Ginger St. JamesA tiny firecracker of a woman, raised on a farm near Hamilton has become a serious artist who combines, night after night, two great American traditions: Burlesque and the blues.
St. James found her way into the entertainment business the way most kids do — a guitar at 13, a cheerful streak of exhibitionism , talent contests, and — a defining moment — a guest appearance with a burlesque troupe in a little theatre. A challenge, she says now, looking back: “I was a little nervous backstage, and then it’s like "bring it on!’” In 2002, she first appeared on the Toronto scene as a member of Les Coquettes as a sultry singer; her affection for good old rock and roll and the lure of footlights led her to Broadway songs. And Les Coquettes, one of the first Burlesque troupes in Canada to revive the old vaudeville tradition, led her to form her own group in her hometown, the Steeltown Sirens.
Eighty shows later, St. James had emerged as a singer as well as a saucy soubrette with slithery moves, legs to die for and a smile to melt the ice in your gin and tonic. Along the way, she worked as an artists’ model, took the femme fatale role in Lucky 7, an indie film feature and performed as a guest with many well known Hamilton bands.
Backed by her band, it was her voice, sultry and surprisingly strong, that took her to her present level as one of Ontario’s most exciting new artists. This was, after all, an artist who could handle show tunes, swing, rockabilly, country and good ol’ rock and roll. Most of all, though, she developed a taste for the blues — which she vivaciously mixes with the rest of the musical genres she loves.
The first folk to take notice were the editors of View Magazine, Hamilton’s guide to what matters in Steeltown — for four consecutive years, beginning in 2008, she was picked as Best Female Artist. Her debut recording Spank, Sparkle and Growl earned St. James the Alt/Country Recording of the Year at the 2010 Hamilton Music Awards and nominations for Female Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year.
Following the success of her debut EP, St. James’ dance card has been packed with gigs at major festivals, clubs and two East Coast tours. With the 2012 release of her sophomore recording, aptly titled Tease, Ginger St. James has now well and truly broken out of her role as a Hamilton phenomenon; the rest of us are discovering her. Now, with the confidence and smarts she’s acquired since she shed most of her clothes at her first burlesque shows all those years ago, she has become a singer with the heart and soul and sexiness of the blues.
Ginger St. James, in short, has arrived. And you should — you will — pay attention. Blues, Country and Rock n' Roll are her primary weapons, though it's her sultry, expressive voice that steals the show.