“A doctor by day and singer by sundown” is a bold phrase featured on Dr. James Robert Webb’s website. That’s because the singer has the interesting challenge of balancing a double life by being a country music recording artist while also continuing his career as a physician.
Webb grew up in a small town on a ten acre farm outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. His mom was a teacher, his dad was a construction worker, and he didn’t have a cliché musical family although his mom did play the piano. Webb grew up playing in the band at school, and went on to become an all-state jazz piano player in high school.
He went on to pursue studies at medical school, had children, and then became interested in songwriting later on. “That’s kind of where my love of music got rediscovered,” he tells us. “I just had this calling to do it professionally.”
What most excited him about country music was the ’90s era and the artists that shaped the decade such as Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Toby Keith. “The lyrics were really good. That’s the thing about country as opposed to other genres. The lyrics always make sense and are usually well-crafted and tell a story,” he explains. Webb was especially drawn into Nashville by the songwriting that takes place there.
Although he admires music city, he still resides in Oklahoma to maintain his medical practice where he treats and conducts procedures for patients with back problems. “It’s interesting because, on one side, I’m this very intellectual, highly-educated, highly trained physician who does procedures,” he tells us. “That’s almost a very left-brain thing, right? And then the music side, most of that is creative, what we would say is right-brain.” He also explains that he has three main “D’s” in his life: the doctor, the dad, and the ditty writer.
Last year, he released a self-titled album, and in 2020 into 2021, Webb has had three consecutive Top 25 hits on the Music Row Country Hits Breakout chart as well as four consecutive Top 40 singles. He recalls back to when his song “Tulsa Time” got picked up and played on the SiriusXM station Willie’s Roadhouse and how rewarding it was. People would take videos of them listening to the song in their car and send it to him. He’s also amassed over a million views on TikTok and over 100 thousand total likes.
One of his most recent singles “Okfuskee Whiskey” was written on his back porch with fellow Oklahoma native Matt Shannon. “It was a little bit of our family because we both had great grandparents that were blacksmiths,” he says. “And Matt’s grandfather was a blacksmith, but he was also a bootlegger, so he’d make moonshine in this town called Okfuskee.” The lyrics tell an entrancing story of a bootlegger from Oklahoma and Webb prides himself on bringing the compelling tale that’s true to life, come alive.
Another piece of music he released recently was a cover of Nirvana’s classic track “Heart-Shaped Box.” He chose to cover the song because of its haunting yet beautiful melody. His version of the song contrasts greatly with Nirvana’s original as it’s only Webb and a piano; there’s no heavy guitars or drums.“I like to reinvent songs and make it sonically sound differently than you’ve heard it before if I’m doing a cover,” he explains. He also wanted to move away from the highly produced records he’s used to making. The cover achieves that perfectly because it’s completely stripped down and raw-sounding. “I wanted to show a separate side of me as a piano guy too.”
For the rest of 2021, he plans to hopefully get on the road and play as many shows as he can. He also plans on releasing more covers and getting back in the studio to work on the next project. “I think where I can grow the most is playing more,” he exclaims. “Especially coming out of the pandemic.”
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