Interviews

Veröffentlicht am 7.09.2016 | von Lisa

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JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW – Interview

James Vincent McMorrow bringt dieser Tage sein drittes Studioalbum ‚We Move‚ heraus, und nach den zahlreichen Vorschusslorbeeren für die vorab veröffentlichten Singles ‚Rising Water‚ und ‚Get Low‚ kann man jetzt schon sagen, dass dieses Album ziemlich sicher einen Wendepunkt in der Karriere des Iren markiert. Entstanden zwischen Los Angeles, Toronto, London & Dublin ist das Album ein Feuerwerk von musikalischen Einflüssen und voll von cleveren Pop-Hymnen, die unter anderem mit den Unterstützung von Drake’s Haus-und-Hof-Produzenten Nineteen85 entstanden sind. Wir haben mit McMorrow über die Entscheidung gesprochen, wie es war sich zum ersten Mal von anderen Musikern und Produzenten unterstützn zu lassen, und welchen Stellenwert das Album in seiner persönlichen und musikalischen Entwicklung einnimmt.

James Vincent McMorrow - We Move CD-Kritik

To start off, maybe you could take us a little bit through the process of how this new record came to be? This is the first time you’ve collaborated on one of your own records with other producers and you used to say that you really preferred your own musical company – so it seems like an important step for this record that you decided to involve other people. Can you talk a little bit about how that all came to be and what changed your mindset on that?

How it came to be was that after the second record I had to make a decision to either keep doing what I was doing before and hope to get better results, or change something. Because on each record I always want to be better and get closer to the thing that I have in my head and I think I just realized that I was getting to the point where without help I was probably going to hit a wall – because I feel like when I look back at the last record, I definitely hit a wall and feel like if I had other people in the room with me or helping me, I would have been able to do things differently. I think that ultimately there were just a couple of things that fell a bit short in terms of what I head in my head versus what I could physically and mentally do.
I think if you want to write, produce and mix everything yourself, it just isn’t something you could do long term, because you will just wear yourself out. So that’s where the initial idea came from – to just talk to other people and see if I met anybody that I clicked with. I met with a lot of other producers while I was touring and it was all very light – it wasn’t necessarily about working on my album, just more like working in general, and that’s where I met Paul (Nineteen85), and then Ben, this guy from London who calls himself Two Inch Punch. We met when I was on tour and we just got on really well. It wasn’t even only that they understand what I was wanting to do, we just got on very well and we’re very similar in terms of how we think about music – and I’m a big fan of their work. So it was just something that was a bit theoretical at first, but I just went with it because as I said, I realized that if I didn’t make the changes, I wouldn’t get closer to the thing that I wanted to create.

Something that stands out about your music is the fact that you don’t seem afraid to let it evolve and change. Your three albums are all quite different musically and I sometimes feel like some musicians seem kind of afraid of change and how their fans will perceive shifts in their musical choices. Is that something that you ever think about or are these changes just something that happens intuitively for you?
I mean the change is something that is not thought on, it’s just how I choose to pursue music. I can listen to all three records and hear the obvious threads through all of them. I think even if you’re more of a passive fan, if you listen to all these three records back to back you can hear the progression. You know, people talk about changes and evolution in terms of the music, but I hear it as the same thing. When I go to the studio I think about the songs in the same way, it’s just that I am getting better at this, and as I get better I can do more, and I want to do more.
I could learn all these instruments and bring in new people, but if I still repeat all those old processes, what would be the fun in that? The music wouldn’t get any better. It wouldn’t grow, it wouldn’t become more coherent. So these shifts are just the way I think about life as you move through it – you learn things and if you don’t apply those things you’ve learned, what’s the point in learning them at all? It’s a very simple process for me. The idea that you come out as a musician with your first record and then go back to that same thing and repeat that, that seems so boring to me, it doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t understand why anyone would ever choose to do that. So the idea of doing that just seems like – why would I even bother?


Yeah I agree. And I think for me, as a listener, I want the artist that I love to evolve too and want them to do something different. I always feel like if someone says “Oh, my favorite band, I want them to do the same thing they’ve been doing for many years because I love it so!”, it doesn’t really work like that for me. But I guess some people prefer it that way…

Yeah, I agree, it doesn’t work like that for me either. And the way I work as a musician is pretty much the same way you just described – I love when I hear records that are different, because it’s still the same artist that I love, so I still love it. I could never really hear a record by someone and I loved the thing they did before and then they completely switch it up and I’m like: Oh, that’s disappointing! I’m always excited by that, I’m never not okay with that because it’s always still the same artist. The thing that I loved is still in there, it’s just different things.

Change is also an emotional sentiment that winds itself through this record – that some people are just too afraid of change and will always stay the same, but some people will embrace change and movement and grow through that – which I think is a very mature sentiment, but also something that requires courage. You mentioned in your announcement of the record that you finally found a way to embrace a more direct and honest approach to your own songwriting, letting really shine through what you want to say. How did you find the courage to finally embrace that change and let people see you?
Again, I think it was almost like imperative, like it HAD to happen. For me as a human being and a person. You know, you go on stage every night and you sing the same songs, which is great, because you love the song, but after a while, there’s certain things that you sing and you find yourself listening to them and go: I can’t remember what I was singing about or what I was thinking about when I wrote this song. And that’s kind of sad to me. There’s certain songs that I’ve written at the time and then I look back and I can’t really understand what I was thinking about. Like I was too afraid to really commit to the thing that I was thinking about. So I wrapped it up in metaphor or made it more mysterious than it needed to be. And that’s where it came from. From singing songs day in and day out and realizing – if you’re going to play a song for your entire musical life, you better be writing about something that means enough to you that you can sing it and it will mean the same thing. You know, I have a lot of lyrics and ideas written down and I’ve spent a lot of times in the past going back and changing them and editing them, making them a bit harder to define – and I wanted to not do that this time, but I wanted it to still have its poetic sentence. So it was just a process of saying: here’s the thing that I want to say, and I want to say it in a way that when people hear it, they will understand it – but it still has a sense of poetry to it, because that’s something that’s really huge too. I could write really plain-spoken lyrics all day long, but the difficulty is then to make them musical. I also wanted to make myself uncomfortable because the idea of putting myself out there as a lyricist is something that I’ve always been quite afraid of, so this album is about doing that from start to finish – making myself uncomfortable, putting myself in positions that I should be in, but wouldn’t necessarily want to be in.

That sentiment doesn’t just stop with the musical choices you’re making, it also feels like your singing takes a lot more center stage than previously. Was that a conscious choice, something you’ve been wanting do to or just a natural progression?
I think it’s a little of all those things. I think the first thing is that – again – you get better as you progress, as you should. I think that I am a lot better singer than I was on my first record, I can do a lot more, and I am also more confident as a singer. You know, if you ever listen to yourself on a recording – for example when you will be listening back to this interview – you can never believe that the person you’re hearing on the recording is really you. The projection of how one sounds versus how you hear yourself is totally different. It’s a really interesting thing, and it’s the same with musicians – when I make a recording and I listen back to it, in the first three or four years of my career, I couldn’t believe the person I was listening to was me! It makes you really uncomfortable, so you try to hide your voice, you hide it in reverb and below the guitars and in the mix, and then if you get better, you become more confident and learn to embrace the things in your voice that you’re afraid of. So that’s I guess what’s happening more than anything – that I am just a better singer than I was before and through that I am more confident to put my voice at the very front of the mix. And also lyrically, like I said, it’s much more direct and it needed to be. There’s no point in lyrically going to that place and then putting your voice like a million miles away from the front of the song. It just kind of had to happen.

Do you think that’s going to also bring a change for you when it comes to live shows? You have a big tour coming up, so do you think that you’ll have a different experience now playing live with this album than before?
I think everybody will have a different experience than before – me and the band and the audience. I think about these things quite deliberately, about how an audience will experience the show and I take a lot of time to put these things together in a way that helps people move through the show, me included! I need to feel the right things at the right time, in order for the show to progress as it goes through each night. I think with these songs it’s definitely going to be a different experience, even just singing at a couple of festivals that we agreed to over this summer just to get back into shape, it’s just been much better. Singing these new songs is better than singing some of the old songs. Just for me personally, it feels stronger and everything about it feels more potent. I still love singing the older songs and maybe it’s just a case of where you write new stuff and it’s automatically your favorite thing and you want to play it, but it just feels different, like it’s going to be a much more direct show, much more dramatic. I feel like for me, it’s already taking on a different shape.

One song that stands out for me because of its emotional amplitude is “Lost Angles” – which is at first listen a melancholic ballad, but then hearing it a couple of times, it starts feeling quite triumphant in a way. You’ve said that you discovered that sadness and dancing aren’t always mutually exclusive for you, and that is a feeling that is very much conveyed in the record and in this specific song. It seems like a very important kind of epiphany – how did you end up at a point where this discovery was something that became a central aspect for this record?
For sure! I mean that kind of nails it how I feel about it – I think in terms of musicians that I love, I used to always gravitate towards more melancholic types of musicians and voices, because I think that’s the nature of my own voice, and that’s kind of what I thought I should be doing – like I should be writing downtempo songs and really be dramatic in that sense. But really, there can be equal amounts of sadness in rhythm and in movement and in even in major chords if you do it the right the way – and that’s kind of always been what I’ve tried to do. If you listen back to my records, there’s very few songs that I write in minor keys. And I don’t really think about that kind of stuff when I am writing, but if I would, then I would think that it isn’t necessarily always the sad part of a song that makes me sad – sometimes it’s the brighter songs that achieve that.
Growing up I always wanted to be a soul musician and soul music isn’t about minor chords so much, it’s as much more about finding that minor space in a major world. That’s the where that idea came from, that dancing and heavy-heartedness aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive things. That’s something I wrote on a piece of paper when I just started writing the album. I was coming at the record from quite an intense place, thinking about life, but I didn’t want it to be a sad record, because that’s not how I feel about life. You know, it’s hard to deal with sometimes and it’s hard to figure out where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do, but that doesn’t necessarily equal minor chords and slow tempo to me. And that last song on the record, I was very conscious of putting it at the end and I have an alternate version of it, which is much bigger – but I ultimately decided to put the piano version in because it just felt like the lyrics needed to front and center completely. There are a couple of lines in there that really mean something to me when I sing them more than probably anything else I’ve ever written and I really wanted to be able to sing it in a very simple fashion.

You’ve said that ‚Get Low‘ is a song you wrote in LA when you were living there for a while – and how it wasn’t the easiest city for you to break into. How do you feel like LA influenced your songwriting for this album?
Well, living there was huge for me, it was really great. I always enjoyed being there because it’s not really the type of place where someone like me is really naturally suited for. The thing with LA is that I don’t think anybody who’s living there is really naturally suited to be there, because LA is this crazy place, like an oasis in the desert and I find that really interesting. I find it really compelling and I find the people that live there really compelling, because there’s so few places in the world where people come almost exclusively for a very specific reason, which is to be in film and television, in entertainment. Everybody is there for a specific reason and it takes on this very strange friendly but unfriendly kind of tone where everybody you meet is kind of sizing you up and seeing what you do. If I would move into a new place in LA, within five minutes the neighbors would be asking “Who are you and what do you do, why are you here?” and I find that really interesting. I mean thankfully I am in a place in my career where I have succeeded a fair bit and I am not in LA trying to hustle, I was just there trying to experience it. And a lot of people couldn’t really understand that – when I would talk to them they’d be like “What are you doing here?” and I would just go “I’m just here because it’s a place that I’ve always wanted to be!” and they’d still keep asking: “But what are you doing, and what do you need from LA?”. And I didn’t really need anything, except the city letting me live. I find that there’s such a weird tension to that city that is really interesting. That city, more than any other city – apart from maybe Toronto – was key to making this record because it was where I lived for those six months where I wrote and finished the songs before we went in the studio. ‚Get Low‘ more than anything really captures that energy of LA, and there’s a couple of lyrics in there that are very specific to my sense of feeling when I was there. I love that place, it’s so bizarre

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