James Ian learned the piano first, followed by drums, bass, and then guitar, all despite suffering from spinal muscular atrophy. He plays around town at venues such as the Belly Up and Casbah, despite having relocated to Los Angeles around 2019.
He played all the instruments and sang all the parts on his 2017 album The Labor of Love. A new single was recorded at Rancho Bernardo’s Studio West in early 2020. "My new song is called ‘Make A Stand,’ and it’s about fighting back against racism and other forms of hate and discrimination," he told the Reader. "It is inspired by the Charlottesville terror attacks, and it has already been recorded.”