Wednesday, January 06, 2021

10 Questions For: James Smith


He was one of the best names in European music in 2020. And he was in our top 50 of the best songs of the year. Interviewing someone whose work we admire so much is always a joy. Especially when the artist is as cool as he is! These are our 10 questions for James Smith:

Sounds European!: We'd like to start the interview by talking about your musical background. What artists did you grow up listening to? And how would you say they have shaped you as an artist, and your work?

James Smith: Well, I was actually a crazy obsessive Elvis and Johnny Cash fan when I was younger. I know, odd. From the age of about seven I would get up and sing their songs wherever I could. I actually had a copy of Elvis' birth certificate on my wall, hahaha. It was something about that era of music that really resonated with me as a kid. It was so rootsy and cool – and the songwriting was amazing. I later got into a lot of Bob Dylan and The Beatles – and more currently Paolo Nutini. Paolo is my guy. Obsessed with his records. I think these lot have probably shaped me as an artist in the way that they approach songwriting. They all seem to write from a real songwriters point of view – everything is super simple, but super effective.

SE!: What are your early memories singing and playing instruments? We've seen you guitar-in-hand in some of your videos, but you play other instruments. Which ones, and how did you learn to play them?

JS: I first started playing guitar when I was about 10. I remember seeing Johnny Cash play on my dad's computer. I bought a guitar from the charity shop and would wear it super high like he did. It was almost impossible to play how high I had it, lol. In recent years I've taken up the piano too. I got into keys from listening to a lot of Stevie [Wonder] and Ray Charles – I got a Wurlitzer at home which is my favourite sound ever! It's the sound from "What I'd say" tune.

SE!: You compose your music and write your lyrics. How would you describe your creative process? What inspires you to compose and write? What similarities and differences can you point between the two?

JS: I always start with the song, I never usually start production until the song is finished. I find it important that a song can be played acoustically and not rely on a track to make it any good! In terms of the actual songwriting, it changes all the time for me. Sometimes I'll start with a melody and sometimes I'll take inspiration from a lyric or phrase. I often write a lot of my lyric ideas while I'm on the tube and more recently, I've been doing voice notes as soon as I wake up. I've found that I dream a lot of melodies and words so this has been super helpful! I'd describe my process as very in-the-moment. Sometimes I'll go a few weeks without writing anything and then I can't stop... it's all a bit random really.

SE!: We feel your music is a cozy haven, but we would like you know how you see it. How would you describe your own musical genre and style? And what would you like to communicate, what would you like your fans to feel when listening to your music?

JS: Thanks so much! I think the stuff I've released so far is definitely cosy vibes but I've been sitting on a whole different catalogue of songs for years! I'd say that my music is very "songwritery"- soul/chord driven. I'm a big fan of all types of music so I try to include as many little snippets of my inspiration as possible into my own music. To be honest, I'd say that I'm writing a lot about my life and how I feel, so maybe my style will change a little as a grow as an artist. My song "Tell me that you love me" was me as an 18 year old. The music I'm making right now is me as a 21 year old. Maybe by 23, I'll change a little and have different experiences – so the sound will change! The thing that will make the songs all intertwine is me and my story.

SE!: One of your first big steps was taking part of the eighth edition of Britain's Got Talent. How did you decide to participate in the show? What would you say it brought to your future career?

JS: My mum signed me up for it when I was 14! It was a big learning curve from a young age. I learned a lot about the industry and how I could squeeze my way in. It definitely gave me a lot of confidence to start doing my own thing! Very grateful to the show for showing me that!

"Seeing the success of some of the music early on makes me know that I can do even better because I've got better music on its way"

SE!: You have several big hits in your pocket ("T-shirts" and "Tell me that you love me" amassing more than 85 million streams, combined, on Spotify). And your songs are also very well appreciated by the critics. How does it feel to have your work so well received by both fans and the critics? What goes through your mind before putting out new music?

JS: It feels amazing! I never expected people to latch on to the music so quickly actually! The streams and numbers are really crazy. And the streaming platforms have really supported me along the way. I can't actually fathom that many people. But what I would say is that it drives me to want more. Seeing the success of some of the music early on makes me know that I can do even better because I've got better music on its way. I'm so excited to get into an album and release some new music.

SE!: You've taken your music all around the world, touring in Europe, America and Australia. How was the experience of singing in such settings? How do you plan your concerts, and what can your fans expect from them?

JS: Playing abroad has been the best experience ever. Fans whose first language isn't English knowing every word to my songs... beautiful! I'm so grateful to them. I love travelling and I love new experiences so I'm looking forward to COVID being over so we can get back on tour and play some new tunes.

SE!: It's hard to plan ahead in these turbulent times, but what can your fans expect from you during 2021? What are your next steps in your career?

JS: EP 3 and the start of my debut album!!!!!!! Hopefully some live shows too. Then 2022 we're coming for the Grammys baby.

SE!: If you could choose anyone, who would be some British and international artists you would like to collaborate with?

JS: I would love to do a Mark Ronson collab. Or Jacob Collier. Those guys are great producers. Michael Kiwanuka is a big fave! I'm also a big fan of Phoebe Bridgers at the moment. I think we'd write some great songs together.

SE!: We would like to finish this interview with a song of yours. What is your favorite song by James Smith, and why?

JS: My favourite song of mine is probably "Rely on me". It was one of the first songs that I really connected to emotionally and one of the first I took complete control on. It's me all over. Very proud of this song! Hope ya like it xxx

1 comment:

Kanaan Vanhoy said...

Where's the lie when ES said, 'We feel your music is a cozy haven', btw Rely on me is my fave too ����