In our busy, modern world, it’s sometimes a hard task to be candidly happy, and not overthink things, but it’s a rule that James Humphrys aims to live by, and not only that but writes it down in the form of a song to spread his thoughts. Following the warm reception to single Colour last month, we catch up with the savvy performer just before the second release, All The Same.
Humphrys was lucky enough for music to be instilled in him from a young age, resulting in an eager ear and wanting to be immersed. “The first instrument I learnt was the guitar, which I started at age eight. But even before that, I was always obsessed with drumming and rhythm making, so it should have been drumming really. I am very much a do-er, so music was a good way to keep me stimulated and busy.” James reminisces.
Growing up in Guildford, he moved to Bristol five years ago, where he followed his heart and started studying songwriting at BIMM Bristol. “I did have a few favourite venues in Guildford that I played in a couple of bands, such as The Boileroom and The Backroom of the Star Inn.” But a hefty part of the reason James moved was to get stuck into Bristol's famous musical landscape. James enthuses, “The amount of live music and events happening any night of the week is insane. It’s just generally a creative and forward-thinking city; I think that can also be seen and reflected in the people and the music that we make.”
Although it didn’t fit entirely with his overall ambitions, working on cruise ships instilled a real professional attitude and hunger for more. “My girlfriend Beth and I were the duo on-board, so she played a grand piano, I played acoustic guitar, and we both sang. We used to play at least four sets a day, so it was also another great opportunity to get better at our instruments.” This also offered James the desired chance to travel. “We were away for almost a year, and, at that time, we were able to visit eleven countries, so I feel very lucky to have had that experience whilst playing music.”
You can assume from his sunny style that he surely must be influenced by funk scene artists. Humphrys agrees, “Jamiroquai is a big legend for sure. Actually, I recently had to choose four tracks to play on the radio, and one of them was ‘You Give Me Something’ by Jamiroquai. Another big inspiration would be the band Parcels, especially in regards to their live set. "They’re just super tight; it’s mad really. They have recently released an hour-long live session on YouTube where they play most of their discography back to back; it's both ridiculous and a joy to watch and listen.”
Colour was first written and recorded roughly at sea, meaning he didn’t hold back on track length and arrangement because, in his own words, he was probably going ‘a bit stir crazy.’ He continues, “It originally had a random outro, which went on for far too long. When I re-recorded it at Numen Studios, we tried to cut it down as much as we could.” This particular track, he confesses, is the most poppy on the EP. “I felt it was getting a little predictable after the second chorus, so I thought if we chucked in a trumpet solo as a sort of pallet cleanser, it breaks the track up nicely and keeps the listener on their toes. I also just really appreciate a good ol’ outro.”
Released June 12th, brand new song ‘All The Same’ is the opening track on the EP and has all the hallmarks of a fruity bop. “It’s a bit of a summer anthem if I may say so myself. The track started around the claps that you can hear. I was tapping my foot and messing around with different bossa nova-esque polyrhythms. It starts off quite straight, with a four to the floor beat, but when the bass and guitars enter, it creates a sort of swing behind the beat feel, which I guess you aren’t quite expecting.” Lyrically the song is a prod in a positive direction. “ I see it as a reminder to ones-self to allow things to be okay. To trust and believe in something when it’s good and to not always look for reasons why it shouldn’t be."
The two singles contribute to forthcoming EP Memory Palace, where we can expect cohesive and balanced work, but with each track holding individuality. “Each track embodies something different, that’s how I feel when I listen anyway. Everyone I have played it to has a different favourite song, which is good news, I guess? I am very proud of it.” He concludes, “It’s hard to know what anyone can expect looking forwards at the moment, but from me, I guess you can expect more music.” With James summarising that, on the EP, we'll find a collection of songs that will get us up on our feet and distract us for 15 minutes, it sounds like a little bit of jolly escapism for all.
Article by Beverley Knight