James was born in Dublin on 5 July 1991 and grew up in a household surrounded by music. James' dad would play Cat Stevens, Sam Cooke and Bob Dylan whilst his sister Emma sang and toured with a musical in Ireland. James' great-grandparents were opera singers and his grandfather was a stand-up comedian and whistler. James began playing music in a rock band at the age of 8 and writing his own songs. The rock band was short lived, after a falling out over an alleged "paranormal experience".