James Abrahart, professionally known as JHart, has the kind of career kids dream about. He’s performed onstage at Coachella, racked up hundreds of millions of YouTube views, and in 2017, he was nominated for a Grammy. The only catch is, all his work has been for other people.
You’re probably a fan of his work. As a hired songwriter, he helped pen Justin Bieber‘s “Company”; “Don’t Look Down” for Martin Garrix and Usher; “Wasted Time” by Keith Urban; and “Body on Me” for Rita Ora and Chris Brown. Dance fans will recognize his voice from Kygo‘s “Permanent,” a song that sent the singer out on the road in support of his album Kids in Love. It was a life-changing experience — not only his first arena tour, but JHart’s first tour ever — and if it wasn’t for his therapist, it might not have happened.
“I was underestimating my own potential,” he says. “I remember going to a session and hearing [my therapist] confront me with the idea that I was really bad at making decisions, especially weighty decisions. I left this therapy session, and I got a call from Kygo literally as I was getting in the car, saying do you want to go on tour? I’d never done anything like that, and knowing that we just talked about it literally 20 minutes before, I just said ‘yes.’ I didn’t think about it and hung up the phone. Things like that have felt like the most growth for me and really, for lack of a better word, therapeutic.”
Therapy pushed JHart to finally face his greatest fears and step out into the spotlight. He found that not only was he capable of performing in front of huge crowds, he thrived there. He moved with the momentum and hit the studio to write his own body of work, a debut solo EP from his truth in his own voice. It’s called Vol. 1- Songs From Therapy, and it wears its inspiration on its sleeve with songs inspired by JHart’s own recorded therapy sessions with narration lifted from actual dialogue.
“I felt like I should take a different approach creatively to writing the songs than I do just for writing for other people, and I should find a way for it to feel both experimental and very honest,” he says. “Even if it wasn’t super deep lyrically, I still wanted it to feel authentic. I started going to therapy around the time I started working with the amazing producer Greg Wells, and I noticed that every time I left a therapy session and went to his studio, it was more obvious what I should be writing about.”
With his therapist’s permission, JHart began recording all his sessions. Listening to those conversations set light bulbs blazing in his mind. The EP explores common themes of isolation and romantic unease, a concept on full display in lead single “Put It to Bed.”
“I was in a relationship that had started off pretty passionate and devolved into [something] toxic,” he says. “When you start off arguing with someone just to make up, it’s fun in the beginning, but it can very quickly turn into a dysfunctional environment. I was talking to my therapist, and he said, ‘Let me simplify this idea for you. Do you think that you’re ever going to be able to move past it and put it to bed or not? If you can’t answer that question with a simple yes or no, then you’ve already got your answer.’ When I heard that I was like, ‘Oh, that is so obvious,’ and in the visual trailers that we’re releasing, the narration is the narration that my therapist said that inspired the song. Even beyond that, I feel like I’m putting to bed the fear of doing what I haven’t for a long time.”
It takes a lot of courage to put your feelings into the world, and with Vol. 1- Songs From Therapy, JHart is finding more freedom and self-empowerment than he ever thought possible. “Put It to Bed” is that first slice of beauty from pain. It’s triumphant and danceable, proof of JHart’s true power and a sign of great things to come.
“It’s just come full-circle,” he says. “When I started going to therapy, I started getting face to face with a lot of the things that I’ve been avoiding and realizing that the reason I hadn’t done this because I was fucking scared. I just had a lot of fear about being in front of people knowing that I couldn’t really stand in front of myself, look at myself in the mirror. Therapy helped rectify a lot of those things for me. That’s why I’m so passionate about the whole concept, because it isn’t just a thing that I built the EP around, it is where I’m at in my life right now. That’s what makes it even more special.”