Voyage Of The Soul

At 24 years old few burgeoning recording artists can boast as already being a BRIT Awards Critics’ Choice. With a distinct style that has him already making waves in the fashion world, having wowed fashion show attendees with his chiselled look and soulful performance at Burberry’s SS15 show in 2014, the last few years have seen James Bay rise from local self-taught musician from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, to international recording artist and fashion icon. 

Having supported the likes of John Newman, Beth Orton, Kodaline and Tom Odell along with a support set in Hyde Park in 2013 for The Rolling Stones, James Bay has surely already achieved every musician’s veritable dream. In advance of what is set to be his busiest summer to date and a sold out UK tour in the autumn, we spoke to James about his career, his inspirations, what keeps him going and where we would most likely find him on a rare night off.

Before you studied music at Brighton is it true that you self-taught yourself the guitar through listening to music?

I had lessons for a bit when I first started out, but I quickly lost the patience to just turn up once a week and learn the next ‘bit’ of guitar from my teacher, then wait another week. So I quickly moved on to spending all my time sitting in my room, putting on records and listening and copying what I heard from there, and suddenly my learning to play was moving a lot faster.

For the times in my life that the album is written about (which is approximately the last 3 to 4 years) it just felt like the right way to sum it all up. I didn’t want to use a track title as the album title, so when ‘Chaos and The Calm’ came to mind it just felt right.

Which musicians and groups were influential to you at this time?

A lot of blues guitarists and soul artists. Everyone from Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and BB King, to Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. I was also getting into bands like the Stones, Led Zeppelin and others from that time.

Did the achievement of winning Critics’ Choice award at The BRIT Awards this year change the way you work?

No, it just fuels me to work even harder and make sure the shows are even better every time. It hasn’t changed me, but it gives me more confidence.

Are you feeling pressured to keep making successful records?

There will always be that pressure, but just like how it’s healthy to feel a bit nervous before every show, it’s healthy to feel pressure to make the best music I can. It means I care and I’m going to put everything I can into it.


James Bay has sold out 6 worldwide tours to date


What’s the story behind the title of your album ‘Chaos and The Calm’?

For the times in my life that the album is written about (which is approximately the last 3 to 4 years) it just felt like the right way to sum it all up. I didn’t want to use a track title as the album title, so when ‘Chaos and The Calm’ came to mind it just felt right.

Where are you right now?

We’ve just pulled up in Boston, MA on the East Coast of America for the next show of the tour, after a sold out show at NYC’s Irving Plaza last night.

Where have you come from?

The Big Apple, the greatest city on earth.

What has been the most memorable place you have stayed to date and why?

On a tour bus. I’m still brand new to it. This tour I’m on is the second bus I’ve ever been on. It might not be the most glamorous but it’s certainly a memorable place to stay and way to live; bouncing along the highway in your bunk at night with all my mates, playing gigs around the world. It’s a pretty fancy kind of sleepover.

Where in the world would you most like to play?

There’s at least a few answers to that. Madison Square Garden, The Royal Albert Hall, The Budokan. I’d like to play baseball stadiums one day, like the Beatles did when they first came to America.

Who do you look up to for musical inspiration?

So many; Feist, Ray LaMontagne, Bill Withers, Blake Mills, The Rolling Stones. There are many more answers to that question.



263.3K copies of ‘Chaos and The Calm’ have sold worldwide


Most memorable festival experience as a performer?

I still dream of headlining there, but I’ve already been lucky enough to be the opening act at a sold out show at The Fillmore in San Francisco. It was my birthday that night, so just before the end of the set I told the crowd what a dream it had been to go there and what day it was. Before I knew it the whole room had burst into song singing happy birthday to me.

Do you have a style icon?

It’s either Han Solo from Star Wars or Marc Bolan from T Rex.

Tell us about your ideal night out. Where would it begin and where would it end?

It would begin in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, maybe on Allen Street at Rockwood Music Hall. Between 1am until 4am we’d be down in The Lanes in Brighton, then at around 6am we’d start walking home through Monument Valley in Utah. We’d then get to Joshua Tree in Southern California just as the sun is coming up.

Can’t leave home without item?

My guitar(s).

Which musicians should we be looking out for at the moment?

Samm Henshaw (double M). Go and listen, just incredible.

Plans for when you have finished your tour?

Five minutes on a beach and then new music of course!

James Bay is represented by Closer Artists

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