James Vincent McMorrow grew up loving the tales spun by
Hans Christian Anderson, so it's only too appropriate that the past few months have been like a fairytale for him: A young man locks himself up alone in a house by the sea, records a beautiful album and is whisked off to tour in strange new land. Obviously, this story will have a very happy ending.
When is your debut album released?
The record comes out at the end of January, I'm not sure on the exact date, but I think its the 28th! I have an EP that just came out this last week, sort of an introduction to the album.
Where are you right now on your U.S. tour, and where are you most excited to go?
Right now I'm in Ann Arbour with Bell x1 playing tonight at The Ark, then off to Toronto tomorrow. I'm quite excited to play in Canada, as it'll be my first time there, but I'm also really looking forward to New York for CMJ. It's going to be an insanely busy few days, which is exactly how it should be in New York!
Is this your first U.S. tour?
This is my first US tour alright, I put the record out myself in Ireland earlier in the year, so I've spent most of the time since then at home playing. My first trip over here was only a couple of weeks ago. So much has changed in the last few months for me– pretty crazy.
You've said that you sound like a "really bad impression" of all your favorite singers. Who are they?
They're are a lot of people I admire as singers: Donny Hathaway, Solomon Burke, Neil Young, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Jim James, Fiona Apple. Donny Hathaway was the one that made me want to start singing; his voice is incomparable.
Did you write "If I Had a Boat" for someone in particular?
I'm not really sure that I could tell you, I'm not even sure that I know myself. Inspiration for me is pretty hard to define, I tend to write lyrics over the space of weeks and months. I usually have a first line and the melody, and I take it from there. I like telling stories, whatever they may be about.
You recorded alone back in Ireland. What was the process like?
It wasnt a heavily thought out thing, to be honest. My initial thought was to move somewhere out of the way, where I'd have no option but to work, and then I'd record some demos. As the weeks went by I really started to enjoy how it all sounded, so I kept working. I decided early on to keep it to myself and no one heard a thing until it was finished. That way it would be 100 percent mine, for better or for worse. As for the house being by the sea, well it was what it was: cold and bleak in January, warm and inviting in June! The feel of the place is all over the album I think.
Was the decision to record alone a conscious one or did it just work out that way?
The decision to work alone was a conscious one. I'd spent time in studios before and not enjoyed the process. How I started in music was by recording in my bedroom, so I wanted to bring it back there, to when it was just me and a room of instruments– really simple.
How have you had to adapt to playing those songs live?
Initially it was tough, as almost all of these songs were written while I was recording, with all the parts coming together at the same time. Stripping all that back to just a guitar was challenging, but it helped me understand the songs at their most basic level, something I'd have missed had I jumped straight in with a band. It is a full record though, I've put together a group of players back home now. It's something else to hear the songs the way I first imagined them. Having both options is a gift.
How does the Irish music scene compare to that of the U.S.?
I mean, my exposure to the American music scene is pretty limited, so I'm not sure if I could speak on any differences. What I would say is that it's great to be part of both right now. Irish music is in the best state it's been in years, and in America so far the audiences have been amazing to me.
You came to play in the U.S. before your album even drops, so how has the reception been so far?
I've had a couple of songs featured in some TV shows, so there are a few people here who know who I am. I've been so fortunate getting to play with the Bell x1 gents, they're playing beautiful rooms to really attentive audiences. I couldn't have asked for a better way to introduce myself.
You met Akon recently, right?
Yes I did meet Akon, very surreal! Was at an iTunes show I played in San Francisco. I have to say I'm not very familiar with his songs, but he was really friendly and we just chit-chatted for a few minutes, all very civilized!
A lot of your music plays out like a story, so what's your favorite fable or fairytale?
I was a big Hans Christian Anderson fan as a kid– the musical based on his life and stories was watched many, many times in my house. Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid...all beautiful stories. I have a book of fables I carry around with me when I'm on my travels, The Emperor's New Clothes and The Scorpion and The Fox being my current favourites.
If someone is traveling to Ireland, what meal do they have to try and where should they visit?
If you're looking for really good Irish food, there's a place called the Winding Stair that I love. Kind of pricey so I can't afford to go there that much, but the food is always fantastic. As for where to go, there are ridiculous amounts of things to do and see in Ireland, you could fill a book with them, as I'm sure many people have. I went to Kerry during the summer in the south of the country, it is stunning. I live by the canal in Dublin as well, so if you're in town and it's a warm sunny day, sitting on the bank is pretty hard to beat.