The following interview was originally published on a Japanese music blog called Private Dub in March this year.
When I first listened to James Vincent McMorrow, it was when he appeared on Daytrotter Sessions last summer. Around the same time, I started to send many artists a request for an interview for Private Dub. I was totally over the moon when he agreed to do an interview. I thought, "Finally a chance to introduce a brilliant SSW from Ireland to JAPAN!"
Some months and some prodding later (8 months, to be precise), he finally replied saying "I was inspired to write tonight."
And now that 5 months has passed since it was first published, it's time to revisit the interview back in English.
Can you describe yourself to our readers, who may not know much about you?
my name is James Vincent McMorrow, i am a writer of words and a singer of songs, i play music that is loud and quiet in equal measure.
What's your inspiration in writing songs?
everything, anything, i have no clue really, i've never seen something on the television and felt compelled to write a song about it, nothing i do is that reactive or literal, i write in a really abstract fashion and everything is wrapped up in layers of imagery and metaphor, so whatever happens to be inspiring me at that moment is amongst those layers somewhere.
Which lyric are you proudest of writing?
I'm proud of everything i write, but i think i'm most proud of "down the burning ropes', it was the first and only time i've ever sat down with a pen and paper and written a full song from start to finish, lyrics, melody and chords, in about 30 minutes. After i wrote it i tried to repeat the process but it's never worked, the song is a total anomaly.
Originally raised in a punk scene, what made a shift to your current musical aesthetic?
I don't think i have shifted, i mean i never wrote punk or post hardcore music, i just listened to it, and i still do. I never wanted to make that kind of music, i listen to countless other styles of music, i grew up listening to hip hop, i was fascinated by the production, how the songs were put together, that's what led me to learning how to record my own music. When it came to writing my own songs i always knew what i wanted them to sound and feel like, that's never changed.
When did you discover your singing voice? Are you comfortable with it now?
I don't think i ever 'discovered' it necessarily, i was always singing, mostly by myself in my bedroom, i didn't sound like i do now, but i had an idea that if i kept at it, if i kept sitting in front of the piano trying to hit notes, listening to other singers and trying to hear what they were doing, then i'd be able to find my own voice through all that. So it kind of revealed itself to me little by little over time. I think i am pretty comfortable with it now, touring so relentlessly the last 2 years has really changed it, i think i have a better understanding of it now than ever before, and every day it feels as though it's changing and getting stronger, which is really exciting as a musician, thats how it should be, things should never be static.
I heard that the songs on "Early In the Morning" were recorded in an isolated house by the sea. What was the incentive to go hiatus there and make a record on your own?
There was no plan, i wanted to make an album, i don't like studios because they can be so cold and clinical, and i write and arrange while i record, which can take a lot of time, so having no money at the time, a proper studio was never going to work for me. At that point i'd have taken anywhere that was offered to me, all i wanted was somewhere quiet where i could make noise. If it had been in downtown brooklyn i'd have made the record there, i had no real desire to be in such isolation, or make a record in such close proximity to nature, that's just how it worked out. What i didn't realize going into it was how much the location would affect the tone and feel of the songs and the album, that's why i talked about it in interviews, the environment and the album itself ended up being totally linked. All the myth that gets added to the story over time kind of makes me laugh when i read it, people talking about cabins in the woods and things like that, it never was a cabin, it was just a simple and lovely house, one i will remember fondly for the rest of my days.
Can you give a little insight to a song "We Don't Eat"?
not really! Not trying to sound overly awkward or anything, I simply don't like to speak about the meaning behind songs, i think that defeats the purpose a little. A write songs for myself, but they're for others to listen to, obviously they come from a personal place, but whats more important to me is what the people listening are getting from them. If i was to define everything i've ever written, why i wrote it, what it's about, then it would to my mind lessen peoples experience with the song, what it might mean to them, or what they might hear in it..... I know i'm totally overthinking this, it's just always something i've felt strongly about it!
What do you normally do "early in the morning"?
Nothing out of the ordinary, i used to not be a morning person, the majority of my life was lived long after the sun went down, but since i've been touring and traveling that's all changed, i'm up most days just as the sun is rising, or not long afterwards. I love the mornings now, if i'm home in Dublin (which is rare), i like to go for walks along the canal near my house.
Can you recommend us a good movie to watch in Spring?
Hmmmmm, i'm trying to think of a movie that is in someway related to the spring, i guess something to do with flowers blooming or rebirth? Nah, just go watch the Big Lebowski, that movie is good for all seasons.
Which album are you most looking forward to in 2012?
the new Beach House record, i think it's going to be something incredible, every album has been a huge step forward for them, their sound is just becoming so singular and lush, and the songs are incredible.
Also the new Fiona Apple album, assuming it comes out this year, she is a big hero of mine, her albums were such a huge inspiration to me when i was just starting out.
Finally, what can we expect from James Vincent McMorrow this year?
I'm writing at the moment, i hope to record a new record this year, i'm incredibly excited by the new songs and the direction they're moving in. But i also have a lot of shows still to play, the first album is only just coming out in Australia, so i'll go over there, and then we're into festival season, which won't be as relentless as last year, but will still be fairly frantic! Being back in the studio is how i see most of the year unfolding now though, since i've been home i've been in there constantly, i forgot how much i loved just sitting in a room creating sounds out of thin air.