James Daly, composer and musician, likes to say that “he’s not a native Coloradan, but he’s not a Texan”. Born in Houston, Texas, James and his family moved to Colorado when he was five and it’s here that he calls home.

Headshot of Colorado-based musician and composer James Daly

Headshot of Colorado-based musician and composer James Daly

Although he was a business major in college (at his parents urging), James has made a career as a composer and musician. He’s passionate about music as a form of storytelling; writing musical compositions that are emotive (often in minor and dissonant keys) that implore us to dig deeper into our emotional landscape.

James is also passionate and concerned about the ecological future for all living creatures and Mother Earth. On September 29, 2023, James released his first solo album, Matriarch, a Neo-classical adventure that is focused on climate change.

Matriarch Album Cover Art

James Daly’s Album “Matriarch” – Bandcamp album proceeds go to 350 Colorado


Music is in his blood, James told me when we met up for coffee in Denver. His grandparents played in jazz clubs before careers in music education, and his grandmother, who sang and played piano, according to James was the most talented musician he has ever known. His mother is also a musician who plays flute with local groups in the Denver area.

James’ first instrument was the clarinet which he played in school bands as well as joining the choir. He “picked up” guitar and piano on his own and is pretty much self-taught on these two instruments. Although he majored in Business in college, he also enrolled in music theory courses that helped him on his path to becoming a musician and composer.

After college, he joined various bands and started writing music both independently as well as collaboratively with bandmates. Just after college, he formed the band Anesthesia, a Denver band that gained traction in the post-rock scene.

Anesthesia, founded in 2007 in Denver, was a musical collaboration between James “JaDa” (guitars, keys, ambiance, programming), Phil Owens (guitars, ambience, programming, engineering) and Jeremiah Dalesio (production, engineering). The band’s music took its inspiration “to all those nuances in life that help to inspire, and the sounds merge beauty, tragedy, the ethereal and at times, the terrifying to convey through instrumentation what can’t be put into words.”

Two other emerging Texas bands, This Will Destroy You (avant rock) and Explosions in the Sky (post-rock) were early influences for Anesthesia because of their incredible ability to create emotive music through their instruments without vocals and lyrics.

In 2008, Anesthesia released their first album, “Wake Up” followed by “La Paradinha” in 2012. The band then released the first two installments of their EP series “An Infinite Winter”: Volumes I: In Memoriam in late 2014, and Volume II: Time in early 2015. “Neptune”, the third installment of “An Infinite Winter” was released in early 2016. It was the song, “Megan” on their first album that became a breakout song for the band, and opened numerous doors for James to compose for film.

As the primary writer for Anesthesia, James enthusiastically immersed himself into composing instrumental music that embraced and enhanced the moods and emotions that were being visually displayed on the screen. His film credits include the documentary feature, Take Care of Maya, an official selection of the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, and several short films including Sixth of June which won best documentary film short at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (2019).

Matriarch, is James’ first solo project – a project that is specifically focused on climate change. On the creative side, James composed the arrangements, collaborated with each musician and
performed on all of the songs on the album.

The album was engineered by James and Marshall Usinger of Be Still the Earth, mixed by Matt Kidd of Slow Meadow, mastered by David Glasser of Airshow Mastering, and features performances by Cara Fox (cello), Avery Bright (violin, viola) and Denver-based Elus Vocal Ensemble (choir).

The release of Matriarch is something James really wanted to do with the intention and hope that more artists will engage in the conversation about climate change and by doing so, help bring not only awareness, but ways in which communities will take action to preserve and protect our fragile ecosystems from being destroyed.

James also wants people to take in all the beauty and wonder out there.

“Mother Earth gives life and it begins and ends with Mother Earth,” says James, “and that is why the album is titled Matriarch.”

Susan’s listening notes:

I’ve given the album a deep listening as is my practice with headphones and in a quiet space allowing myself to go into a dream-state where, for example, while listening to the song “Warming” I could see the devastating impact of a warming planet with images of communities ravished by wildfires and floods flashing across my brain.

The song ‘Wahtum Lake’ brought me back to my childhood growing up in Maine and being at the
lake at sunrise listening to the loons and taking in the scent of the pine trees and hoping that all
the beauty that I so cherished still exists.

Matriarch, the title cut on the album, is a loving embrace of Mother Earth and for all that she has given, and still gives. I want to hug her back and to take care of her.

James is donating all the proceeds (100%) raised on the Matriarch Bandcamp page starting on September 29, 2023 to support the work of 350 Colorado. BTW – his sister is a volunteer with 350 Colorado. I encourage you to download the album because it’s beautiful and moving and support James’ efforts and the work of 350 Colorado. Thank you.

Here is the Bandcamp link for Matriarch:


Follow James on Instagram:


Matriarch cover art
Susan Heske posing with a guitar outdoors

About the Writer:
Susan Heske


Susan Heske moved to Boulder, CO, in October 2021. She previously worked as Senior Director of Communications for Student Services at The New School in New York City. She has been involved with social justice issues for many years.