Interview: How James Dupre Found Career Inspiration on ‘Ellen’, From Randy Travis
Louisiana native James Dupre studied meteorology in college, then got a job as a paramedic. It took a little push from Ellen DeGeneres for Dupre to realize that he needed to follow his heart and pursue a music career.
“I was working as a paramedic, and I was making YouTube videos in my bedroom. And then, after a few years of doing that, I started playing local bars and stuff. In 2010, I got an email from a producer of the Ellen show: She saw my videos and said she wanted me on the show,” Dupre recalls to The Boot. “When I first saw the email, I thought it was a joke, like spam, because people would send really weird stuff sometimes. But there was a phone number to call and set it up, and so I called, and they said, ‘We’d like to get you out here next week if you can. We’ll take care of the flights.’
“I was like, ‘I cannot freaking believe this.’ Nothing like this ever happens to me; it was just so out of nowhere,” Dupre adds. “So I went out there, and it was a great experience, and she was just as sweet as could be. She’s also from Louisiana, so we kind of hit it off and had a good time. But after that, I realized that it wasn’t a hobby of mine anymore; it was something that I wanted to pursue as a career, and so I worked for a couple more years as a paramedic and then moved up to Nashville.”
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Ellen wouldn’t be Dupre’s last experience on national TV. Five years later, in 2015, the singer-songwriter found himself competing during Season 9 of The Voice. Dupre had “never even thought about” going on the show — “I don’t even watch much [reality TV],” he admits — until a friend suggested he try out. Dupre landed on Adam Levine‘s team, although he had his pick of coaches.
“I caught a lot of flack about it, because I didn’t pick Blake [Shelton],” Dupre recalls. “I was going to, but after they all turned around, and each coach gets a chance to talk, Blake was just like — I think he saw I was wearing boots and he just assumed I was going to pick him. Adam was just about to climb out of his chair [to convince me to pick him].”
Dupre was eliminated from Team Adam during the Knockout Round, but if he has his way, he’ll spend more time onscreen in the future. In 2016, the artist made his acting debut in a movie called The Price; he not only honed his acting chops, but also had the chance to hang out with his own musical hero, Randy Travis, who appears in the film (the movie was filmed prior to Travis’ stroke in 2013).
“That was my first acting experience, and I was really nervous about meeting [Travis],” Dupre confesses. “He came in the room, and he pulls out his guitar. He said, ‘Come over here. I want to show you a song I just wrote.’ He just broke the ice, and it made me feel completely comfortable around him. We hit it off and had fun making the movie, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
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Although Dupre met Travis only a few months before Travis’ stroke, Dupre has remained a loyal and supportive friend to the country icon throughout his ongoing health battles.
“I actually go down to their place in Texas all the time and hang out,” says Dupre. “Mary [Travis, Randy’s wife] and I are really close. Mary’s daughter, Cavanaugh, we’re real tight; we Snapchat each other every day. It’s pretty cool. They’re really normal people; they’re just really down-to-Earth and sweet people.”
In fact, it’s Travis who continues to serve as an inspiration for Dupre: “Right now, I’m focusing on the music, but, at some point, I would love to do the acting thing, much like Randy did,” Dupre shares. “He was really well-established in his music career, and then he started acting, and he’s a natural, so I would love to do that.”
Dupre’s latest album, Stoned to Death, was released in 2016. He’s currently considering what his next record will sound like, but he is also spending a lot of his time on the road.
“I just want great songs. But I strive to write great songs,” says Dupre. “I just want to keep playing and getting songs out there … Pretty much every weekend, I’m out of town … I’m trying to spread it out as much as I can and get the songs out there.”
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