Among recent accomplishments, James Nihan's song, This Land
is not Our Land, is on the Grammy-nominated CD by Becky Hobbs entitled Nanyehi,
Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, which is also a musical play funded by a grant
from the Smithsonian Institute. The song is also being used to promote conservation
of our natural resources. He lent his narrative voice to a documentary on the Inupiat
tribe of Barrow, Alaska and Seeds of Light is the title inclusion of the Unity
Church International Songbook. James' anthem, I See the Light in Everything,
received the 1st Place People's Choice Award, as a "world peace" song, from the
organization Bring Peace Not Pain, supported by many artists including Yusuf (Cat Stevens).
Massachusetts native James Nihan began playing guitar
at age nine and writing songs at fourteen.He was first influenced by the music of
Tom Rush, John Prine, Mickey Newberry, Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor. He began
performing at age nineteen, appearing throughout New England at venues including
The Folkway, The Pressroom, The Sword In The Stone, The Me & Thee and The Grog.
After the blizzard of '78 struck, on his twenty-first birthday, he left New England
in search of warmer climes.
He entertained throughout Texas, Arizona and California from
1979-87. In 1980 his songs were commended by Arizona governor, Bruce Babbitt and
Berkeley, California poet, Gene Fowler, presented James with an award for the lyric
The Hardest Road, saying it reminded him of old sonnets. James also wrote and
produced radio commercials for anglo and hispanic markets in Los Angeles, at the
same time performing at rodeos, folk societies and vineyard restaurants in the north.
James moved to Nashville in 1987 to continue a career in songwriting.
He was first published by Ed Bruce
and George Strait. Acclaim came with the release of I Can See Arkansas by MCA recording artist
Steve Wariner in 1990, and James was voted Songwriter of the Year by the Tennessee Songwriters
Association. The following year the song was recorded again and went Top-10 for Anne Murray on
Capitol Records. The song has been recorded many times by David Ball (Country), Larry Stephenson
(Bluegrass), Ninjaman (Reggae) and others.
From 1988 until 1991, the major record labels showed a growing
interest in James as a potential recording artist, often sending representatives to his venues
at the Bluebird Cafe and Douglas Corner Cafe. With the emergence of "Young Country", a time
when many artists were being signed in their teens, it seemed prudent to focus more on other
creative areas of the music business.
At this time the legendary songwriter,
Harlan Howard (I Fall to
Pieces/Busted/Heartaches By The Number), took James under his wing, acting as mentor and
publisher until 1996. Harlan likened James lyrical storytelling style to the works of Canadian
poet Robert Service. Later publishers would include EMI Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing
Group, Almo-Irving Music and REO Global Entertainment.
He has been a guest on numerous radio and television programs.
His songs have been performed on the Grand Ole Opry, Austin City Limits, Nashville
Now, The Regis Philbin Show, CMT and more. Appearances include the Kerrville Folk
Festival and Mountain Stage. He was featured poet at the Annual Poetry Fair at the
College of San Mateo in California.
He founded the annual New England Songwriters Show held at
Nashville's renowned Bluebird Café. Past guest artists include Peter
McCann, Barry & Holly Tashian, Dave Mallett, Gary Burr, Cindy Bullens, David Olney,
Jon Pousette-Dart, John Scott Sherrill, Jess Leary and Robert Ellis Orrall.
He taught songwriting to children through the non-profit
"Words & Music" program at the Country Music Hall of Fame for two decades, and
he brings his songwriting workshops into schools across the country. He
has worked with patients in addiction and psychiatric treatment, where poetry and
music are used to encourage self-expression and healing.
In 1995 he released the CD "Mirror Boxes & Diamond Rings".
Performing Songwriter magazine said, "Nihan is the lonesome preacher…with a
voice thick as molasses, (he) tells the tales of the lover, the loser and the lucky survivor."
The CD "Rays Of Light" was released in late 2003. The songs
are uplifting and from the heart, inspired by Toltec and Native American wisdom.
Jean Pumphrey, Literary Director of the Marin Poetry Center said, "In the
songs of James Nihan we enter a world of artistry. Here is a poet's voice painting
in sound and image a portrait of where love lives." Toltec teacher, don Roberto Paez,
said, "A loving tribute to the power of transformation! James Nihan has created a
refreshingly honest and moving memoir, a chronicle of awakening to the sweetness of
The CD's "All Creation" (2005) and "Murals" (2008) followed. The
heartfelt songs are both meditative and contemplative and incorporate a variety of
instruments including sitar, gemshorn, pennywhistle and hammered dulcimer. The West
Virginia Register-Herald said, "James' music transcends barriers; it speaks to all
of us." "His music brings joy to the soul and is the perfect music to grow and learn
by," wrote Sheri Rosenthal, DPM, author of The Idiot's Guide to Toltec Wisdom.
Other creative endeavors include screenwriting (with the well-known
songwriter/recording artist/actor, cowboy Ed Bruce), poetry, art and a novel that will
be published soon.
James resides on a ridgetop in Tennessee with his wife,
singer/songwriter and experiential therapist, Dawn Zurlinden, their too-smart Aussie dogs,
Iris and Angel…and a few stray cats.