Sleeman rocks to his own beat



Sophomore James Sleeman on Neptune regularly performs at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

Sarah Lynch

Not many high schoolers play an instrument, but sophomore James Sleeman of Neptune plays four and is still willing to learn more.

Although Sleeman focuses on his guitar and drum set, he also plays the ukulele, keyboard, banjo and sings vocals. Because of his dedication to the guitar and drums, Sleeman has not played the keyboard in a few years, but would like to pick it up again. He would like to one day try the harmonica, because he considers it “fascinating.”

In the fourth grade, Sleeman started playing the drums in his school band. In fifth grade, he started taking music seriously, and took up the guitar at 11 or 12 years old. Today, Sleeman has various band practices every day of the week.

Sleeman advanced from school band and started playing at the Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park a “couple of years ago.”

“I’ve become really attached to the people there. They’ve really helped me, and that’s really where all my bands have formed from,” Sleeman said. “It’s from them and the people who go there, and the people who run the programs there that have taught me so much.”

Sleeman said he plays gigs mostly in Asbury Park, his “adopted hometown,” and travels the Asbury circuit with one of his most prominent bands, a ‘70s funk cover bank called the  Hand Drawn Owls.

Sleeman’s other band, Spectrum, will release their first EP this summer.

Although he likes playing the blues the best, Sleeman and his bands perform everything from the pop to metal. He mainly listens to classic rock, but he also enjoys some modern jazz fusion, like Snarky Puppy, one of his favorite bands right now.

Sleeman is inspired by individual musicians, including Joe Walsh of the Eagles. Another more recent inspiration is Joe Robinson, a guitarist from Australia.

His acoustic sound is different from other people because he takes techniques that are commonly found on electric guitar, but translates them to the acoustic world,” Sleeman said. “I would honestly say that at this point he is the best acoustic guitar player I’ve seen live.”

Ideally, Sleeman said he would continue music in college, and he is also contemplating pursuing audio engineering and working in a music studio.

“I’ve been told by people that I could go into music and do well,” Sleeman said.

Sleeman said he feels a special connection with music and playing instruments.

“I’ve never in sports and that kind of stuff. But this is interesting, and I’m good at it,” Sleeman said.