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Interview: James Vincent McMorrow


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Six years on from the release of his debut record, the platinum-selling Early In The Morning, James Vincent McMorrow is back with his third album, We Move.

Written in constant transition, and recorded as he travelled between Toronto, Dublin and London, this is McMorrow's most candid, stripped-back offering to date.

James Vincent McMorrow

“The travel was in itself an integral part of the album,” McMorrow explained.

“The physical act of moving from place to place, of being removed from places and things I felt comfortable with. I don’t ever intentionally seek out left of center album making processes, but looking at it now I realise that I thrive when I put myself in these less than comfortable positions.”

We Move marks a stark change in how McMorrow worked on a record, as well as a stark change in his musical sound. Going into this album I knew I had a way of working that… worked. But at the same time I think it was unsustainable, and ultimately wouldn’t have allowed me to get to the level I wanted to as a musician,” he explained.

So for his third release he worked with a host of stellar producers that he’d met whilst travelling. Big names like Nineteen85 (Drake, DVSN), Two Inch Punch (Sam Smith, Years & Years), and Frank Dukes (Kanye West, Rihanna) all contributed. The whispering vocals and whimsical folk influences that earned McMorrow a legion of devoted fans have been developed into something else. We Move is more richly textured, and comes laden with soul, electronica and R&B influences.

“Bringing in outside voices to the album created that foundation whereby I could focus on the songs and the arrangements, the key things that were motivating me, and trust that these other people would be able to bring those other elements. I still came with these vast arrangements, so it was about trusting those 3 guys with the ideas, if they chose to dismantle them, erase ideas, change things, then I had to believe in their vision as much as I believed in mine.”

It was through one of these producers, Nineteen85 that McMorrow was featured on the latest Drake record, Views - a huge step in his musical career.

“He [Nineteen85] mailed me one day to say he’d put some vocals of mine in a Drake record he was working on and that they were going to stay in. I didn’t hear the song until the rest of the world did, that’s how they roll, they’re very low key and keep to themselves, incredibly professional. So that really had nothing to do with me, I’m just a grateful passenger on their enormous ship!”

It’s not just musically that McMorrow has developed over the past two years; Move’s lyrics are some of McMorrow's most honest. 'I Lie Awake Every Night' sees him address the eating disorder he has battled since he was a child, 'Evil' questions whether you could be a bad person if you see the world in a different way to everyone else.

“That confessional, to the point, directness of people like Neil Young has been the thing I’ve dreamt of doing my whole life but been too afraid to fully possess up until now.”

“A large part of that was down to this self-imposed notion that in order to be confessional it needed to be me with a guitar or me with a piano, because how could I meld together the lyrics I wanted to write with the sonics I choose to pursue, how do you put a plain spoken and direct lyric on top of a synth and an 808?...”

“The key was just not thinking about it, again - part of why I traveled, it removed the opportunity to overthink. So lyrically I wasn’t letting myself off the hook, if I wrote something down the job wasn’t then to find metaphors and images to replace the direct lyrics, instead it was to try and find the poetry and the rhythm within the words I had, so no heavy replacement of words, just refining it down.”

Even before the release of new music, 2016 has been a huge year for McMorrow, with over 100 million streams, and his version of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ being featured in the trailer for Game of Thrones series 6 trailer (“It was cool to be even tangentially involved in that show, big fan”); but arguably one of the pinnacles of his year came in the form of his collaboration with superstar house producer Kygo. We’d been talking a long time about trying to make something together,” McMorrow told us, it was very much a collaborative thing.”

Looking to the future, 2016 will continue to be exhaustingly busy for McMorrow, as following the release of We Move he heads out on some of his biggest shows to date in October, culminating in a night at the Roundhouse in London.

“I try and really put everything I’ve got into the live show, not just sonically but visually, anyone who came to the Post Tropical tour shows will be well aware of that. I think we created something really special on stage and I’d like to go even further with this album.”

And what’s next for McMorrow, beyond the autumn tour?

“I haven’t thought about it.” he answered honestly.

“At this point in my life I’m always working on something new, but with no real intent at this moment. I always hear musicians say they’re working on 3 new albums and then none of it ever comes out, so I don’t want to be that guy. All I’d say is with ‘We Move’ I feel like I’ve created the best thing I’ve made up to this point, it’s the closest to how I’ve always wanted to be musically.”

We Move will be released on the 2nd September, and James Vincent McMorrow will tour the UK in October, playing The Roundhouse, London, on 17th October.

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