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James M Potter


Chicago IL

Since the beginning of time James always banged his pencils/pens at his desk even going back as a young boy James would always keep various beats to different songs in his head as he would daydream.  “Always tapping my foot.  I just thought that’s what normal people did, but later learned certain people have a natural ability to keep rhythm.”  Later he bought a bass guitar in 1998, acoustic in 2000, acquired various percussive instruments from then through today.

James is able to play hand percussion and bass drum (and secretly guitar, but only at home).

When telling me about his instruments he explains that his djembe was carved from a single tree trunk in Africa and his affinity to his Meinl Conga/Tumba.

He still remembers his first tunes he played: Hot Corn Cold Corn on acoustic, Three Little Birds, Some different parts of Dave Matthews Band songs that he enjoyed.


While being in High School he  listened to all hard core gangsta’ rap music, so he obviously wasn’t influenced by that music. This part of his musical life came later. The DMB really got him into more appreciation of music and how all the instruments can work together to make beautiful music.

Growing up in a very musical family, it was almost predictable that James would follow that same way. James’ mother is a great piano player and so he grew up listening to her play.  As a kid he would relax listening to her play.  Her brother plays guitars and sings, and music was always a part of their family.

Besides being a musician on his own, James always listens to music, but interestingly, he listens to House and Dance music, mostly when walking around the city, but when at home he tends to listen to more somber ballads and such.

While talking about how he got into the Band with Kevin McDonough he explains: “Kevin and I had visions of Leonum in 2011/2012 as kids and life had us occupied up to that point…but as the crack of light presented itself through the cracks, we started more seriously discussing putting a line-up together to play acoustic music together…and it just sort of evolved from there.” 

James believes that music connects people’s souls…and has always been important to him. Listening, and now playing. James thinks music moves people, fulfills people, allows people to experience emotions openly.

His musical career went through an evolution when he started with just a djembe. Then added an occasional tambourine and later a couple parts with shakers. Afterwards Congas were added for a song or two and a bass drum to really anchor some of our songs, which has become more common with bands dropping the full drum kits for more subtle percussive elements.  As Leonum evolved with him, he just started playing a bunch of them together at the same time.

About the biggest challenges of being in a band, James tells us that having a band with 5-6 people in it requires 5-6 people to be available to play at the same time, despite all the other things happening in their lives.  Scheduling shows Leonum’s biggest challenge, and then once we do schedule a show, being able to rehearse to lock-down the chemistry and timing that comes organically from playing together. That’s a huge challenge, and is why we don’t really get to play many live shows throughout the year.

His tipps & tricks to people who want to form their own bands: “Get a day job unless you can commit yourself 100% to music (and then probably still get a day job!). Playing together and doing a couple things very well is better than trying to do too much and not doing it as well. Simple, well executed music is beautiful and will never disappoint.”

FUN STORY: “In my first gig, I was called to play at the DMB show down in Tinley Park.  A band Kevin played in and I managed was asked to play the VIP area for 300+ guests before and after the show. I had never played before, ever, but I knew the music well and it sort of always excited me to think about the prospect of playing live music in front of people.  So I played a djembe until my hands were bleeding all over the instrument and my pants…and it’s still one of my fondest musical memories. That night I autographed my first CD, a CD I didn’t even play on…”

Meinl Professional Series Conga

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