James Bay: “I’m just following my instincts”

James Bay on surprise drops and new music.

A few weeks back, James Bay dropped a couple of surprises – one of which was a super hush hush last-minute set on Dork’s stage at The Great Escape in Brighton, and the other was unexpected new EP, ‘Oh My Messy Mind’. We caught up with him on the day of release to find out what was going on, and how album number three is coming along…

Hello James. Happy release day for ‘Oh My Messy Mind’. How are you finding it all?

Thank you! I’m finding it great. It’s a unique feeling. Spending whatever amount of time you might spend making music, making art, it’s an intense time. It’s exciting and fun, but then the main purpose at the end of it all is to release it to the world and give it to everybody else. It almost has its own therapy about it. It’s a wonderful feeling

You only released ‘Electric Light’ last year. Did that record do what you wanted it to do?

Absolutely. So much of that was about evolving as an artist and saying to myself and everyone else, ‘Chaos and The Calm’ is one part of what I am, but I want to express more. I want to express different sounds like an artist and go down different avenues creatively. I wanted to show different and more and other. I did all that. It’s still such a fresh thing, but the hunger for more new stuff is bigger than ever. Despite that album not being a year old, it felt ok and right to put this EP out.

So, why surprise release it?

It was a bit of a last minute decision, by the standards of how we plan all this stuff usually anyway. There’s this serious appetite for more and seeing as I’ve been writing and writing since September, why not? I had the material to release, so let’s do it. There’s still more that I have that isn’t out yet, and I’m still writing between everything else.

What inspired the EP?

The answer to that stems from the title ‘Oh My Messy Mind’. That came before any of the songs were written at the end of last year. They all fit nicely under this umbrella of the EP title. We’ve all got lots of things going on in our heads all the time, and one of my little therapies is to write. It’s to fill a few pages of a notebook with absolutely anything. There are no rules or regulations to what I’m putting in there; I just write as if I’m speaking to myself, just to empty my head. There was a sentence that started ‘Oh My Messy Mind’ and that resonated with me. I held onto it. All the songs, in one way or another, they’re born out of down moments. Those emotions rise to the surface because they want to get out. In my small world of my friends and me, I feel the things that are going on in their lives like they feel the things that are going on in my life. It’s all shared. Sometimes that’ll arrive in a song you’re writing. It might be as certain as a breakup song can be, but it might not be your own breakup, and that’s the case with ‘Bad’. They’re all a bit sad, but that stuff floats to the surface fastest, and you have to get it out.

“I’m an album artist, so I know there will be Album Number 3”
James Bay

What do you want people to take away from this EP?
The same thing applies to all the music I make. I want people to be moved. If they find some therapy in it because they can relate, I hope they can take that away as well. I want them to enjoy the fact it’s something new, and I want them to take away something real, emotionally.

After the two albums and now this EP, musically it feels like you could go anywhere next.

It’s hard to say. I’m just following my instincts. ‘Electric Light’ was about the music I was into at the time, coming away from the sounds of ‘Chaos and The Calm’. I was listening to all this stuff that didn’t sound like that record and didn’t sound like the music that inspired it. It sounded different. And I’ll keep exploring new music, and going back to old music I never got into in the past. Like all artists, you keep following your creative instincts and curiosities. Sometimes you’re curious to do things that feel a little more familiar; sometimes you’re curious about doing things that feel a little less familiar.

How many finished songs have you got squirrelled away?

Some of the songs are half finished and some, I can’t tell if it’s a finished song or not. That’s why I’m not sure of the number. But there’s still that pile I had at the end of 2018, which is now part of a 2019 pile. And in that pile, there are songs that are good to go.

Are you going to carry on doing these surprise release?

I’m an album artist, so I know there will be Album Number 3. I don’t know when, because if I were to keep on putting out smaller batches of stuff, I’d still want new stuff for an album, so I’m not sure what to hold back. It just involves lots and lots of writing all the time. When you’re bouncing around Europe supporting Ed Sheeran on a stadium tour, which is wildly going to be what this summer is, it’s hard to stay focused every day on the writing. It all requires a lot, but it is the life I’m lucky enough to get to lead. So I’m going to try and do it all and decide in that time whether it’s time for album three, or whether there’ll be a smaller batch of songs released.

It all feels exciting for you.

It all feels good. Sometimes you’ve got to tell yourself the future’s bright, and then it will be that way. You have to keep moving. You have to keep throwing ideas out to yourself, rolling them around, doing things with them, and turning them into what tomorrow is. The best way I know how to do that is to write songs and play them live.

Taken from the July issue of Dork, out now.

Words: Ali Shutler

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