Recorded in his Peckham home, When We Were Young is James New’s solo debut, and shares its name with the lead single. Formerly of Mumm-Ra, James has also written tracks with pal Josef Page for the likes of Raye and Dua Lipa. We caught up with him to see how it was all going.
You’ve been in various bands previously – what was the decision to start making and releasing music as a solo artist?
I don’t think there was a specific moment. I’ve always made music in my spare time, often getting ideas together for writing sessions I do with other artists. But recently I went through a huge break up, and like many artists before me, the songs I started writing became very personal to me. I think that was the catalyst for wanting to put something out under my own name
How do you think it differs being on your own, making all of the decisions, in comparison to being part of a collective?
There are definitely positives and negatives to each. There is something very special about being in a band because you are all in it together. The ups and the downs are shared and you become like brothers. But like all siblings, you love them and then half the time you want to kill each other! A solo project is easier in a way because you have direct control of everything, but it’s also slightly more isolating and there’s no one to tell you when an idea’s shit! I guess it feels like I’m saying something more honest and raw this way but I miss camaraderie of being in a band!
Your new single is melancholically beautiful – can you give us an idea as to why you wrote it and why you wanted it to be the first taste of what’s to come from you.
Thank you! I wrote When We Were Young feeling particularly sentimental about my past. We do have a habit of putting a lot of pressure on ourselves the older we get. When We Were Young is a song full of nostalgia for simpler times. It just felt like a great starting point but to be honest I think any of the 4 songs on this EP could have come out first and I would of been happy! There’s still some good stuff to come!
How are the other tracks sounding? How much can you tell us about new music and the forthcoming EP?
I’m so happy with it! I spent a lot longer writing the tracks than recording them. Often in pop music you get half a day on the lyrics so it’s been nice to hunker down and really think about what I want to say. There’s a DIY spirit to it too, they were all written and recorded in my bedroom but with a real emphasis on melody and lyrics. I’ve learnt a lot being a songwriter for other artists over the last 7 years… I’ve definitely tried to balance that DIY ethos with big anthemic choruses!
If you could claim a track that was written by another artists as your own, which one would be choose?
It’s almost a cliche to say but God Only Knows by The Beach Boys. It’s perfect!
What were the last 5 tracks that you listened to?
Childish Gambino – This Is America
Florence and the Machine – Hunger
Orange Juice – Rip It Up
Beatenburg – Ithaca
The Cure – Inbetween Days
What is your favourite social media platform, and why?
Ummm Myspace. You can put a song on your profile! No probably Instagram. I think it’s the best all rounder and personally prefer the idea of sharing an image over a tweet etc
Do you think that social media is a help or a hindrance to an artists creativity nowadays?
It’s a huge help if you want to build your brand and be successful. I don’t think an artist can really succeed without social media now. Some succeed with it despite terrible music!! But whether or not it’s a help or hindrance to artists creatively depends on how they use it. Some artists are definitely more creative with it than others
You’ve written for a stellar array of artists including Raye and Dua Lipa – is it easier to write songs for and with other artists in mind?
Yeah it’s an easier process, definitely. When you’re writing with other artists it’s not my job to tell them what to think or what to say. I good writer is more of a facilitator. It’s about trying to get the best out of the idea and I think as a result it’s less personal. You don’t have to put as much of yourself into it like I have with this project
Which song that you’ve written for another artist are you most proud of?
So hard to choose one. I worked with Pixx last year and collaborated on 5 of the songs for her album. She’s incredible! The track Waterslides is my favourite.
Festival season is on the approach – what are you top tips for festival goers?
Buy equestrian boots instead of wellies. Same price, still waterproof but they look (a bit) cooler
Where can we catch you live over the coming months? What else can we expect from you for the remainder of the year?
I’m just sorting out my first live show as we speak. I don’t have a date confirmed sadly but what I will say is it definitely won’t be in your standard London location! I want it to feel unique and it’s very easy when you’ve been to the same venue 10/15 times, especially to see new acts, for it to immediately feel too familiar before the artist has even started!