James studied organ, flute and composition at the Royal College of Music in London, and later at St Catherine’s College, Oxford with Stephen Sondheim.
He has written extensively for the theatre, including incidental music for over twenty plays, plus the stage musicals Killing Rasputin (Bridewell Theatre), Yarico (Edinburgh Festival, Crampton Theatre, Washington DC), Doctor Livingstone, I Presume . . . (Riverside Studios) and New Edna, The Millennial Musical (National tour and Haymarket Theatre, London) starring Dame Edna Everage – as well as the collaborative musicals The Challenge (Shaw Theatre) and The Ten Commandments (Jermyn St).
He has composed the music for over 100 television documentaries and dramas, including the Emmy Award winning Ten Days to D-Day (Channel 4), Adolf and Eva (ITV network) which won a Gold Badge at the New York Film Festival, The Brontes (BBC1), World War One in Colour (Channel 4), The Real John Betjeman (C4), Kings and Queens (C4), Last Train from Budapest (C4), Great Escapes (C5), Who Killed Marilyn? (C5), The Search for King Midas (C4) Timewatch: Exocet (BBC2), The Illuminator (C5), The Real Benito Mussolini (C4), as well as the feature films Another Life (2001), starring Ioan Gruffudd, Nick Moran and Tom Wilkinson – and Detention (2011) starring David Carradine in his final role.
He wrote and presented the Channel 4 documentaries What Made Mozart Tic? (2004) and Addict’s Symphony (2014).
His book Life, Interrupted, (Hodder/Headline) was published in April 2006 and entered the bestseller lists in its first week.
He currently writes and performs comedy cabaret with Kit Hesketh-Harvey (formerly Kit & The Widow) under the name Kit & McConnel – website here.
He lives in Norfolk.