Kristian was brought up in Australia, and trained to be an architect at Melbourne University. He played with local bands in his spare time and his big break came when he was offered a contract to appear on The Go!! Show. In 1967, he had a local hit with "I'll Give You Love", a song written and produced by Crispian St. Peters. In 1969 he became a member of the original line up of the New Seekers, along with Chris Barrington, Eve Graham, Sally Graham and Laurie Heath. He wrote or co-wrote some of the New Seekers' songs.
Kristian married his partner, Carol, in a London ceremony in June 1975. They have two sons, James (born 1981) and Oliver (born 1982). His wife runs an acting and drama school in the London area. On February 28, 2011 he released an album of demo recordings called Echoes.
James Kristian has acted in several television programmes, including the BBC Television series, Doctors. He also played the part of Allen Rissbrook in As If.