On Thursday July 22nd FINALLY James Vincent McMorrow will be gracing the O!IW stage. We asked James to write us a few words for the blog to introduce himself before the show, cos you know, he’s Irish and as April proved, it’s waaaay harder to get over from Ireland than you’d think. That hasn’t stopped his record getting around though, in fact from this week you can get his amazing album ‘Early In The Morning’ in the wonderful Rough Trade.
So over to our man James for a few words on how he came to be playing at the Old Queens Head for us on July 22nd…
I was asked to write something for the blog before i come over to play the Oh! Inverted World show on the 22nd of July. They told me i could write about anything i wanted. That’s a fairly terrifying prospect for someone like myself. At any one moment I’m usually thinking about 20 different and fairly odd things. Thankfully Caroline came back to me again and said it’d be nice if i made it personal, spoke about who i am and how it is that i came to be doing all this, because most of you reading this will probably know very little about me. So I’ll give that a go.
I should start by saying that when you make the kind of music i make, some might have certain ideas about the type of person that you are, and the type of music that inspires you. What i mean by this is that they probably picture someone who spends a good portion of his day out in the woods staring at the ground, listening to After the Goldrush on repeat. And while it’s certainly true that i do spend a good deal of my time by myself and often in rather quiet places, and After the Goldrush does hold a place amongst my most favourite records of all time, it’s just a very small part of who i am, and what compels me to make music.
I began writing songs about 4 years ago. Before that I’d spent 3 or so years learning to play instruments, and to sing. The drums were my first love, i took them up because there weren’t many drummers about, and the notion of being at the back of the stage quietly going about my work really appealed to me. I learnt by playing along to bands like At the drive in, System of a down and Refused, because the drums on their records were unreal. I felt this urge to keep taking on new challenges though, so other instruments followed. One day i read an article with Pharrell Williams in which he was talking about his influences. The work the Neptunes were doing at the time was amazing to me, so i wrote down the musicians he’d mentioned. One of them was a man named Donny Hathaway, who I’d never heard of before. I bought his live record, ‘These songs for you’, i got to the song ‘I love you more than you will ever know’, and within 2 bars of hearing his voice on it, i knew i wanted to sing. I’d never heard somebody sound like that, everything he said, i believed. I played that song over and over, trying (and failing miserably) to hit the high note in the bridge section. It definitely did not come easily to me, i always just had this singular idea that if i put my head down and learnt the craft then one day it would just click, so i persevered.
I didn’t even contemplate writing my own songs until i felt i had something worth writing about. I knew that the first time i put a pen to paper the words should matter. So I would record demos in my house, coming up with ideas, scrapping most of them. I spent about 2 years doing this, when it comes to songwriting and recording there is so much to learn, i don’t think that you can ever say that you have it figured out, you just have to keep working at it.
At the start of 2008 i decided it was time to make a record. I gathered up the recording equipment i owned (a computer and a slightly damaged microphone) and moved out to a house by the sea in a quiet part of Ireland. I spent 6 months there recording by myself. I had tried making something before in a proper studio with an amazing engineer and it hadn’t clicked for me. The only place where i was ever truly happy up to that point had been in the front room of my folks house recording demos. I guess i was trying to get back that spirit in a way, and where better to try and do that than hidden away somewhere with no one to disturb you. But then if i’m honest i had no well thought out plan or agenda at all. I just wanted to make something i could listen to and be proud of. I didn’t know if it would be a record or not, i wasn’t even sure if it could be. I wasn’t sure if people would hear it and laugh at how odd and low-fi it sounded, i was simply making it for myself.
Having those first people listen to it and understand it for what it is was such a relief. The fact that it wasn’t this big studio record didn’t seem to matter. That was such a revelation to me, that if you made something honestly then it didn’t matter so much if sonically it wasn’t this big grand thing. Now I’m very grateful that i’m now being given the chance to travel and play my songs for others, (like the wonderful folks at Oh Inverted World!) there was a moment before i made the album where i wasn’t sure if that was ever going to happen.
And so that brings us pretty much up to now. I hope this has been relatively interesting reading. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to writing things about my own life, it’s a very strange thing to have to do! See you soon perhaps.
Here’s a nice little video that a fan’s made of ‘Follow You Down To The Red Oak Tree’
PLUS, James has been good enough (I know, I know, he’s already been amazing agreeing to write us an essay!) to give us an mp3 of the hauntingly beautiful ‘If I Had A Boat’.
James Vincent McMorrow – If I Had A Boat
Right click to download