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James Walsh - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 3 / 4 / 2014

James Walsh - Interview


Anthony Strutt speaks to Starsailor front man James Walsh about his solo debut album, 'Turning Point'

James Walsh is just about to release his debut solo album, which is appropriately called ‘Turning Point’. Walsh was the front man with post-Britpop band Starsailor, whom named after a difficult 1970 Tim Buckley LP, recorded bestselling three albums, ‘Love is Here’(2001), ‘Silence is Easy’ (2003) and ‘On the Outside’ (2005), for EMI. Their fourth and final album to date ‘All the Plans’, came out on Virgin in 2009. Starsailor’s records were always striking, combining acoustic guitars with keyboards, and Walsh’s outstanding vocals. Anthemic singles such as their debut ‘Good Souls’ and ‘Lullaby’ gripped the nation, and ‘Turning Point’ carries many of the same trademarks. Starsailor reform for a few shows in the summer, but in the meantime Walsh’s solo debut solo album is very much worth listening to. Your time won’t be wasted. Pennyblackmusic spoke to James Walsh about both years with Starsailor and ‘Turning Point’. PB: Starsailor seemed to come out of nowhere to a major label, and to a hit first single ‘Good Souls’ and a hit first album ‘Love is Here’. How long had the band been together up until that point, and had you been in any other bands before? Were you surprised that it was so instant? JW: I had been working with Ben Byrne on drums and James Stelfox on bass for four years before that. Barry Westhead, who plays keyboards, came late and really enhanced the sound. We already had some good songs, but having the keyboard and acoustic guitar at the forefront defined the sound. I was surprised how quickly it happened. There was no real building process. One minute hardly anybody in the industry was interested. The next minute everybody was! There was always a self-belief there. We wanted to have an impact. It wasn't the old cliche “if anybody else likes it is a bonus.” PB: I fell in love with the band through ‘Good Souls’. How did that come about? JW: It started off with that riff in rehearsal and I built a melody around it. I was quite low at the time, but glad that I had good friends around me and I think that comes out in the lyrics. PB: Starsailor were named after a difficult Tim Buckley LP. Do you think looking backing over your four albums that it was the right choice of name? JW: I don't get too hung up on band names. It's not good or bad on its own. I was inspired by Tim Buckley, and Starsailor is the most fitting band name. After all 'The Beatles' is a terrible pun but they will always be the best band the world has seen, and I can't imagine them being called anything else. PB: Was the final Starsailor album ‘All the Plans’, which was your only record on Virgin, as successful as the others? JW: No. That was a bit gutting really. I'm proud of the album and it got good reviews, but it was released in a period of turmoil for the record label and also there was more attention on other bands from the public. We were that new exciting band once, so we can't be too down on the new crop though. PB: ‘Turning Point’, your debut solo album, has been a while coming. Was it hard to write and find a backing band as accomplished as your previous band? JW: It took a while but it was never a chore to write. I waited until I had a number of songs I'm proud of to choose from. I rarely labour over songs though. As soon as it feels too contrived and analytical I tend to abandon it and move onto a new idea that excites me. I trusted Harry, who produced it, to find the right musicians for the album. He's grown up around great musicians so I knew he'd pick the right people. If there hadn't been a chemistry I would have changed it, but luckily I clicked really well with the band quite quickly. PB: How long did it take to write and record the new work? JW: Writing was over an eighteen month period but not eighteen months solid! I would write between my songwriting for others, touring and spending time with my family. Recording was pretty quick because I'd had time to craft and arrange the songs. About three weeks. PB: You are now based partially in Ireland. Are your family based there? JW: Yes, my wife Lisa and children Niamh and Cillian are there, so I regard it as home even though I spend a lot of time in London working. I live in a small town called Ballymena in Northern Ireland. PB: You are about to set out on a forthcoming solo tour. Will that be a solo tour or with a band that you used on the album? JW: Most of the dates will be just me solo, but I will have the band for one or two dates. They are intimate venues, so I'm confident I can put on a good show on my own. The arena tour supporting One Republic was good practice. PB: Do you write in a different way now than you used to? Has the process changed? JW: It's not changed that much. I finish songs quicker these days. I have a lot of short ideas on my phone, but once I get into them I like to get them finished. Half-finished songs give me stress and sleepless nights so I try to get them finished nowadays. PB: Starsailor are playing with James and Morrissey in Manchester in July. Is that a one off thing? JW: There are a few one off shows this summer including that, the Isle of Wight and V Festival. PB: Is there much unreleased material in the bag, for ten and twentieth year anniversary remasters should you decide to do them? JW: There is quite a bit. I don't know if we'll do anything. Whilst I'm looking forward to doing a few shows with the lads, I don't want to rely on my past too much. I am developing a solo and songwriting career that I'm focused on too. PB: You have worked with many people since 2009. Is there anyone you are pleased to have worked with in particular? JW: I'm pleased with everyone I've worked with. I'm so glad Suzanne Vega sang on 'Firing Line' for 'Turning Point'. She's an amazing artist and did a great job. Carice Van Houten is a great singer too and a huge character. Melanie C and Eliza Doolittle are fun to work with, and I've enjoyed the dance tracks I've been involved with. I'm lucky that I'm not pigeon holed, and I get to work with such a wide range of artists. PB: What are your future plans after the UK tour? JW: I'm going to take the 'Turning Point' tour into Europe and hopefully beyond. PB: Thank you.

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James Walsh - Interview

James Walsh - Interview

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