Take 5: James Walsh

From the classic days of Starsailor to his new solo album ‘Tiger On The Bridge’, James Walsh’s heartfelt lyrics and sumptuous melodies have been mainstays of playlists whatever season of life we find ourselves in. He’s worked with Mel C, Simple Minds and Suzanne Vega and has sold millions of records. We were honoured to speak with the one of th e nation’s favourite artists.

James, welcome, hope you are well. So, the deal is five questions, five minutes. Here goes ..

You hail from the North West, which has such a rich musical tradition. How has this impacted on you?

I do love music from all over the world, American artists such Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, Crosby, Stills and Nash, but there’s definitely an extra pride in the artists that are also from the North West. Like Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Charlatans. Their music has influenced me, what I do. You can say the same of people wherever you’re from, as a writer its part of who you are. It comes out in the songs.

How did you feel the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?

It was really exciting. I remember we’d sent a demo of ‘Fever’ to Steve Lamacq. We crowded round the radio, not because we were poor, or because it was the 1950s, but we all just wanted to be in the same place. So, we were in the bass player’s mum and dad’s basement, listening. That and the NME review we got was what catapulted us. We started getting offers and the rest is history.

What were you trying to capture with your new single ‘Heavy Heart’

It’s very much about my situation now. I’m going through a separation. I’ve got two children. That all comes out in the song and in the lyrics. It came quickly, it was very direct. Sometimes you write a song and you think, I love these lyrics, but not quite sure where they’ve come from. This was almost like a conversation with someone, describing what I’m experiencing now.

Five things your fans can expect from your latest set of songs ‘Tiger On The Bay’ might include

  • It’s a deeply personal album
  • Strong emotions
  • Good musicianship – I’ve got some great players on this album
  • It’s a warm sounding album, very influenced by Jackson Browne
  • Energy. Even though it’s quite a contemplative album, we recorded it live, so it’s got that energy to it

You have worked with amazing songwriters such as Ricky Ross, Sacha Skarbek and Suzanne Vega. What did you learn about the craft of writing songs from these sort of collaborations?

Working with Sacha in particular was really useful. He’s a great writer. I think what I took from him was first and foremost to finish a song! Not get too bogged down in ‘is it the perfect middle 8, is it the perfect verse?’ Just crack on and try and get something finished.  Then review afterwards, instead of over analysing every little bit. Obviously you want to make sure it’s good, but once you happy with it, go to the next stage.  The least you’ll end up with is a song that you’re proud of and most you’ll end up with is something special, something amazing – which is better than something unfinished!  I think directness of lyric also, once you’ve got that hook, that message then you can work backwards from there.

Quick Fire Questions

Hope or Love – That’s a tough one, but hope

Washing up or Ironing – Washing up

Lyrics or Melody – Melody

Pepperoni or Hawaiian – Pepperoni  

Morrissey or Van Morrison – Easy, Van Morrison