School and Xavier High School.

A self-taught musician, Kelly was introduced to the guitar by his father as early as the age of three. He first performed on stage in 2007 at a high school coffeehouse concert. Kelly graduated high school in 2008 with the hopes of being a novelist and short story writer. Instead of going to college, he worked at The King's Head Tavern (now The Belfry) on 14th street in Manhattan's East Village where he met Adam Blake of the punk band, H2O. He also worked as a merchant marine for McAllister Towing. During these years, Kelly travelled extensively while keeping detailed journals of his experiences.

2011-2019: Early Songwriting[edit]

In 2011, Kelly drove his 2008 Triumph Bonneville (named Elsa) from Manhattan, across the United States, and settled in Los Angeles where he took writing courses with UCLA Extension. In 2012, Kelly moved to his father's hometown of Sligo, Ireland, where worked in a cafe in the W.B. Yeats Memorial Building as he attempted to write a novel. After being encouraged to perform at Sligo's local bars, Kelly decided that he was more likely to succeed as a songwriter and gave up writing novels and short stories.

Kelly returned to New York in 2013 to pursue a career in songwriting. He gained experience performing at open mics hosted by bars such as Pete's Candy Store, The Sidewalk Cafe, and The Bitter End, among others. He paid for his lifestyle by bartending but soon grew frustrated. In 2014, he enrolled in CUNY Hunter College as a media studies major with a concentration in journalism. While studying at Hunter College, Kelly also joined Church Street Boxing Gym where he trained as a competitive kickboxer under Jason Strout and Jared Gordon and was awarded a gold medal at the 2016 WKA National Championships.

Kelly graduated with honors from Hunter College in 2017, though had long given up any interest in a journalism career. After a brief attempt at a career in video game development, Kelly returned to songwriting. From 2017 to 2019, He travelled to Tokyo, Japan as an assistant director of one of CUNY's study abroad programs, focused primarily on tours and lectures of Japan's film, music, and literature. In Tokyo, Kelly met artists such as Yoshinori Arie of The Pillows, writer Yuichiro Tanaka, writer Masahiko Shimada, as well as several other heads of Japanese film and music production. During Kelly's last visit to Japan, he recorded many of the songs he had written at that point at Endhits Studio, in Meguro, Tokyo. These tracks would later be released on James Baby's album "Tokyo 2019."

2019-2020: James' Jukebox[edit]

Kelly returned from his final study abroad tour of Japan in February 2019. Lacking confidence in his ability to compete as a singer, Kelly performed late night blues guitar instrumentals in the East Village to satisfy his need to perform. He joined the Nashville Songwriters Association International, and the Songwriters Guild of America in hopes of finding a publisher for his songs. In the meantime, he managed to pay bills by working in landscaping on New York City's garden rooftops.

An odd interaction Kelly had one night with a group of strangers playing guitars under the FDR Drive near the East River suddenly inspired him to practice singing with more discipline. Kelly put together a list of cover songs he would pitch to East Village bar managers in the hopes of getting steady gigs. Altogether Kelly memorized about 150 songs. He compiled the list of songs as menus to hand to patrons of the venues and named the show "James' Jukebox." The show was cut short by the outbreak of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns. However, the brief success encouraged Kelly to continue performing, and he was able to satisfy this need by busking around the city, particularly in Washington Square Park, Union Square, and Tompkins Square Park. His experiences in the city during the pandemic and participation in the George Floyd Protests inspired much of his songwriting.

As lockdown restrictions eased up in New York, Kelly returned to performing cover songs in bars. At this point, his confidence as a performing artist had him searching for a producer to collaborate with so that he could make an attempt as a recording artist. In April 2021, Kelly met A.J. Pillete, an American music producer and studio tech who had built his career in London, England, but was forced to return to the U.S. as a result of the citizenship laws put into effect when Britain withdrew from the European Union.

James Baby[edit]

Kelly's first recording sessions with Pillette took place in Astoria, Queens through the summer and fall of 2021. They agreed to record two cover songs and two of Kelly's own songs. The first song they decided to cover was "Heart In a Cage," written by Julian Casablancas and performed by The Strokes. The other cover song they went with was "The End of The World" written by Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee originally performed by Skeeter Davis. The two original works that Kelly had written earlier that year were "Younger" and "Fallen." The four tracks were completed in January 2022. After their completion, Kelly spent months deciding on an aesthetic for his album artwork and, most importantly, a name to release them under.

With the name "James Kelly" being so common, Kelly could not release these tracks under that name. He and Pillette had already decided that they would work with an aesthetic rooted in Rockabilly. Kelly took to the habit of calling his genre "Mod-a-billy" to reflect the Rockabilly roots with the use of modern methods and instruments in recording. With this aesthetic in mind, and the many nicknames Kelly had acquired, they agreed to release the tracks under the name James Baby. Finally, after creating the artwork, aesthetic, and artist name, Kelly released his first track, "The End of The World" on May 5, 2022. All four tracks were released on the "Younger EP" on August 1, 2022.

In June 2022, Kelly returned to the studio in Astoria to work with a friend of Pillette's, Keiran Kelly. Keiran Kelly and James Kelly recorded the tracks "One More Spark," "Fallen - Acoustic," and "Like an Old Love Song" in a five-hour long recording session. These three tracks were released on the "Like an Old Love Song" EP on November 15, 2022.

In August 2022, Kelly flew to Los Angeles, California to record three more of Kelly's original works with Pillette. In five days, Kelly and Pillete arranged and recorded "Every Little Thing," "Disengaged," and "Incompatible (Constellations.)" The first single, "Every Little Thing" is set to be released January 5th, 2023. The EP containing all three tracks will be released in March 2023.



  • The End of The World (2022)
  • Heart In a Cage (2022)
  • Younger (2022)
  • Fallen (2022)
  • One More Spark (2022)
  • Fallen - Acoustic (2022)
  • Like an Old Love Song (2022)
  • Every Little Thing (2023)
  • Disengaged (2023)
  • Incompatible (Constellations) (2023)


  • Younger EP (2022)
  • Like an Old Love Song (2022)
  • Incompatible (Constellations) (2023)


  • Tokyo 2019 (2023)


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