Pioneer Public: Bethany Latham (James The Seventh)


Photo by: Maia Montgomery

Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

A sophomore public relations and advertising student with a love for music, Bethany Latham, known artistically as James The Seventh, has created a psychedelic musician identity and a body of work to follow the same theme.

When an injury stopped Latham from dancing in the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, she turned to music. It was a gift from her dad that encouraged her, after years of considering writing songs, to finally leap into the music scene.

“I went home for quarantine, and I couldn’t walk or anything because of my injury,” Latham said. “So my dad bought me a guitar to find a new thing to occupy my time. I had always sort of been interested in exploring singing and songwriting in high school, but I was too scared to do it. Then my dad bought me the guitar so I was like, well, now I finally have the opportunity to try this.”

Not only did Latham pick up singing and songwriting, but she also learned how to produce her own music. By producing her own music, she was able to get popular on TikTok with 188,000 followers and even has become a contestant in Billboard’s BillboardNXT competition.

“My sister connected me with her friend who helped me produce my first song, and I learned a lot from him,” Latham said. “After that, I wanted to teach myself how to do it. So the second song I put out, I taught myself how to produce it. The internet helped a lot along with listening to music and paying attention to all the elements of a song.”

Learning to produce was a huge step for Latham’s music journey. Another part of progressing as an artist was growing her production process. She now uses a process that is completely different from where she started.

“Typically, I write songs before I produce them, but it [the creative process] honestly changes each time,” Latham said. “Usually, I have chords or an idea of how I want the drums or the bass to sound. I really like taking guitar, putting bass on top of it, and just messing around, seeing what sticks. But I always produce with Logic software on my computer, which is the easiest interface to use because it’s like GarageBand but has more stuff on it. I remember being in elementary school and looking at GarageBand, being so confused, but now it’s really cool.”

Something else that has changed for her is that Latham performed live for the first time in front of an audience recently at Pioneer Records’ Open Mic Night at Gasoline Street Coffee Company. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Latham hadn’t had the chance to play in front of people since live music events weren’t occurring and venues were closed.

“I feel like when it comes to anything and you’re standing up in front of people, it’s super intimidating,” Latham said. “But, I really enjoyed it. I’ve always wanted to do that [perform]. I thought I was going to be consumed by nerves and that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself. But once I got up there and started doing it, it ended up being so much fun. It’s really nice to be able to share your music and your art with other people.”

At the open mic night, she performed a variety of her work as well as an unreleased song that will be available on April 22. The song is called “Future Memories,” and it’s a song that Latham has been crafting for some time.

“‘Future Memories’ was actually one of the first songs I wrote,” Latham said. “I was at home last year because I was having knee problems, so I couldn’t really go anywhere. During this time, I produced the song in four different versions, and I didn’t like any of them. But I decided to come back to it last month. It’s probably one of my most vulnerable songs because I talk about my past with ballet and dealing with body image and eating disorders. It’s difficult to find optimism after that sometimes, and that’s what the song is about.”

The song, as well as Latham’s other work, has a sound to it that she describes as “dream pop” — taking advantage of aesthetics that are light, airy, dreamy, and fantasy-like. However, it wasn’t a sound that she discovered immediately when she started writing music.

“My first five songs I put out were just me being extremely confused as to what I wanted to make,” Latham said. “Eventually, I got more comfortable with playing guitar, and I think that had a big influence on my sound. I’ve always listened to a lot of music but now I really like psychedelic rock music, and I love artists like Weyes Blood, Fiona Apple, and Lana Del Rey. I like how they have this ambient, dreamy sound to their music, and I really like implementing that into mine. Reverb is honestly great.”

In the future, one of her main goals is to continue with this style of music. She said she hopes to create a more extensive end product that she can share with people and play out.

“I think the songs that I’ve been putting out over the past few months and “Future Memories” would fit well on a cohesive body of work,” Latham said. “So that’s something I would love to work on over the summer since I would love to do an EP at some point. I also really want to play live more. I had so much fun doing it at the open mic and making more connections with people in Pittsburgh is always great.”