'The Voice' Alum Sam James Talks 'Re-Imagining' Hip-Hop Hits into Acoustic Renditions

"Being essentially trapped at home wasn't a bad thing at all for me," he tells PEOPLE

Amid the pandemic and its uncertainty, many were in a constant state of pivoting their plans for the future. One of those people was The Voice alum Sam James.

The singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed "road warrior" took the time to rest and reset, eager to find how to get his brand of music out to the public. The pandemic also gave James an opportunity to play and perform something he has always loved: hip-hop.

"Everything started to explode over pandemic in terms of my career, which is a weird thing to say because it was such a horrible time for so many people," James tells PEOPLE about the country artist's viral covers. "Being essentially trapped at home wasn't a bad thing at all for me."

Raised on a healthy mix of everything from Bob Dylan to R.E.M., the Massachusetts native has long been intrigued by a wide range of music, but hip-hop has always had a special place in his heart.

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James says he would often "fool around" with blending his country ideals with the beats of hip-hop in the studio. "I was like, hell no," James says with a laugh. "But what did I have to lose? So, I put the first video up on Instagram in January of 2020 and I didn't really think anything of it. And then, I woke up the next day and I had 12,000 new followers on Instagram. It was cool."

Virtually overnight, his social media following exploded as he covered hits from Megan Thee Stallion to Brockhampton to Drake.

"I was getting like voicemails from Diddy and DaBaby was Face Timing me and Nicki Minaj was reaching out and it was so wild, and I started booking tons of events…and then the world shut off," he remembers. "I was like, 'Okay, I don't know how long this whole pandemic thing is going to be.' No one did. But I decided in that moment to just make the best out of it."

And that's exactly what he did. His mornings were spent hanging out with his 5-year-old, while his nights were spending listening and covering songs, hoping he didn't wake anyone up.

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"You're re-imagining these songs and some of the lyrics are definitely things that I wouldn't personally say in my own music, but I think that's what's so shocking about it," he says with a laugh. "Here I am with my beard and my cowboy hat and then people are like, 'What did he just say?'"

Even better was the fact that, during a time of such uncertainty and division, James was bringing people together with his renditions.

"Tensions were pretty high, so I really wanted to put something out there that was more lighthearted and not so serious," he says. "It took me a long time in life to learn to not take yourself so seriously, but as soon as I started practicing what I preached, good things started to happen to me."

James' life is now returning to somewhat normal, as the singer is working on new, original music and continuing to write for artists such as Dolly Parton and Bebe Rexha.

He will also be heading back out on the road very soon.

"I think the shows are going to be so fun, because my audience will now be made up of people that are country fans, people that are hip hop fans, people that are pop radio fans. And it's going to be so eclectic and fun. I'm combining all the genres. They tell you not to do that, but I'm doing it."

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