Early Life and career
LaBrie was born in Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada and took an interest in music from an early age, singing and playing drums by age 5. In his teenage years, LaBrie was in several bands either as a singer, drummer or both. LaBrie and Richard Chycki came together sometime in the late 1980's to form the glam band Winter Rose, who released one Winter Rose (album) to limited success, though the out-of-print album has become a popular collector's item for Dream Theater fans. LaBrie sent the album to Dream Theater when he heard they were looking for a vocalist after the departure of Charlie Dominici. LaBrie was flown down to New York City to meet with the band, who found him to be a perfect match, and he immediately replaced Chris Cintron the vocalist they had been working with at the time. LaBrie readily dropped his first name, going as "James LaBrie" from then on, to avoid confusion with Kevin Moore, stating that with two Johns in the band, two Kevins would be confusing.
Role in Dream Theater
As the lead vocalist and frontman, LaBrie is seen as being the "voice" of Dream Theater, though this largely refers to his role on recordings and at concerts, as otherwise Mike Portnoy is seen as the band's spokesperson and leader. LaBrie's role in Dream Theater was laid down by Portnoy from the beginning, as he felt that the singer should not be involved in the writing process and wanted to avoid the same situation he had with Charlie Dominici whom the band felt was too assertive with trying to control the creative direction of the band. LaBrie happily took a back seat in writing music, only occasionally writing lyrics for the band until 2003, when upon request he became more active in the writing process, being present for writing sessions for the first time on Train of Thought and each album since.
Although Dream Theater initially had a revolving door vocalist position, LaBrie is now considered by his bandmates to be irreplaceable, though they did consider replacing him in 2003. After a confrontation with Portnoy and Petrucci regarding his voice, weight and live presence, LaBrie "woke up" and has since improved.
Relationship with musicians and fans
LaBrie has a generally good relationship with the other members of Dream Theater, though it has become strained at times, particularly with Portnoy, whose obsessiveness occasionally clashed with LaBrie's notorious temper. At times tensions between LaBrie and Portnoy reached the point where they almost exchanged blows, however this appears to be in the past and the two share a good relationship. LaBrie also infamously clashed with producer David Prater during the recording of A Change of Seasons, with Prater demanding LaBrie to sing the 25 minute title track fully for each take, rather than focusing on a verse at a time.
LaBrie has also formed friendships with other musicians, most notably Sebastian Bach, who is seen to be notoriously hard to work with by some, but is a close friend of both LaBrie and Portnoy. LaBrie had a reputation in his past for being a "party animal" and would drink to excess and be quick to a fight, but he has mellowed out considerably with age.
LaBrie's relationship with fans is good, with most seeing him as being approachable and friendly, willing to converse with them at length and sign autographs. There have been some incidents in which LaBrie has become angry at fans for heckling at shows, and in one infamous incident chased after a fan who kept heckling him during Surrounded, leaving Portnoy to sing the rest of the song.
LaBrie currently resides in Ontario with his wife, Karen LaBrie and his children, Chloe and Chance. Not much is known about his private life and habits. He is said to be a fan of music, hockey and Anne Rice. LaBrie is also said to be a practicing Christian, though his lyrics can occasionally show a more spiritualist slant.
Food Poisoning incident and vocal problems
Sometime in 1994 shortly after the recording of Awake, while vacationing in Cuba, Labrie caught food poisoning from some bad shellfish, the constant vomiting causing him to rupture his vocal chords. LaBrie sought out many vocal coaches, doctors and experts who all said there was nothing that could be done other than to rest his voice as much as possible for at least a year. However, LaBrie went against these wishes to tour with Dream Theater, further damaging his voice, leading to a live career that is notably spotty.
LaBrie claimed his voice did not feel normal until 1997, though he injured his voice again in 2000, almost completely destroying it. It was at this point that he fell into depression and suffered some weight gain, and his performances suffered, with inconsistencies in both his vocal performance and frontman abilities leading Portnoy and Petrucci to consider replacing him. After a "wake up call" confrontation, LaBrie focused his energy on improvement, seeking out a new vocal coach and starting a regimen of diet and exercise, which improved both his physique and vocal abilities. by 2004, LaBrie's voice was stronger than ever and has remained so since then.
Aside from singing, LaBrie is an accomplished musical writer and lyricist, though his writing for Dream Theater is extremely limited, as he only became slightly involved with the writing in 2003. LaBrie however has a solo career in which he writes both lyrics and music, as well as controlling creative direction of his own bands, MullMuzzler and The James LaBrie Band.
When Dream Theater switches instruments to become Nightmare Cinema, LaBrie is the only member not to change, singing as he usually does. LaBrie can play drums, though he has said he hasn't done so seriously since he was 15 and compares his drumming ability to that of John Petrucci. LaBrie has also been known to assist Jordan Rudess with keyboards, doing key changes while Rudess has both hands tied up playing the Lap Steele and Continuum, though LaBrie requires written instruction on the keyboard to do this.
Throughout his career with Dream Theater, he has lent his voice to many other artists' records as well as tribute albums to some influential artists. In 1991, not long after joining Dream Theater (and before ever appearing on a Dream Theater recording), he sang background vocals on the song "Life in Still Water" on Fates Warning's "Parallels" album. He has appeared on many Trent Gardner releases (including Leonardo: The Absolute Man and Explorers Club), as well as appearing on albums by such artists as Ayreon (The Human Equation, released 2004), Shadow Gallery, Tim Donohue and Frameshift.
LaBrie is also a featured vocalist on Henning Pauly's "Babysteps" project released in 2006. LaBrie plays the role of the arrogant doctor.
With Matt Guillory and Mike Mangini, LaBrie has released three solo albums under various names (Mullmuzzler, James LaBrie's Mullmuzzler, and simply James LaBrie). His latest, [[Elements of Persuasion]', was released in March, 2005. A fourth solo album is widely rumored to be in the works.
Since 2004, LaBrie has been working with the True Symphonic Rockestra project, along with Thomas Dewald, Vladimir Grishko, Dirk Ulrich, Christopher Jesidero, Sandro Martinez, Paul Mayland, Marvin Philippi, and Igor Marin. Their album, "Concerto In True Minor - 3 Rock Tenors" was released on iTunes and for download on Amazon on March 28, 2008 by Brainworx and Marinsound.
His musical inspiration comes from many different genres, including such artists as Metallica, Ludwig van Beethoven, Nat King Cole, Queen, Sting, and Muse whose inspiration, according to LaBrie, is shown on Dream Theater's album, Octavarium.
With Dream Theater
- 1992 - Images and Words
- 1994 - Awake
- 1997 - Falling Into Infinity
- 1999 - Scenes from a Memory
- 2002 - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
- 2003 - Train of Thought
- 2005 - Octavarium
- 2007 - Systematic Chaos
- 2009 - Black Clouds & Silver Linings (To be released)
- 1993 - Another Day
- 1995 - Lie
- 1995 - The Silent Man
- 1995 - A Change of Seasons
- 1998 - Hollow Years
- 2000 - Through Her Eyes
- 2008 - Forsaken EP
- 1993 - Live at the Marquee
- 1998 - Once in a LIVEtime
- 2001 - Live Scenes from New York
- 2004 - Live at Budokan)
- 2006 - Score (Live)
- 2008 - Chaos in Motion (Live)
Fan Club CDs
- 1996 - International Fan Club Christmas CD
- 1997 - The Making of Falling Into Infinity
- 1998 - Once in a LIVEtime Outtakes
- 1999 - Cleaning Out the Closet
- 2000 - Scenes from a World Tour
- 2001 - Four Degrees of Radio Edits
- 2002 - Taste the Memories
- 2002 - The ATCO Demos
- 2003 - Graspop Festival 2002
- 2004 - A Sort of Homecoming
- 2007 - Images and Words 15th Anniversary Performance
- 2003 - Los Angeles, California 5/18/98
- 2004 - Tokyo, Japan 10/28/95
- 2005 - When Dream and Day Reunite
- 2006 - Old Bridge, New Jersey 12/14/96
- 2007 - New York City 3/4/93
- 2004 - Master of Puppets
- 2005 - The Number of the Beast
- 2006 - Dark Side of the Moon
- 2007 - Made in Japan
- 1999 - Keep it to Yourself as MullMuzzler
- 2001 - Mullmuzzler 2 as James LaBrie's MullMuzzler
- 2005 - Elements of Persuasion as James Labrie
- 1987 - Winter Rose with Winter Rose
- 1991 - Parallels with Fates Warning
- 1996 - Working Man Rush tribute
- 1997 - Dragon Attack Queen tribute
- 1998 - Tyranny with Shadow Gallery
- 1998 - Age of Impact with Explorer's Club
- 1998 - Encores, Legends & Paradox Emerson Lake & Palmer tribute
- 2001 - Leonardo: The Absolute Man with Trent Gardner
- 2002 - Raising the Mammoth with Explorer's Club
- 2003 - Unweaving the Rainbow with Frameshift
- 2004 - Madman & Sinners with Tim Donahue
- 2004 - The Human Equation with Ayreon
- 2006 - Babysteps with Henning Pauly
- 2007 - The Radio Waves Goodbye with John Macaluso & Union Radio
- 2008 - Concerto in True Minor with True Symphonic Rockestra