Singer/songwriter James King is new name in music, a talented Brit who’s keen on invading these United States. He’s been in NYC recently on a small US tour, even playing the infamous Webster Hall in Manhattan. But James as a person and as a musician is a bit more low-key than all the brash East Village venue entails. In both aspects he’s sincere, level-headed, and earnest, and his folksy indie pop sound suits his low-key sensibilities just fine. YE was lucky enough to catch up with the busy Brit when he was stateside to discuss his sound, his new EP, and his creative process. And of course his dreamy soulfulness, duh.
James is originally from Yorkshire, but ended up in London to pursue his musical career. On his beginnings as a musician in Yorkshire, James says, “I was around 15 or 16 when I genuinely thought of it as a career option, back then it wasn’t as widely accepted as a career choice as it is now. What sparked it for me was when I stepped on stage, it wasn’t an attention thing, it was more of the fact that once you get on stage, you have one goal, one consistent concentration. In one way it’s silent, in another way it’s the loudest moment you’ve ever had.”
During this time, James learned guitar and piano and even dabbled in DJing and production. “Everything apart from Djing and guitar have been self-taught, and then at some point I polished individual skills with a teacher or a jam session.”
James makes no secret of his love for guitar greats B.B. King, John Mayer, and Ben Howard, and their influence in his sound can clearly be heard. But James’s tastes have actually been pretty eclectic over the years. “I was super into skater rock like Blink 182, Sum 41, Linkin park etc. I was actually into that for quite a bit, then I moved to indie stuff, MGMT, Kooks, Jamie T. After this long period of quicker tempos, I started to slow down with Bon Iver, Bombay Bicycle club, Daughter. At the moment, the melodies and genres I’m listening to tend to be more nostalgic in nature. I guess I’m just searching for something or someone to bring a style worthy of breaking the repeat button, but I think people are losing themselves in trying too hard to be different.”
And if he had to lump his own sound into a genre? “It’s always hard to describe my sound, maybe because I have no solid idea of what I want it to sound like. I much prefer to let it take shape on it’s own instead of being put into a boxed genre and then sounding the same as the last song. I would say it transcends and touches on a few genres but I think the main genres my current style best represents would be Folk and Indie Rock.”
And what precisely is James’s creative process in crafting his unique sound? “With the song writing process–like describing my sound–I feel by attaching a box or structure, it can stifle or inhibit creativity because you are working to a guide or trying to be something. What I’m try to say is that:
my best work has been created through impromptu and structureless situations. The best environment is a quiet one, that is when my mind is the loudest. Yes, sleeping is hard. And I like to have a hand in most if not all the parts of the production process.”
With the imminent release of James’s first EP, hopefully he has fewer sleepless nights ahead of him. James tells us what he thinks of the EP, out sometime in October: “Lost ~ Bewildered is an EP that does what it says on the tin–I want you to get lost in the music and really think about whats happening within each song. Lyrically, my favorite song on the EP would be ‘Poetry.’ It’s a song about lying, and how we do it so much that it becomes an art form. Sonically I prefer ‘Riddle.’ I just like the way all the instruments tie in. Everyone who has heard the EP loves ‘Neverland,’ (below) but I see ‘Riddle’ as more of a single than the songs.”
James’s humility and earnestness come through time and again during our talk, but being a sincere, thoughtful, genuine dude is not exactly stereotypical behavior from musicians. Lol. What or whom does he credit with his down-to-earth vibes? “I have two great parents with their very own great qualities, and they have done a fabulous job in putting up with my stubborn streak and nurturing my expressive side. I’ve been taught that being cocky or jumped-up [if I had to guess, I’d say ‘jumped-up’ is Brit for ‘unnecessarily full of one’s self’] or self-righteous just makes you look moronic. Unfortunately, working in music can make people believe that they are something way different than they actually are. There have been many people in my life, good and bad. The bad ones are usually the best teachers because experiencing how (their bratty behavior) puts people off is a quicker way of learning. So, I would like to say thank you to all the people who sport a nasty or moronic streak, you are my inspirations. PS: Good people, keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Well said, James. And what does this outspoken Londoner think of us Americans and The Big Apple? “I have already met some amazing people, and I’ve been invited to both LA and Nashville. I love it over here! Someone get me a Green Card!!”
I think I speak for all Americans when I say, we’d be glad to have him!! And I have no doubt there’s a long list of ladies who would totally marry him to secure said Greed Card! JK. But now that this talented songwriter has got an EP release under his belt and tasted a bit of overseas success, where does he see his career going? “I would prefer a career that’s credible over something filled with riches. I’m going to carry on being me, and if money comes with that, awesome. I would love something along the lines of Tom Jones. Something long lasting, credible and enjoyable.”
Prioritizing substance over style, longevity over flash is an absolutely admirable career goal, Mr. King. Best of luck stateside and beyond.