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Born in Australia in 1972, James was the first child of Sydney-based folk singers Bob and Margaret Fagan. They, James and his sister Kate formed The Fagans, and have toured the Australian folk scene since the early 1980s. James’s first instrument was piano. By his teens, he was singing, playing guitar, and playing the clarinet. In 1994, he joined Alistair Hulett's band The Hooligans which included Jimmy Gregory who introduced him to the guitar-shaped bouzouki which is now his main instrument. Singing remains his first and foremost musical love.
He completed his medical training in 1995 and was on holiday in England when he met Nancy Kerr. They formed the duo which has become the mainstay of their career. James is well respected in his own right on the UK music scene – his other projects include being a member of The Cara Dillon Band, Melrose Quartet (with Nancy Kerr, Richard Arrowsmith and Jess Arrowsmith) and heavy metal English Ceilidh band The Glorystrokes. He has also toured as part of Bellowhead. James also works in a duo called The James Brothers, with Jamie McClennan, the New Zealand fiddle player and partner of Scottish folk singer Emily Smith.
Fagan is best known for his work with Nancy Kerr whom he married in 2007, and with whom he won BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 'Best Duo' in both 2003 and 2011. Together they have released six albums: Starry Gazy Pie (1997), Scalene (with Sandra Kerr) (1998), Steely Water (1999), Between The Dark and Light (2002), Strands of Gold (2006), and Twice Reflected Sun (2010).
In 2008 Nancy and James were joined by concertina player Robert Harbron to form the trio "Kerr Fagan Harbron", recording and touring the album Station House.
In 2010 Nancy and James formed Melrose Quartet with Sheffield duo Richard and Jess Arrowsmith. Melrose Quartet was nominated for Best Group at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014.
- Heat, Light and Sound (1996) – with Eliza Carthy
- Starry Gazy Pie (1997) – with Nancy Kerr
- Scalene (1998) – with Sandra Kerr
- Steely Water (1999) – with Nancy Kerr
- Between The Dark and Light (2002) – with Nancy Kerr
- Turning Fine (2004) – with The Fagans
- Strands of Gold (2006) – with Nancy Kerr
- Station House (2008) – with Nancy Kerr and Robert Harbron
- Milk and Honey Land (2009) – with The Fagans
- Twice Reflected Sun (2010) – with Nancy Kerr
- Fifty Verses (2013) – with Melrose Quartet
- Sweet Visitor (2014) – with Nancy Kerr
- The James Brothers (2015) – with Jamie McClennan