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INTERVIEW: James Morrison Is Not A Romantic

By  April 12, 2012

When the news broke that James Morrison was coming to our part of the world, my 18 year old self was hyperventilating. I have been such a huge fan since my late teenage years (ahem, he helped me through a break-up, that says a lot, doesn't it? Ha.). A day after his fantastic show at MTV Sessions, we managed to sit down with the man himself and chatted with him about almost everything under the sun - his music, his family and even his dreams of being a superhero.

Unfortunately enough, we weren't able to video-record the entire interview, so here is the transcript of it. Hey, better a transcript than nothing!

Click below to read the interview in its entirety:


What did you think of the show last night, and your thoughts on your Singaporean fans?

James: Yeah it was good! It was really buzz-y when I walked up on stage - I could tell that I hadn't been there before, judging by their reactions. The showcase went well. For what it was, it was an acoustic show, so there was a raw edge if you made a mistake. But yeah I definitely enjoyed it, hopefully no mistakes overall.

Does having a small intimate crowd like that makes you be on your toes?

James: Well yeah. Whether its a small or large crowd, when its an intimate setting and its an acoustic thing, you really have to kind of focus on the songs and getting yourself across. And there are no tricks, you know? I hadn't got a lot of production on it so it is what it is - the songs in their simplest versions.

From previous interviews, you stated that you don't like to be seen as the 'romantic James Morrison', so how do you want audience to see you as?

James:  I don't know. To me, the whole romantic thing kind of annoys me because I'm not as soft as that, really. I am kind of romantic about life and relationships, but I like music that is good - funky, gritty music, you know? And I feel that I am slowly getting confident enough to make music like that, but my voice kind of lands itself onto ballads so its kind of trapped in that, in a way, because that is what my voice does. But yeah, I don't mind being known as a romantic, but I just want to be known as a good singer, really.

I don't want to be labelled as a romantic singer because to me, romantic singers are people like Ronan Keating and James Blunt. Those songs which are kind of slushy. I think my lyrics are probably the slushiness and because my voice can be quite smooth, so I guess those things makes me that kind of guy. But I never wanted to be that kinda guy. I've always wanted to be like 'James Morrison, he's cool', not 'James Morrison, awwwwwwwwwww'.

What has been your best and worst touring experience ever?

James: The best tour I've ever done is actually the most recent one that I had just gone on. I did a European tour. All the shows went great and it was very varied because I went to Brussels, Spain, Italy, France etc. The worst tour is probably a little tour that I did in America. It was held at these little sheds. There was one gig, where there was a dog in the yard and we had to walk past it to get into the venue. The sound guy was actually bitten by the dog. Yeah it was a pretty weird tour, you know? Like in Utah - those pretty weird places in America. They can be sort of weird.

But I still enjoyed it, but yeah it was very weird. There was this venue where one guy was eating all our food in the dressing room. I was like,"What are you doing mate?" and he was,"Oh I'm just making a sandwich!" I was just like,"Yeah I can f*cking see that. Get out of here!" It was funny. I don't mind that sort of tours, but only when you are looking back on them. But during the time, the sound is always crap, they've got crap gear, the stage is small so everyone is just so cramped up on stage. But yeah, its relative and you just gotta get on with it.

Following the success of Songs For You, Truths For Me to The Awakening, did you feel any pressure to follow up on the success? 

James: I felt that I could really do no wrong for Songs For You, Truths For Me. There were some nice songs on the album but it didn't really get received as well as the first album. So I guess I felt that I needed to do a little better for The Awakening, but I didn't feel that it was going to be a hard thing because I knew I could take the time and I was on a new label, so everything felt fresh again.

And I was off a tour, where I did some of the biggest shows I've ever done and I had been playing live for about 18 months, so I had a better idea of how to get that feeling across in that album. Rather than having a lot of people saying,"When I hear you live, you sound better." So I wanted to get some of that onto this album.

Which song reflects the most about your step into parenthood?

James: I would say The Awakening. That is what its all about really. The Awakening is me waking up to the fact that I was having a kid and how I've been scared about it for so long. And when it came, it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me. So that is what the song is all about.

Are you a soft or a tough dad? 

James: I'm a soft dad, definitely! But I don't take any nonsense either. I was dragged up tough as a child - I couldn't be cheeky to my parents and I wasn't allowed to swear, I had to know the value of things. Its just as important to me to instill those things. Its also important because my parents weren't the most playful people so I feel like that I wanna fulfill that gap which I didn't have in my life, in my daughter.

Now that she is a little bit older, is she more aware of your music and what you do? Do you plan on giving her singing tutorials?

James: Yeah she listens to my music, but not all the time. She likes One Life but she calls the song Baby Girl. She's like,"Its called Baby Girl, daddy!" Haha. She likes Slave To The Music, I Won't Let You Go and she likes Up because Jessie J is on it. But yeah she sings a lot and she's a good little girl. I used to play my songs to her and she'll be like,"No! No!" But she is definitely musically-inclined. She has got a good ear, and she has a good pitch. And she dances a lot. I really wouldn't mind her being a singer, if she wants to in the future.

Which process do you enjoy the most - the writing, the recording or the performing?

James: Performing. Because you've done all the hard work, you know? Writing is a different head space. I enjoy writing, its a really exciting process because you can go anywhere since nothing is set in stone. But its a hard and tormenting process at the same time because if you're not doing something that you're feeling good about, you feel that you are not going to write a good song anymore. Until you write a good song that you feel good about, its hard to keep that momentum going.

But once you've done all that, playing live is the fun part. Playing live is when you get to play around with melody and do the best version of that song every night. Yeah I love singing live, that is why I started doing what I'm doing now, in the first place.

How did your duet with Jessie J happen, and how was the experience like?

James: She's great! I love Jessie J, man. She's wicked. She's really funny, very talented and sexy, she's good at what she does and she's very professional. She's kind of a contradiction really because she is a diva, yet she is down-to-earth. I really enjoyed working with Jessie. I was quite intimidated when I first worked with her because she brought a whole entourage of people with her. Like security guys, tour manager, vocal guy, who was like,"Great job, Jessie! Good job!"

And I had nobody there telling me that I was doing a good job. So yeah the first time I met Jessie, it was pretty weird for me but every time I met her after that, it was pretty cool. She is very funny. I tried my best to flirt with her but it didn't happen haha. She's funny, I like her a lot.

If you are allowed to be anyone for one day, who would it be and why?

James: I would be Spiderman, definitely. Why? For obvious reasons! You could swing and fly and cruise around. He is a superhero. I've always wanted to be a superhero when I was a little kid. It took me quite a long time to get used to the fact that it wasn't going to happen hahaha. Yeah Spiderman is legend. Oh or Batman. Go around saving people.

How difficult it is to maintain James Morrison in today's music scene, when you've got things like "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle"?

James: Yeah..  Before I made this album, I didn't have a clue if people would listen to it because its not like anything in the industry today. I mean apart from Adele, what else is out there that is kind of traditional songwriting with a band, today? Besides Kings Of Leon and Ed Sheeran - he is quite popular isn't he? I didn't know if it was going to work. Its quite hard to sit in when everything else is so different. But its so easy to be me because that is who I am - I can't really be anything else. So I carry on with what I do and hope that there are still people out there who still listen to that sort of my music, not electronic. I do like electronic music, but majority of it is crap.

 What lays in the future for you?

James: Getting my own studio together at home. In my garden, actually. Basically, I'm trying to be able to work from home and bring people to work in my studio, rather than flying all the way to London and working in other people's studios. I kind of want to be able to write at home and maybe help other artistes develop, and write songs for them, maybe? Its just taking a little backseat on the whole make-an-album-tour, make-an-album-tour kind of cycle. Its taking its toll on me now, what with me heading towards 30 and having a little kid. I kind of want to take it a little bit more easy rather than just working all the time. It takes a toll on you, both physically and mentally, that there is nothing left at the end of it.

What would tell your 18 year old self, given the position that you are in now?

James:  I would probably tell him to fast-forward to now hahaha. I'd say don't worry about stuff so much. I used to worry about what people thought of me and instead of just enjoying the ride. I didn't know it was going to take me this far, so I'd just say enjoy it, relax and don't sing so hard. I used to get so nervous, I'd sing so hard. So yeah.


MTV Sessions: James Morrison will premiere on Apr 28, 5pm (WIB) 6pm (SG/PH) 7pm (MY) at MTV Asia.

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