Words by Josh Abraham.
Photography // James Smith – press.
East Londener, James Smith, is the artist you listen to on a rainy day when life isn’t going the way you wanted, but he’s also the artist you listen to when needing to be cheered up. He’s that versatile.
He’s also a soul equipped with knowledge of all genres, listening to the likes of Johnny Cash and Stevie Wonder from a young age enabled his writing style to be the way it is today. Selling out venues and 200 million streams later, he joins us to talk about life, the creative process and West Ham United.
Firstly, how are you?
I’m well thank you! Blessed to stay busy and active during this lockdown!
What’s the creative process been like during the pandemic?
It’s actually been okay! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve struggled with writing inspiration because I’ve not had much life experience recently and that’s usually my starting point! However, I’ve had time to reflect and rebalance, allowing me to find different ways of exploring the songwriting process. I’m also lucky enough to have a studio at home so I’ve been locked away making a lot of new stuff!
You’ve been called one of the U.K’s most promising break-out talents, does that bring pressure or do you thrive off comments like that?
It’s bloody lovely! There’s definitely a pressure, but I’d say I’m kept pretty grounded by my team and family lol! I do love a little ego boost though haha. It’s needed sometimes to keep my motivation up!
It feels like jumping onto the tube with headphones blasting out a variety of music is a form of therapy to you, is that fair to say?
100%! I’ve basically lived on the tube since I was about 10. It’s always been a huge part of my life and I feel oddly comfortable there. So, it’s definitely a place where I can be creative and authentic
The lyricism in the E.P, specifically ‘My Oh My’ is emotional, yet honest, is it scary to be that emotional in your music?
Thank you very much! Ermm. I wouldn’t say scary. It’s almost like I play a different role when I’m writing, because in real life I’m not really that ‘deep’ or emotional. I laugh everything off
Writing is my only outlet to be vulnerable really. It’s cliche but it’s my therapy and i love it!
One of the artists you’ve worked with is Sody, I’ve seen her live and she is incredible, what was it like working with her?
Yes, great! Was a pleasure to work on some of Sody’s stuff – she’s a real talent.
You became a regular in London’s pub music scene, was it a natural feeling being there or was it difficult to work the crowd?
It was really difficult! Especially with my style of music. Pub lovers tend to like the same old up-beat classics, so trying to get everyone up dancing with just a guitar was difficult at points. But, I was successful with it! There’s no excuse with artists like Ed Sheeran!
One of the stops on the District Line is Upton Park, does that mean you’re a West Ham United fan? If so, how do you feel their season has gone so far?
I am! I actually grew up on the block right next to the stadium. So you could just about see from the top of the tower block! I think we’ve had a good run this season! Best we’ve played in a long time. But, you can never be sure with West Ham. We are notorious losers lol.
Everyone in the U.K love shows like Channel 4’s ‘Sunday Brunch’, what was it like appearing on the show?
It was mad! Really was. We have it on in my mums house every Sunday and we love hearing new music there. So to see my stuff played on the show was a real honour !
Finally, we’ll be coming out of lockdown in the U.K in June, could we expect a socially distanced gig from you?
I’ve got a headline show at London Scala in September!! It’s my biggest show yet so come down! I’ll probably end up having a drink with everyone after lol. I’m way too excited for that show!