Interview: James Vincent McMorrow

James Vincent McMorrow has been receiving great reviews for his stunning debut ‘Early In The Morning’, I was lucky enough to get an interview with him and asked him about books, venues and punk rock influences. Read on…

1. Hi James, thanks for the interview, I know you are busy touring at the moment. For those readers who don’t know your music, can you give us a quick description?

I have heard my music described as many things, indie folk, eerie indie folk pop, but my favourite was ‘cee-lo green’s younger shyer folk guitar wielding brother’, i think that sums it up quite nicely!

2. Your busy touring the UK at the moment, how has that been? Any highlights?

Highlight so far has definitely been my solo show in London last night. First proper UK headlining show, in a tiny church called St. Pancras, was just pure magic. The tour with Joan As Policewoman so far has been great, really perfect introduction to the audiences over here, although for some reason i decided to drive myself and my engineer around to all the shows, I am sorely regretting that decision now!!
3. Your debut album ‘Early in the Morning’ is stunning. I heard the album was made in quite a unique way. Can you explain that process a little?

I never really think of the process as being especially unique, i just realized that if i was going to make a record i was truly proud of then I would have to step away from the normal process, studios and engineers, and take the thing on myself. I was offered the use of a house in a lovely remote part of Ireland, it made sense to move somewhere like that, remove all the distractions that can get in the way, so  the only voice guiding it would be me. Spending 5 or 6 months in a situation like that brings all sorts of ideas to you that you might never have had otherwise, and recording the way i did, with 1 microphone and very little gadgetry, meant I had to be resourceful when it came to choosing what parts to play, and how to play them. I guess that’s why the record sounds the way it does, a lot of it has to do with necessity.
4. Why do you think that process was so important and how do you think it has influenced the finish product of the album?

I think in certain situations the location, the atmosphere, the intent behind the playing, can 100% influence what you end up with. Sometimes a band can just go into a studio, doesn’t matter what studio really, and produce something of pure magic. But with my record all the songs came together as the time unfolded, so recording them in a different way or in a different place would have produced a fundamentally different result.
5. What are some of the main influences for the record?

I was reading a lot and watching a lot of movies at night time while i was recording, a lot of American novelists, Steinbeck, McCarthy, poets like Robert Frost and Dylan Thomas, then all my old favourite movies on repeat, cool hand luke, the big lebowski, no country for old men. I didn’t listen to a lot of music while i was making the record, except when i went running, which i did a lot during the period. I distinctly remember being on the beach listening to things like The National, Andrew Bird, Neil Young, Billy Holiday, Sufjan Stevens, Band of Horses.
6. I read that you were raised on hardcore punk. How did you manage to move from that to a fairly folky sound and do you think that early influence has had any effect on your music today?

I think it’s actually not as much of a reach as people first imagine when they hear that. I was listening to bands like at the drive in, refused, glassjaw, system of a down, really dynamic bands that knew how to drive a chorus home as well as the best of them. I was also a big hip hop fan, the way people like the neptunes and timbaland were producing fascinated me. From there i just starting immersing myself in songwriting, and that led me back to all the people i’d ignored as a kid, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, I just devoured everything i could get my hands on. I think at the heart of it i’ve always responded to that hook that exists in a song, that thing that makes you come back and listen to it again and again, all of the music i’ve ever listened to has had that in common. 

7. What bands are you listening to at the moment?

Right now i’m still fairly obsessed with the Menomena record from last year, there are so many amazing songs on there. Also the James Blake record is totally compelling,  his voice is as pure as crystal, listening to it reminds me of the first time i heard brown sugar by D’angelo, so beautiful. I don’t have as much time as i used to to trawl through blogs looking for new bands, so i haven’t gotten much new stuff lately, and recommendations would be highly welcome!!
8. As well as music, I’ve read you are very influenced by literature. Are their any particular books which have been very influential on your music?

It’s very hard to single out certain books as being more influential on me than others,i guess some that spring to mind as ones i particularly love are All the pretty horses by Cormac McCarthy, the sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway, the grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck,  and every single thing that Roald Dahl ever put on paper!!
9. If you could play a gig in any location, real or imaginary, what would you choose?

Never really thought about that before, i guess the right answer would be to say something like ‘on a cliff top overlooking the grand canyon’ or ‘at the top of the empire state  building’, but then i’ve heard they have really bad PA systems in both those places, so i’m not really sure. Although you did say real or imaginary, so i guess i can just imagine a really great sound system, and perhaps while i’m imagining i’ve throw a few unicorns and space aliens in there amongst the audience for good measure.
10. 2010 was a great year for you, what can we look forward to in 2011?

My hope for this year is that i’ll get to continue playing this record to as many people in as many far flung places as is humanly possible. When i started out with this album last year my hope was just that people might hear it and respond to it, and since then it’s just continued to grow around me, i’m really excited for the year to come.
Check out this video of his next single ‘This Old Dark Machine’ and you can buy his album now from iTunes. Its highly recommended!
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