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The beautifully-voiced James Vincent McMorrow spoke to 247 Magazine before his performance at Leopallooza festival. The Irish singer songwriter, famed for songs such as This Old Dark Machine and If I Had a Boat, talks about his band, creativity and the US.

Where have you come from today James?
Camp Bestival, in Dorset. It had a great feel to it, a very family festival. Music was almost secondary, not in negative sense; it had a lot of families and lovely food.

Have you done a lot of traveling around this summer so far?
Yeah a lot, June and July have been sort of constant, then after this one I’ve got maybe five festivals in August but they’re spread apart by weeks. I did Greenland festival in the UK, then one in Germany and one in The Netherlands. We did one show in Galway, which was a bit mental, it was just rammed and everyone was singing along. So it’s nice, it’s a different thing, we’ve done a lot of big festivals and shows, but a lot of it are festivals where the majority of the audience don’t know your music but you have to put on a different kind of performance, you have to try to win them over more. Whereas we had forgotten there were already a lot of people we had already won over. So going home was nice for me it was nice to be in a room full of people who already new every word.

You’re actually signed in the US aren’t you? Did they spot you before we could get our mitts on you?
I licensed the album in the US in around September of last year, which is around the same time that I licensed the record here, but I did a little bit more work over there early on and in October I did a couple of tours and everything sort of started up here in January. Everybody I guess is hearing the record at the same time, at the same speed across the continent which is great but it’s also quite tiring because it means you need to be in four places at once to keep it all going.

If you were to do it again would you have just focused on one country and then moved around?
In hindsight it is easy to say yeah we probably should of just focused on one country but you never know. If you focus on one country and it doesn’t go then, you’ve put all your eggs in one basket. The idea was that this is a little independent release, so the idea is to head your bets; you’ve got all these opportunities so you have to take them all. As the album starts to go and sell, people hear it and pass it around, obviously then you could go oh we should of focused on the US or the UK. Its manageable, barely but it is.

I hear you tried living in London to write the album but it didn’t work out for you?
I love London, London is my favourite city, it’s always somewhere I enjoy going but it didn’t work out from professional stand point. I wasn’t really happy with the music I was making or just what I was doing generally. But I love London.

Maybe it was too distracting?
Maybe it is, maybe living in North London. But I was working every day, I just wasn’t getting anywhere, and wasn’t really equipped for making music in that point of my life. I was pretty fresh to it, had written some songs and found myself living in London, being in studios with producers and engineers and people who knew way more than I did. You’re kind of going with their opinions and ideas often to the detriment to the song or the overall feel. I was just making and playing music I had no heart for.

When you write your songs what sort of things do you do to inspire yourself?
Not necessarily a good mood, you could be in the worst mood in the world. Creativity is a very fickle thing so it comes and goes. Making the record over the space of six months meant that I could manoeuvre around the mental blocks for a little while if they crept in, which they enviably did. You can just focus on other things, even if I am having a mental block with lyrics or melody, there’s always something within the mix I can turn my hand to and focus on. Whether its drums or banjo parts or just mixing or trying to rerecord stuff. There were definitely moments when mental blocks occurred and I could work my way out of them, I’ve always managed to work my way out of them. Things like reading books, just writing words on a page, even if they mean nothing can help because things might be good but you might not realise at the time because mental blocks put you into a negative space. So write a lot of things ignore them for a month then look at them again and they might be really good. They might be utter rubbish but just keep working. Just keep grafting away. Creativity is not just a bolt of lightning for me, maybe it is for some people, I doubt it. I think a lot of people talk about writing songs in five minutes and I think that’s probably the exception rather than the rule. I think creativity is something that has to be sustained and drawn out slowly. That’s the way I’ve looked at it – patience! Without patience I don’t think anybody would ever be able to make anything in any fruitful sense.

You started as a solo performer but tonight you’ve got your band behind you, is it nice to have a team with you? Or do you prefer being on your own?
I like them both, and equally, they are both very different. I really enjoy playing by myself at the moment because it’s just quiet and crowds are always lovely, they listen and they pay attention. They pay attention for the full band too but dynamically it’s different, it’s a big thing, and there is a lot more to think about. When I’m only thinking about me singing and playing guitar I can focus. Whereas the nature of my mind means that even if I have people I 100% faith in, which I do on stage, I’m still thinking about the part they’re playing and how they fit into the overall composition. So there is definitely more thought that goes into it.

Words: Charlotte Gay
Photo: Paul Hudson via Flickr