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Feature Interview: Patrick James

Patrick James

While catching his breath after a touring success and his latest EP release, we caught up with Patrick James to talk about his roots and what he thinks makes a great performer.

It’s been a pretty crazy time for you – in amongst various tours, you’ve got a new EP out this month, and a single which will send you on tour again. How are you handling this whirlwind of excitement?

Well it’s been a fairly gradual thing, the project as a whole has been going for a while. This year has been a pretty exciting one though, recording and such, the band and I have been really active. The touring has been fun, and we’re glad to be amongst that.

It is now nearly a month on from BIGSOUND, which must have been an exciting time for you – it was for us. What was the experience like for you?

It was great! We had a really fun showcase in Ric’s Bar, a really little bar on the main street of the Valley there. Do you know it?

Yeah! It’s kind of a hidden treasure.

[Laughs] yeah, it was great. We didn’t know how it was going to go, we were a bit worried how our softer sound was going to go in that environment. But it went really well, heaps of fun, and the room was full which was great. Then after, we saw really cool bands and met heaps of important people. Did some great networking. It’s one of those little festivals where you can get a short word in with a lot of people, before moving on. But we had a lot of those important people watching our gig; it was pretty cool to see those faces there.

So it really wasn’t that long ago since you were supporting Josh Pyke. I think of you both having very similar sounds. Was it a great learning experience?

It was a great environment, really comfortable. It was great to talk to him about his experiences, the paths that he’s taken, so in that was it was a great learning experience. We did some big shows – the Enmore [in New South Wales] was probably our biggest crowd to date, that was a really special night. It was a great tour.

This month we’ve got your EP out, ‘All About To Change’. In reference to the name itself, how are things changing for you musically, as well as for your success?

Well the EP has been out for a bit, and it’s done a few things for us, lots of radio play and the tour. The things we’re most excited about is the new single coming out next week. It’s a bit different for us. We recorded it with Wayne Connolly, who’s done similar acts like Boy & Bear and Josh Pyke. We’re excited to release that one. It’s a bit more “in depth”, there’s more to it.

Do you find those heavier sounds are one of the benefits of having a band on side, as opposed to your acoustic, solo roots?

I guess, as a songwriter, it’s a different process of writing. It’s a gradual step towards a fuller sound, but it has been different, particularly recording the EP with a band, as opposed to being in my bedroom with my guitar and snare drum. I try to keep that in mind, those extra elements we can add into a song.

And again, how are you finding your time on stage with a bigger band in comparison to busking on the streets of Sydney?

Well I still busk, which I find helps. I find though, with the example of The Enmore, it was quite nerve wracking and thrilling at the same time, walking up there and filling that empty space, it was a challenge. But a few songs in, like busking, you become comfortable. But I still enjoy having a crowd of 20 people on the street.

Are you finding alternative ways of connecting to your audience, then? Having your busking audience right in front of you, and then a room full of hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, is it a bit distancing or perhaps overwhelming?

Definitely, with busking it’s a very personal approach to gaining a fanbase, which is what I’ve aimed to do over the past few years. Really making that personal connection, and seeing the same faces over and over again. But then when you see those faces at a show with a band, it’s a relief to know that that busking has translated across venues.

It must be quite flattering to know people are willing to pay and travel to see you.

It’s pretty cool. I guess the pressure’s on when you get to the stage, though. I’ve gotta lift my game.

So performing by yourself, holding the fort so to speak, doesn’t have those same pressures?

I guess so. I mean, I was busking in Pitt Street Mall the other day, I was by myself and really nervous about it. There are so many people constantly flowing through that area. But then, you’ve got the same numbers at a show, plus a band providing that kind-of communal experience. Everyone’s got each other’s backs, there’s a group mentality.

Coming up, you’ve got another tour in support of the new single. What are the challenges of spending so much time on the road?

Well we wanted to make the most of our upcoming tour with Emma Louise, plus a couple of festival appearances. When you’re thinking about the business side of things and maintaining your relevance, it’s about momentum. Always going forward, knowing why you’re touring, what’s up next. People want to know that stuff quite quickly. So I like to make a habit of knowing what people are doing and keeping on top of things.

Is that momentum something that you also look forward to?

Oh yes, it’s exciting to be planning. Months ahead, 12 months ahead. More recording, more touring, all of that.

Speaking of recording, can we expect an album in the foreseeable future?

Well the single that’s coming out shortly, that will be from the upcoming album, though that won’t be released until next year.

And then there’s more touring!

Yep, I love touring, my whole aim is to release music and send it on the road. It’s pretty simple-sounding, but I like that.

What would be the ultimate goal for yourself?

Just to keep building that very loyal fanbase, and to keep cranking out albums for as long as I can. The fans are very important. I’d like to keep doing this for a very long time, and I’d love to have people to play my material to.

After playing with some pretty great artists, who would you play with next, if you had your pick?

There’s a lot of international artists, actually. James Vincent McMorrow is one of my favourites. The ultimate would be Fleetwood Mac, but they’re pretty much the biggest band in the world, so I don’t know about that one. 

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