first introducing himself to the world in 2013 from the comfort of his shed, three years on The 18 year old YouTube star discusses life in the studio, his upcoming journey into the music industry and ambitions for the future.
From listening to your songs on SoundCloud, I understand that your music is mainly acoustic. Personally, how would you describe your sound?
Well as I still feel like I’m developing each day I can’t really pin point at specific genre but I would say it sits in between acoustic and pop!
You’re quite a young musician, when and why did you decide that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I kind of always knew I that I was going to follow music in one way or another, I just wasn’t sure what area. Around 16 I left school to start a music production course and from there I haven’t stopped working! There wasn’t really a deciding point; it was more of an ‘I don’t fancy working a 9-5 day job’ kind of thing!
So you initially started off with production then? Were you influenced by any other artists/family members/friends or has it always been second nature?
No I actually started as a classical guitar player which I started when I turned 6! Initially I was influenced by my dad because he was a guitar player. Acoustic and electric guitar was second nature because once I’d got my grade 8 in classical guitar everything else was 10 times easier! The likes of Ed Sheeran, Jon Bellion, The 1975 and the Weekend have really influenced where I come from musically.
That’s pretty impressive learning to play at such a young age and persisting with it! It’s clearly payed off as you have 100 followers on SoundCloud, over 1000 YouTube subscribers and 104k Twitter followers – how does it feel to have gained so much support?
It feels good but I won’t be happy until I can turn that 100k into full time supporters! The way I look at it is that if I was playing a show where no one knew me and I had the choice between playing at Wembley Stadium or some local pub, I’d pick Wembley every time because it’s a much bigger platform and that’s how I see my Twitter page!
Have you ever played any live gigs or are you still working on doing so?
Yeah I’ve done a few! I was in a band for 7 months last year so we played a few in London. This year I’m going to be getting back out there!
That’s pretty cool, why did you leave the band? And what could fans expect from one of your live shows?
We agreed to stop as we all wanted different things. It started because of myself and my best friend so there were no hard feelings! My live shows are still being worked on but I personally like to have an intimate feel and just have fun!
Do your band mates still support you as a solo artist? Also, as you have experience in working with instruments, being in a band and working independently, what advice would you give to budding musicians who perhaps don’t have enough confidence to put their work out into the public eye or perform on stage?
Yes! They’re always happy to give me constructive feedback whenever it’s needed. I can relate to all the people who don’t feel like they have the confidence to perform or put music out because I was exactly the same. You’ll know when the time is right and even if the first gig or first upload doesn’t go well or gets a bad response, it’s a learning curb. I truly don’t believe in something being a failure, you can learn from every experience! I’m still only at the very start of my career and still have a long way to go; I know all too well that I’m having to put real hard hours into improving my voice, but what is separating me from all the amazing musicians I know is that I won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and I don’t get myself down when people dislike what I do. I see it as motivation to make the next project better and improve myself.
It’s good to see that you haven’t let anything bring you down. Along with confidence issues, I know that many people who aspire to create or produce music find it difficult to make time for it as it seems to be quite a lengthy process. How do you balance making music with other obligations?
Music has become a part of my daily routine just like getting dressed in the morning! Everything I do now is focused towards my music in one way or another and luckily my job hours work perfectly alongside my music. It’s a long process but when it’s yourself that’s recording and producing it, you can’t not love the whole process! You learn so much about yourself as an artist and as a producer. Production can be the most frustrating aspect but like everything else, if you have the right mind-set then every hurdle becomes something to learn from for next time. Producing music isn’t something people can be naturally good at overnight, it takes time and because I know it’s what I want to do, I balance everything else around it.
It must feel so rewarding when it’s all done and you know that all your hard work has created something that you can really be proud of. As you are so committed to your career as a musician/producer, what are your immediate career goals (as in for the next 3-5 years)?
Within the next 3-5 years I would like to have my own album out, be writing and producing for other people and performing in places around the UK! For the short term though, I’m currently working on a 4 track EP which should be out before this summer!
Looking forward to hearing the album! The EP sounds exciting, what could fans expect from it or is it all top secret?
At the moment it’s still early days but I’ve got the songs and can say there’s a good variety in there! Each song is very different content wise which I think is good, the last thing I want is to bore people!
That sounds great! I’m sure it will go down really well with your supporters. Now as you’ve most probably heard, David Bowie passed away last week – although your music is very different, do you think you could become as iconic and internationally known as him?
Fame doesn’t really bother me too much, I just want people to be able to listen to my music and feel something good! I want to have the ability to help people in need, make other people’s lives better and be someone who young people can look up to and older people respect. I think David Bowie did that extremely well so in years to come I’d love to be in his position.
It’s very refreshing to hear of someone in this generation who isn’t fame hungry and just wants to make the world feel good! From your experience so far, what skills or personal attributes to you find are most important in becoming a successful musician?
I think that being true to myself has played a big part in getting to where I’m at. I also believe that hard work day in and day out plays a vital role in becoming successful. Probably one of the main personal attributes I like to follow is modelling. Instead of going in blind and taking years to find out that what I’ve been doing is wrong, I model myself on successful musicians and people that I look up to reducing the amount of time it takes to get from where I am to where my goals are. Mastering what makes a person successful and what has been unsuccessful for them is probably one of the easiest assets available, and 90% of people don’t seem to use or even think about it. But like anything, having the knowledge of knowing what makes a person successful and what doesn’t is useless without action. So I apply this approach to my everyday life.
keep a look out for James in upcoming iTunes charts.
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© Sophie Barnden, 2016