With a critically acclaimed sophomore album, sold out tours and a constantly increasing following you can pretty much say that 2014 has been a good year so far for JAMES VINCENT McMORROW. Still, the acclaimed Irish singer/songwriter seems like a pretty down-to-earth guy who really appreciates each and everyone’s attendance during his gigs.
As the charismatic lad is currently once again on the road to bring the spirit of his latest album Post Tropical to the people out there, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION took the chance before his brilliant show at Theaterfabrik in Munich to talk to the Mr. McMORROW about being on the road, recording close to the Mexican border and music innovations .
Any highlights of your tour so far?
It’s really great! I think Copenhagen was probably the highlight so far, just because I’ve never played there before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most of the time you know what you can expect from a country ones you’ve been there a couple of times. But it was fantastic, we were supposed to play in a smaller room and we ended up playing quite a big room. It was just really fun. People probably have been waiting there for a few years. To see a huge theatre of people was really nice.
Do you think there is really a difference for example from the audience in Copenhagen to the audience in Germany?
Yeah, I think so. There are differences everywhere. It was a different energy. I can’t really compare it. I have been to Germany so many times and I have a understanding what a German crowd is like. They are a lot more reserved and at the end of the set they let you what they think. The differences are interesting, because you have to change your shows a little bit. The language barrier can be interesting too. When I play in another country I don’t talk that much when I am playing.
Do you think things like a proper lightshow and soundcheck are necessary for a great live show?
Absolutely! I put a lot of time and energy in it. We have a really good team of people: I have two great engineers, two great lighting techs and it’s really important to me. It’s a shame that tonight is the only venue on this whole tour that is too small to take the big screen that is usually part of the show. It’s very low. It did fit in when we played here the last time, but in a different new venue. It’s always a shame when you can’t do the full effects.
It’s quite small venue here, indeed. You used to describe ‘Post Tropical’ as beautiful. What do you think defines the beauty of it?
I don’t know it is a subjective thing. I thought it was beautiful when I was making it. There are different things that are beautiful for different people. I don’t know what makes things beautiful
A deluxe version of the album is going to be released in November and there are a couple of remixes on it. THE 1975 did one of them. How do you know each other?
We’ve known each other a good while. They used to be in another band called THE BIG SLEEP and a friend of mine at the label in America came over to visit me and was talking about this band, saying that they were big fans of mine. He played me some stuff and I really liked it. When they played in Ireland in a theatre there was nobody there… There were 10 people in a big venue.
Yeah, but I thought they were a great band and really great musicians; good ears for music, just good people. We obviously just stayed in touch and whenever we are in the same country we just hang out and chat. It’s amazing to see how well they are doing.
They are indeed a great live band!
Yes, people might think they are quite glossy and good looking guys and all this kind of shit but they are so much more, George is one of the best musical minds that I’ve met. He did the remix and it was amazing I loved it. It’s wicked that they did it and it is great that it was the first thing he done like that.
Does it feel weird to you to here others perform your songs?
No! I think it is great I love it. A lot of people had done covers of that song in particular (Cavalier) and I think it is great to hear it. One guy called Daniel, a Canadian Artist, did a version on the piano it was really stripped back and there was this Australian band as well they did a beautiful version.
Do you like performing songs of others?
I only did it once. That’s it. But that was when I only had one album and quite enough of my own songs. Now I have plenty of songs. I have a one hour and 15 minutes set and there is no room for covers anymore so I do it very rarely. You have to make sure if you do something like that that it is the right song
‘Post Tropical’ was recorded close to the border of Mexico. Was it just you out there?
It was just me at most part yes! Plus my engineer; he’s from Ireland and a few American engineers working on it. But I think 95% was really me cause that is just how I work.
No free time?
No, maybe I took one day off. That was at a point then we know that we were on track, towards the end. It’s hard to know if you will get everything that in a time period.
Do you think music innovations are important?
They are everything! You know there is so many people in the world who can sing and they can write songs, but there is just so much crap because of that. There is so much just like playing the guitar or the piano and 99% of it is shit. And 1% of it is things like JEFF BUCKLEY. Nobody wants to innovate. This is my song but where could I push it, where could I take it. All the great people in world, all my favourite musicians I here it is all pushed music. That’s what I have always done, even if I have been limited by money and all the things. With Post Tropical I had more money, more abilities and more time to push myself, and it will be the same with my 3rd record. I know I can sing I know I can write songs but just singing bores me there is no point to it and I think the greatest bands in the world, bands like RADIOHEAD, they take it to the next level all the time. They don’t repeat themselves. I think anybody great would not repeat themselves.
What is your favourite music innovation then?
My favourite record of all time is So by PETER GABRIEL. I think that was a really innovative record. He was constantly pushing it. You might not like the result sometimes but yea. I also love Nebraska by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. There’s innovation everywhere. For me personally it’s the laptop. Everyone who works with me knows that I always have laptops with me – that’s where I live. I never play guitar, just on stage or when I record it, and I love it. But when I write songs I write it with a laptop. So the greatest innovation is the ability to have a studio on my laptop. There is an endless world of innovation there.
Don’t you like acoustic gigs then?
I like them sometimes I mean at the show tonight I’ll do one song by myself without a microphone and without my guitar plugged in because I like to feel the room. I like it so don’t get me wrong I play all kinds of things on stage, but the one thing I consistently do is singing. I am a singer and songwriter. So in that point of view it feels right just to pick the guitar and play a song. I do whatever I feel like.
The artwork of both of your records was designed by your girlfriend. Is it hard to work with someone that close?
It’s great. She’s floating around here somewhere and it’s brilliant. It makes my life a lot easier. I don’t have try and explain everything to a stranger what I want?
So you explain what you want?
I don’t even have to explain. The cover for the first record was a photograph that we have taken. We had another idea in mind for ages and kept trying to shoot it and it never worked and a friend asked if we have anything else and we sent him this photo and it just fit perfectly. It was there the whole time. And for the second record I just told her what I want in it. She knows how to deal with me and that is brilliant. She does everything in terms of visuals.
Sounds great! I am not sure if it just a rumour but I kind of heard that you couldn’t sing as a kid?
A bit of both I guess. I didn’t want to sing. Obviously I could sing it’s not like something that happened to me but my voice was pretty untrained. I was sitting in my room for three years, just by myself and sang. Everybody needs training. Either they get training before they get successful or after. Otherwise you destroy your voice, especially when you sing like I sing. I think I didn’t sing as a kid because I was shy you know and I didn’t like showboaters, being in the centre. I come here to sing songs and to connect with people. I want to sing because singing is amazing. I didn’t want to famous and when I was in school anyone who was a musician acted like musicians, smoked weed. That is boring to me. Pick up those things when you are successful that’s fine because you’ve clearly worked. But if people act like this with 16 just bores me, like they were Kurt Cobain. So I stayed at home and I sang. I played drums in bands before but I never sang.
Our magazine is called NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. What do the things mean to you?
I never really thought about it. I am a pretty passionate person. I only have two or three things that I am passionate about: When I wake up in the morning I think of music, when I go sleep I dream of music, and I make music all the time. So what passion is to me is music. And hope… I don’t really know. I am not a pessimistic person; I am not a negative person at all. The fact that we are sitting here and talking is not a fact that surprises me. I always thought things like that would happen if I work really hard and in that perspective I am a really hopeful person. I always worked hard and hoped for things, but you can never predict it. I guess hope is kind of everything in respect.