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 hold and 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 Animal Planet and a national television ad for Southwest Airlines.
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, romance, 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.
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.
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, where he writes, arranges, produces and even performs most of his scores. James’ music can be heard in a number of films and commercials shown on Network Television, HBO, 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 as a solo singer/songwriter, and with his group the Jim Halfpenny Band. The group released their debut CD entitled, First Things First, in the spring 2006 and their follow up CD, Truth Trust & Other Ghosts, in June of 2010, which did very well on the national Americana (AMA) charts. His most recent album, Tabula Rasa, was released in August of 2021.
James is a BMI writer and longtime member of The Society Of Composers and Lyricists and the Los Angeles and Austin Film Societies. 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, writer, an angler, painter, and he’s president of Strong Domino Music, a BMI publisher.
For more information on Jim’s songwriting visit his singer/songwriter web site at www.jimhalfpenny.com.
All music and lyrics © James Halfpenny – BMI – Strong Domino Music Publishing