James Edward Rhodes was born into a middle class Jewish family in St John's Wood, North London. He was educated at Arnold House School, a local all-boys independent preparatory school. There, he experienced sexual abuse by his PE teacher, who died before he could appear in court. Rhodes suffered mentally as well as physically, including spinal damage, eating disorders and PTSD.
Aged 7, he borrowed the CD of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto from his father's collection. He was taught piano, but did not progress formally beyond Grade 3. First moving to a local boarding school, he was educated at Harrow School, where he worked with piano teacher Colin Stone, from the age of 13 onwards. It was during this period that he entered the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, but failed to make it past the second round.
In 1993, he was offered a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
A fan of the Russian pianist Grigory Sokolov, Rhodes wrote to Sokolov's agent Franco Panozzo in Italy, with the idea that Rhodes would become a music agent himself. Panozzo responded, and after Rhodes sent him a bottle of Champagne Krug, the pair arranged to meet in Italy. After hearing Rhodes play, Panozzo arranged for Rhodes to have a brief tutorage under the renowned piano teacher Edoardo Strabbioli in Verona, Italy. However, after a period Rhodes was institutionalised.
In March 2010, Rhodes became the first core classical pianist to be signed with the world's largest rock label Warner Bros. Records. In 2011, Rhodes became a regular culture blogger for The Telegraph, and had popular articles in The Guardian Music Blog in 2013. Returning to his original label Signum Classics, Rhodes released his 4th album JIMMY: James Rhodes recorded live at The Old Market Brighton in May 2012. In 2015 Rhodes was blocked from publishing his autobiography by a temporary court injunction prompted by his former wife. She said that publishing the book, which includes details of sexual abuse as a child, would psychologically harm their child. In May 2015, the Supreme Court decided that the book qualifies for free speech protection and lifted the interim injunction.
Rhodes' first public recital was at Steinway Hall in London, on 7 November 2008. His second recital was at the Hinde Street Methodist Centre, London, on 4 December 2008. He performed his first full scale concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, in London on 6 February 2009. In May 2009, Rhodes performed a solo concert at The Roundhouse in Camden, the first classical musician to give a solo recital since the reopening. Rhodes has also played Proud Galleries in Camden; 100 Club in Soho; Tabernacle, Notting Hill and the nominations launch for the Classical BRIT Awards 2009 WITH NS&I. In March 2010, Rhodes performed at the Holders Season 2010 in Barbados. In Summer 2010 he was the first solo classical pianist to play the Latitude Festival sharing stages with international stars such as Florence + the Machine and The National.
In September 2011 he performed alongside Stephen Fry in 'A Classical Affair' at the Barbican Centre. In October 2011 James performed an 11 date tour around Australia including three performances at the Melbourne Festival. Rhodes had his US debut in September 2012 at the International Beethoven Festival in Chicago. In 2013, James performed in Hong Kong, Vienna, the Barber Institute in Birmingham, Royal Albert Hall, Cheltenham Music Festival, the Waterfront stage at Latitude Festival and a series of concerts at Soho Theatre in London. A live in concert DVD, ‘Love In London’, was recorded at the Arts Theatre in London's West End in 2014. That year he also performed at Hay Festival, Harrogate Festival, Canterbury Festival, London Ambassadors Theatre, St George's Hall in Bristol, Watford Colosseum, Leeds Town Hall, Manchester RNCM and had two runs at Soho Theatre.
In December 2009 Rhodes completed filming a BBC Four music documentary to celebrate Frédéric Chopin’s 200th anniversary, which is a discovery of Chopin’s life and relationship with the opera singer Jenny Lind. This documentary was broadcast in October 2010. James Rhodes filmed a seven episode series called James Rhodes: Piano Man.
In July 2013, he presented Notes from the Inside, with James Rhodes on Channel 4 as part of their Mad4Music season of programmes, in which each episode featured musicians from across the musical spectrum giving an alternative take on music and what it means to them and others around them; for example the second episode featured Björk being interviewed by Sir David Attenborough. During his episode, he both gave some insights into his personal life and played piano to four individual mental hospital patients, all dealing with their own mental health issues, inside their psychiatric hospital by selecting a piece for each of them to match their personalities and individual circumstances,
Rhodes filmed a two-part campaigning series called Don't Stop the Music (working title The Great Instrument Amnesty) that was aired on Channel 4 in September 2014, with the aim of improving music education across the UK. The multiplatform project included an instrument amnesty which collected over 7,000 instruments (worth over £1.5M) to redistribute to 150 UK primary schools, benefiting 10,000 students a year.
AlbumsRazor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos (Feb 2009), Signum Records
Now Would All Freudians Please Stand Aside (Mar 2010), Signum Records
Bullets and Lullabies (Dec 2010), Warner Music Cover art by Dave Brown, Bollo from The Mighty Boosh
JIMMY: James Rhodes Live in Brighton (May 2012), Signum Records
5 (Jun 2014), Instrumental Records
Inside Tracks - the mix tape (Oct 2015), Instrumental Records