“Karli’s winsome soprano takes the lead with James’s soft harmony backing her flawlessly..
Well produced and radio ready.” – Robert K. Oermann, MusicRow
“There’s nothing like writing songs,” says Karli Chayne, lead singer in rising country do Karli & James. “The vibe I get when I’m putting my feelings—or even someone else’s feelings—on paper, then turning those emotions into a song…it just does it for me.”
“And the really exciting part for me,” adds her partner, James Sinclair-Stott, with equal enthusiasm, “is taking a song we’ve written on acoustic guitar and making it a full-blown, radio-quality production.”
Those two perspectives are crucial to the energy this duo brings to their artistry. Her dedication to the craft of songwriting and his ear for production shines strongly through their music. Karli leans pure country; James leans indie rock, and the result is a refreshingly modern blend. Not bad for what started as a chance encounter at a Nashville coffee shop! The couple’s partnership (professionally and personally) creates a musical dialogue that is often biographical, yet their lyrics are convincingly universal.
Initially known as Cross Atlantic due to James’s international ties (he was raised in Guernsey, UK), the duo has already drawn praise from Billboard, CMT and MusicRow. Several early singles garnered support from online streaming sites, leading to spots on Spotify New Music Nashville and Apple Music Country Wide playlists. Their 2017 debut single “Mercy” took them straight to the top of the CMT Music 12-Pack Countdown and landed the duo an opening slot on Brandy Clark’s UK and US tours.
James—who grew up playing in British bands—met Karli in 2015 after visiting Nashville to explore the local music scene. Karli, who started singing at age 2 thanks to her musical parents, eventually learned a few guitar chords and started writing songs; by 15, she had persuaded her parents to move from Missouri to Nashville, where she became an early member of the Song Suffragettes, a collective of young female songwriters.
During their first writing session, Karli sang harmony to James’s lead, creating an unexpected blend. James returned to London (where he had moved in his late teens) with the new songs and built tracks. He recalls, “When I did that—the blend of our voices, the instrumentation, the sound of the music—it’s what I’d been looking for. It wasn’t until I got home and had some distance from it that I realized what we had.” After the two agreed to become a duo, James applied for a Visa and eventually moved to Nashville in 2017.
As Karli and James continued writing music together, it wasn’t long before their lyrics began to reflect how they felt about each other; in September 2019, the two were married. Though their music was initially more country pop–influenced and relationship-oriented, the duo is digging deeper as they mature as a couple and as artists. Their new music has a more organic, live feel sonically, and the writing pays homage to Karli’s traditional roots. “It’s all I know,” Karli says. “I really, really love it, and we’re very committed. We went through a lot just to become a duo.”
Someday Dreaming, the EP the duo is currently recording, represents the culmination of that growth. Every song is co-written by Karli and James with both new and established artists and writers, most notably Porter Howell, lead vocalist and guitar player for Little Texas; solo artist and former Little Texas vocalist/keyboardist Brady Seals; and Grammy-nominated songwriter Adam Wheeler. Without revealing too much, Karli says there’s a sassy tribute to the local roadhouse, a regret-filled ballad about well-meaning friends trying to help one of their own and a couple lyric-driven love songs fans will definitely find relatable.
The EP also represents James’s first project as solo producer. “I love collaboration,” he says, “but it is nice to do things exactly the way I want.” At the same time, “it’s also a bit scary because there’s no one else to fall back on. But that kind of prehension drives you forward.” James also says he knew going in exactly how he wanted each song to sound. “The way I approach it is to demo each track—to the point that they’re 90% there—so I’ve already got it pretty well mapped out,” he explains. “Then the key is bringing in amazing, first-call musicians to the sessions.”
In addition to refining their musical niche, Karli & James have spent the last few years honing their live performance chops and building an audience. In addition to playing historic venues in Nashville (such as The Bluebird Café and Country Music Hall of Fame) and opening for Brandy Clark, they have opened for Lonestar, Uncle Kracker, Casey Donahew, Thompson Square, Mark Chesnutt, Sara Evans and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.