One of the most amazing performers to come out of the UK, James Bay and his debut album 'Chaos And The Calm'
Who is James Bay?
An hour or so drive outside of London, you’ll find the hometown of 23-year-old singer-songwriter James Bay. “I’m trying to make songs that make people feel something and, if I’m lucky, even move them,” he explains.
James Bay is a damn good guitar player and an even better songwriter. A true soul singer, chasing “that goose bumps moment” by channeling artists such as Miles Davis, Bruce Springsteen and James Blake, his music is intensely personal.
James Bay - Hold Back The River
“It’s such a personal process that it’s hard to share stuff sometimes.”
Starting bands with his brothers and friends when he hit his teens, Bay was never the front man, but he knew it wouldn’t always be that way. “I always had it in my mind that I’d do something where I was at the front one day,” he says. Then, when he was 16, he decided to branch out alone, with the idea of playing his songs “to some drunk guys in a pub to see if I could get them to shut up.” His first solo gig saw him opening up for his and his brother’s own band. “I shut up a few drunks and some of them kept talking, but I enjoyed it enough to be desperate to do it again”.
At the age of 18, James Bay moved out of Hitchin to study guitar in the seaside city of Brighton. It was here his solo venture really kicked off. A talented and accomplished painter and drawer, he’d long planned to study fine art, but made a last minute decision to study music instead. “I couldn’t put down the guitar and say it was just a hobby, I couldn’t justify it,” he recalls. Almost as soon as he moved to Brighton he was busking and playing open mic evenings five nights a week in the town’s many small music venues. “If it was bad there was always the opportunity to walk down the street to the next place,” he says. Bay managed to secure himself a residency and though he didn’t make it to the end of his three-year long course, it was at the college’s showcase night that he was spotted by his management company, who’d scouted him online the previous evening. They initially reached out to the college to ask when he was playing next and after being informed it was the next night, they drove down immediately from London to catch Bay’s one song set in a show of 25 performers.
Behind The Scenes
James Bay - Hold Back The River (Behind The Scenes)
Creating ‘Chaos And The Calm’
One evening would prove particularly life-changing. While performing a solo show in a Kentish Town pub a patron was so impressed by Bay’s set that he took a video and uploaded it to YouTube where a couple of weeks later it caught the attention of a Republic Records A&R executive, who was blown away by what he saw. “That kicked everything off,” he exclaims. “The label flew me over to New York a week later, and I met everybody and ended up signing with them on the spot. It was like they were in that tiny club with me even though they were thousands of miles away.”
Almost one year after Bay began work on his debut album, the final product is on the cusp of release. Recorded in Nashville’s prestigious Blackbird Studios with Kings of Leon’s long term collaborator and Tom Waits engineer Jacquire King, whom Bay found after flipping over a Kings of Leon CD and finding his name, “He was at the top of the list,” says Bay. That same live video of Bay performing in the Kentish Town pub was emailed to the producer, who immediately responded and said he’d love to work on the record. “It knocked my head off,” says Bay. “Suddenly I’m Skyping with Jacquire King from my little flat.” Bay visited Blackbird on and off, in-between tour dates in both the UK and US. “It was ridiculous,” says Bay of the high spec studio, which is often cited as one of the best in the world.. “It still hasn’t quite sunk in. Willie Nelson would be pulling up in the drive!” It was here that he also recorded his upcoming ‘Let It Go’ EP, a stunning collection of five impassioned folk-rooted songs that includes the compelling ‘If You Ever Want To Be In Love’, a song that flits from gospel to drive-time rock, a modern soul-drenched stunner.
This year James Bay will be hitting a run of UK festivals, including his Glastonbury Festival debut, as well as slots at Scotland’s “T in the Park,” a show opening up for Stevie Wonder at London’s Clapham Common, as well as opening for Hozier on tour in the U.S. this fall. He hasn’t ditched his love of art either, and still sketches and draws when on the road. “Music came along and then we fell in love, but art was way before that,” he states. Bay recently bought his first canvas in years and is currently painting his favorite author, James Baldwin. “He’s one of the coolest looking guys,” he says of the ‘Notes of Native Son’ writer. James Bay admits that he doesn’t bother with landscapes and still life, preferring to draw people and faces. His art, like his music, is all about that very human connection.
CHAOS AND THE CALM
2. Hold Back The River
3. Let It Go
4. If You Ever Want To Be In Love
5. Best Fake Smile
6. When We Were On Fire
7. Move Together
10. Get Out While You Can
11. Need The Sun To Break
Hold Back The River EP - http://po.st/HBTRJamesBay