Sunday, 24 July 2016

Eight questions with James Beau Barclay

(c) Megan Barclay
1. Who is James Beau Barclay? (a short introduction)

I am a 21 year old singer songwriter and producer hailing from bristol, currently at the end of my second year studying design at Goldsmiths in London. I enjoy cartoons, dressing up and being generally weird when going out with my pals.

I have been playing guitar since I was 9 however I only really developed a passion when I started writing my own songs at the age of 14. In the past few years i have also developed a passion for lead guitar playing and love playing the blues! I have an eclectic style and enjoy playing everything from fingerpicked folk songs to heavy blues rock with my band.

2. When was the recent EP recorded, and where? If there is an interesting story behind how you and any producers & session players met and started playing together, please do share. Will you be collaborating with OLMOS again?

I have been recording ‘Same Inside’ for the past year and all of it was done in my bedroom in London with a single LDC mic and audio interface. The chord progression for ‘Loving You Always’ was written by my friend Adam Davies who is an awesome guitarists. The rest of the EP was 100% done on my own as I had a strong vision for how I wanted them to sound and also wanted to use the recording process as an opportunity to learn production as my knowledge was quite limited prior to recording it.

Same Inside’ is dedicated to my late mother, (the picture shows me and her spliced together) Mental illness took her life and these songs express the feelings and emotions I experienced from this tragic event. I sing honestly about my spectrum of emotional responses to her death and how I sometimes feel like I am the ‘Same Inside’. It is a very personal record and most people listening won’t know this detail but I feel it is important to be honest about my inspiration as it may be helpful for other people going through similar experiences!

I would love to make another tune with Olmos at some point after the success of ‘I’ll Be There’. I am currently working with a producer called David Whitfield on a hip hop track. He has had some great success producing house tunes under the name Davidian but has recently switched up his style. I am going to be singing and adding guitar on one of his beats which i'm super excited about!

3. We love the guitar licks that hearken back to a golden age when rock was pop and it unified a generation... yet some modern electronic motifs are present as well. How do you find the balance between the live­ness of each song and the influence of, say, a beat that comes together on a drum machine?

Thanks :) I really want my songs to be reproducible live, so I try to keep the drums and bass relatively real sounding which is quite possible using logic plugins. However in future I would like to record using live drums and bass with the band! I have recently been doing some recording with Ben Wiley (bass guitar) as he is a great singer and we have done some writing together.

My expertise isn’t really with electronic sounds although I am keen to learn more about that side of production.

4. How did you put together the I’m A Designer video... how does this part of your life balance with the music?

I had to make a CV as part of my course so I thought why not create a song! I wrote it at home then filmed it on my own around my uni campus.

In first year I found it hard to balance the two as I felt I didn’t have enough time to focus on my music, but my course is very open and this year I have managed to combine the two, firstly creating a national anthem for a fictional country... I have also created a musical streaming concept called ReVibe.

In my third year I plan to bring my music and design together even more as we have a single personal project for the year. I would like to work more in the area of mental health and use my music as a medium to explore this issue using design.

5. We saw you gig a double­-length set in Shadwell recently in a glittery sequined tunic, the band all in white, and you kept the crowd dancing an hour longer than they’d bargained for. Who is your audience and how do you connect with your fans? Any crazy, fun, exciting stories are very welcome...

I love getting people to dance at my shows and will shamelessly ask people to until they do, or the gig is over! When I’m onstage I try to imagine I’m just hanging out in a room with friends (which is usually the case with my gigs), I like to talk to the audience a bit and give them some context to the songs and foreshadow them to give some anticipation!

I haven’t defined my audience quite yet, I feel I need to get more plays on my songs and social media interaction to work that out! I have been using my Instagram a lot lately as I find it a great way to directly interact with fans. Its also nice to be able to release small snippets of stuff as opposed to waiting for ages to release a single etc.

6. Could you describe your approach to recording: is it a case of Logic on the laptop at home, or do you enjoy getting a new perspective from incoming producer types? Is this something you are interested in evolving in the future and what advice can you offer to other artists, things you’ve learned along the way?

My recording is very much logic on the laptop at home, as I don’t study music it is hard for me to access studios for free. I also usually do a ridiculous number of takes when recording guitar and vocals to get them absolutely perfect. I have recorded in studios before but for me to get my own personal sound I prefer doing it in my room at the dead of night completely alone aha.

At the moment I’m focusing more on getting my current EP more exposure but I will definitely be recording more in the next few months!

I would recommend to others to always send your mixes around to friends to get feedback as when I’m mixing a track I always miss things. When you’ve listened to your own song 100 times it’s hard to pick out what needs changing.

7. We absolutely love how much volume & expression you get out of your power trio band. Are you planning to experiment with a bigger band sound at all, or an electric sound, an acoustic sound, any time soon? We’re curious to know how the current sound will grow or what aspects you’re expecting to keep as they are.

At the moment I’m finding it hard enough to get the trio together so no plans for a bigger band yet! Im currently focusing on trying to get my solo performances as good as possible and have been busking a lot as it’s is a great way to improve the quality of your performances. It's kinda like a combination of playing in your bedroom and doing a full-on gig.

[Since the interview went up, JBB has entered a competition with Busk In London - check his profile and vote for him, right here!]

In the far away future I would love to have a second guitar player and a keyboard/synth electronic kinda person.. The kinda set up that bands like Unkown Mortal Orchestra and The War On Drugs have! To get that bigger sound!

8. What does your dream gig look like?

Playing on Glastonbury's main stage on a warm evening just as the sun is setting, with some thin wispy clouds so it's just the right brightness to see without having sunglasses on.

I would be wearing a sparkly outfit head to toe and someone in the crowd would have a sign saying ‘play ‘Lights On’ it makes me cry'.

It would be with Ben and Dom and all my friends and family would be on the edge of the stage. I would like to bring them all on stage for a finale dance. That would be awesome.

James plays Servant Jazz Quarters in London on 3rd November, following a smashing support set there with Delaire earlier in the year. Tickets for the show available here.

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