James Halfpenny was born in Brawley ,
California, a small farming community in the southeast corner of the state. He began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was performing
publicly in his first band, Westwind, at the age of 14. After
graduating high school he sold all his guitars (except one beat up acoustic) and
drove off to attend California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo
majoring in bio-chemistry with a minor in music. After two semesters at
Cal Poly James grew bored with the curriculum and decided to put school on
form a rock and roll band (much to the delight of his parents). He lived
and performed with bands in San Diego for 5 years
then later moved to Los Angeles where he played guitar, wrote songs and recorded
with a number of
rock groups playing on and off "the strip" in Hollywood. While in Los
Angeles, he decided to continue his education in music and attended G.I.T. at
Musician's Institute. After graduating from M.I. in 1988, James got very
interested in writing music for film. Having absolutely no idea how to get
into the industry, he built a meager recording studio, took classes in film composition,
orchestration and arrangement at
U.C.L.A., put up flyers in various prestigious film departments and soon began
composing music for a number of student film projects at U.S.C, U.C.L.A., and The
American Film Institute.
While leaving his day-job one afternoon,
James noticed a film crew shooting on location in the alley behind his office.
In between takes he boldly approached the director (not usually a wise idea, and
definitely not suggested) and talked him into taking a demo of some of the music
he had composed for the student films. The director (Lawrence-Hilton
Jacobs) telephoned James two weeks later and gave him his first paying job as
film composer. That first movie was a nerve shattering experience with the
realities of working with the tight deadlines associated with independent films,
but James finished the score on schedule (with a few hours to spare) and the
producers liked his work so much that he wound up composing scores for 15 more films for the same
production company. Since then James has provided music for a steadily
growing number of clients and has, to this date, composed the scores for over 25
feature length films, three shorts,
thirteen episodes for an outdoor TV series produced for The Animal Planet
and a national television ad for Southwest Airlines.
Most of the independent films James has scored have also required him to write
songs either as source pieces or as featured performances. This has
ultimately enabled him to write songs in virtually every style imaginable, the most unusual include
an intentionally cheesy accordion piece for a comedic, Italian restaurant scene, a celestial sitar
source cue for a woman (Sally Kirkland) searching for her chakra and a grungy
punk tune for a rock concert scene. James even got the chance to
make his on-screen film debut cast as a guitarist in a prom band that "lip synced" the
actual song he wrote and recorded for the scene.
Looking casually at the film genres he has worked on, James seems to have fallen into a niche of writing effective scores
for independent action and adventure films, but he has also done a fair amount of music for comedy,
and drama as well.
Aside from his work in film and TV James has composed
the songs and lyrics for a stage musical that made a successful run in Marin County, California and provided music for countless video
projects that include infomercials and corporate videos for such companies
as Digital Globe, The University Of Texas and Olympus Digital Cameras.
He has most recently written the music for a national television Southwest Airlines "Wanna
Get away" ad.
James Halfpenny's film music styles range from lush
orchestral pieces, to jazz, rock, electronica, country/bluegrass, rap/hip
hop, atonal atmospheric diversions, and interesting combinations of all of these
styles. He currently owns his own digital recording studio, Back Forty
Studios, in Austin, Texas, where he
writes, arranges, produces and even performs most of his scores. James' music can
be heard in a number of films and commercials currently shown on Network
CMAX, SHOW, A&E, TMC, USA, as well as in numerous Canadian and overseas
television and theatrical venues.
When he's not busy on a score James
performs live with his group the Jim Halfpenny Band. The group
released their debut CD entitled, First Things First, in the spring 2006
follow up CD, Truth Trust & Other Ghosts, in June of 2010. The
new album is currently doing well on the national Americana (AMA) charts. For more information on the
Jim Halfpenny Band visit their web site at
James has been happily married to his wife,
Laurie, for twenty-four years, they have two dogs and two cats, he's a BMI writer and
longtime member of The Society Of Composers And Lyricists and the Austin Film
Society. In addition to
writing music, James has been a featured writer for the S.C.L. periodical entitled "THE SCORE", he's an avid golfer,
a reader, an
angler, and he's president of Strong Domino Music, a BMI publisher.