Interview: Patrick James talks 'California Song', upcoming album, and touring

Sunday, May 17, 2015

We recently had the opportunity to ask singer-songwriter and the immensely talented Patrick James about his upcoming album, his latest single 'California Song', touring and records that have impacted him.

A: So first question: Tell us all about your debut, coming album!

P: Well it’s about half done at the moment, I’ve been recording it for the last three months and before that I was writing for about three months when I got off the road last year. So California Song is the first single from that, it’s going to be a bit of a mix of the things I’ve done previously. There’s going to be a few kind of big-band sounding songs on there and there is going to be some stripped-back acoustic and piano numbers. Bit of a mix, but producing it myself with a guy called Scott Stevens and Mark who play in my band so it is a real close to home project. We are half recording it in a studio called Albert Studio, in Sydney and the other half we are doing it at home as well so it will have that homey feel to it. Yes, looking forward to getting it out later this year and I will be releasing a few singles before then.

A: I cannot wait for it, California Song is such a beautiful track. How do you feel it differs from your earlier material?

P: Aw thank you. I guess that song is all about kind of groove and how it sits in the pocket with the drums and bass, i guess some of my other stuff was  bit more mix and match throughout the song as the rhythm goes. But this song is pretty straight forward and I was trying to keep the classic harmony vibe in the chorus. I had a lot of fun recording that track.

A: Yes it’s gorgeous! So you’re currently residing in ol’ Sydney, how are you finding it different from Port [Macquarie]?

P: Haha well a lot more skyscrapers that’s for sure. I moved to Sydney maybe about four years ago now, I basically got out of school and moved straight to Sydney and started busking, getting gigs and stuff y’know. I’ve just gradually met people to steer me in the right direction. As far as comparing it to Port, there’s so many more opportunities. 

A: Yeah it’s much better for networking and whatnot hey?

P: Yeah definitely, when I moved from Port Macquarie I knew absolutely no one and was playing at this bookshop in Sydney for $30 a night. I met my current manager who rocked up at the gig there.

A: As a fellow Port person, when was the last time you were around here that wasn’t a tour stop?

P: I was actually in Port a few weeks ago, working on the album. It’s good to go back to Port, my parents can give me a free meal and I can just use the spare garage as a recording place for a few days. But it’s also good to just escape and go for a surf.

A: Yes yes, do you have a favourite surf spot up here?

P: Umm, definitely Town Beach I would say!

A: As when you’re looking back in retrospect at your time busking, what were the best lessons you learnt in the process?

P: I think the main thing with busking is that you just get to work on your craft from the get-go. It;s like when you’re busking you have to do something to impress people walking by. You can always take those skills into a live gig, even into a recording space where you might sing a certain song with a bit more passion because you’re used to doing that on the street. But also it’s just an amazing way to get your music heard and to build a fanbase from ground level. It is really satisfying when there’s people that rock up at a show that first saw you busking, but yes those are the things I’ve learnt from busking.

A: Do you still get the same joy from it?

P: Yeah actually it’s still really satisfying when you get a good day busking and can make something out of a dead space and create an atmosphere. I mean, sometimes it doesn’t and you only go home with $30 in your pocket, but other than that it’s awesome. 

A: Thats awesome. So I still remember the first time I heard “Bugs”, my skin was covered in goosebumps and it’s been one of my favourites since then. What was the inspiration behind it at that time of your life?

P: Haha oh wow, thank you. Bugs is the song that I’ve had for a long time now. I wrote that song when I was in year twelve; i wrote it actually as one of my mates was in a car crash and was in a coma for a few months. That song is about how he can push through adversity like that and come through as a stronger person. So I guess that’s what Bugs is about pretty much… Even though sometimes it doesn’t seem like such a serious song, that is the underlying story behind it. 

A: Wow, that is amazing and heavy… So Patrick, how is it you feel you connect to your audience best? Is it through an intimate gig, busking or a sold out venue?

P: I think nothing really beats a sold out gig for sure. Especially when I’m playing with my band mates as well because for me and the band it’s been a really gradual build, we’ve done a lot of support tours and whatnot so each year they get bigger and bigger. 

A: Yeah you have supported some pretty cool acts, what have been your favourites so far?

P: The Boy & Bear tour I did was pretty amazing simply because it was a thirty date, never-ending thing. It was one of those things where we just got in the groove on being on the road for so long and playing some regional towns where we had never even heard of, and the numbers they get in those little towns are amazing. Playing in those little, intimate towns is really important for me, not just playing capital cities.

A: Yes, so glad to hear the appreciation for small gigs! Did Boy & Bear have any epic, pre-show rituals?

P: Haha, well there was just a lot of banter. Kind of like putting eachother down in a really light-hearted way. The highlight for me was the last show of the tour in Dubbo and we bought a tray of shots onto the stage, all wearing Boy & Bear t-shirts and just hi-jacked the stage. That was probably the most rockstar thing we’ve ever done. Other than that its pretty tame.

A: Hahaha, almost hardcore. What/who are some of your favourite Australian emerging artists right now?

P: I am really into a guy named Sam Wright. He is really good, he’s got a song called Horses which is really stripped back and sort of Ryan Adams sounding. I really gravitate towards his stuff, it’s amazing. Often the guys that I’m touring with, I'm huge fans of. That's the thing about touring you can kind of take your favourite bands on the road. There is a band named Winterbourne, who supported us on my last tour- they are really good and they are buskers as well so we share the same experiences. 

A: If you had to choose, what are the records that have had the biggest impact on you?

P: I love Augie March’s Moo, You Bloody Choir and I think One Crowded Hour was on that which is one of my favourite Australian songs. There’s also most of the Whitlams stuff I got into that gave me a lot of piano inspiration, such as Kings & Queens, one of my earlier songs, that was heavily inspired by the Whitlams. More recent stuff…. I’ve always been a massive fan of Coldplay which is a bit cliche to say that but melody wise and the songwriting is incredible. 

A: So I’ll let you go in a minute, now I’ve help you up from calling your mother for long enough. One last thing: do you have many big plans for the rest of your year?

P: I think I’m going to drop a few more tracks, release the album then do a pretty big tour probably in the latter part of the year. So we are just planning it now, then it will be announced within the next few months. Should be really, really fun! I also want to go to America for a couple of weeks, and basically do what I did here: start from the bottom and build a fanbase. 

A: Yes I can’t wait for it man, this is going to be your year! Well I shall let you go, enjoy the rest of your day.

P: Thank you so much for that, I’m just itching to get back out there after taking a break so yes. Thanks, you too. 

Written by Alex Medd