Interview: Alistair James


by Deanna Chapman

We had the chance to ask Alistair James some questions about his latest work and what it was like to record in New York City. Check out the interview below plus a teaser of “Saturday Shoppers” at the end!

When you came to New York City to record, was it your first time there?

It was and that added to the excitement. New York City was one of them places that I’d always wanted to visit, after seeing mafia films and hearing stories of all the great artists that have done stuff I had this romantic image of it. I must say, every part of it lived up to expectation! I stayed in the East Village, everyone was saying “wow you’re in such a cool location” it didn’t take me long to realise why they were saying that. Everything was happening around there, nightlife, places to eat, gigs, clothing stores etc. Plus it was an added bonus that Mark Plati’s (producer) studio was only four blocks from where I was staying. Another thing that really amazed me was that I never saw one police officer move anybody along, or break up fighting or even arrest someone for that matter! You just felt safe in the city which was great, there was none of this hooligan attitude, people are just happy and they actually come up to you and have a conversation. Before you know it you’ve made a new fan, it was nice to see and be apart of.

What was the experience like of recording in a city surrounded with so much music?

The experience was phenomenal, it brought out the best in my playing I think. The studio in Brooklyn where we did our basic tracking had a lot of vibe, same for Plati’s place, which is a must for a studio, you don’t want to be working somewhere where you can’t feel the music in the floor and walls. Walking in somewhere like Alice’s Restaurant which is Mark’s studio, you can feel the presence of people who have worked there like David Bowie plus many others. That may be just me and Mark would probably laugh but I feel that sort of thing and it plays a big part in my performance. Towards the end of tracking the album we had Everett Bradley who plays with Bon Jovi and The E Street Band and Cindy Mizelle who has been with The Rolling Stones and now The E Street Band come in to do backing vocals. It was amazing watching how these people work, there’s a reason they are with such big names. But coming to New York City we knew that we would be around so many people like that, its like the city is just buzzing with musicians and really well known, proficient musicians too. Not to mention that there is great gigging circuit in the city, there’s lot of cool venues and quite a few times me and my manager would finish at the studio and head to the nearest gig which was never too far away. I think that excitement of New York City and the fact its buzzing musically and with everything else can be heard on the record. You can feel the vibe of this kid coming from small town suburbia coming to the big apple and being in the thick of it.

Have you found it a challenge to get your music heard in America considering you’re from the UK?

Surprisingly its not been as hard as I thought so far. I know America is such a hard place to crack because of it’s vastness, but there are advantages to that. The main one being that there is an audience for everything so any genre of music, even if it’s not mainstream stands a good chance of radio play and gaining momentum. I suppose it helps that there are a lot of radio stations too because there are so many states. In the UK there’s only a few radio stations that dictate the trends and what’s mainstream because its not very big, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. I would love to tour the states and really go for it because judging by reactions in New York City when we were making the album and when we played it for people, it seemed people understood what I was saying and dug the songs I was writing. Who knows what the future holds but I do love America and I will always try to bring my music there no matter what.

What are you looking to gain with this new release?

It would be easy for me to sit here and say I’m hoping to gain worldwide success, but for me thats not really a good answer. Like I said i don’t know what the future holds, but where ever the release ends up is where its meant to be. I just enjoy the ride along the way and try to look forward as much as i can, keep writing songs and keep progressing as an artist. I suppose one thing is i just hope people get it and understand it. In my heart I know that people will because I’m talking about everyday issues and stories that everyone can relate to one way or another. We’ll see what’s meant to be haha.

Which was your favorite song to write and record? Why?

This is a tough one! I think my favourite one to write was probably a song called “All You Do Is Let Me Down” because I came in from where I used to work and I must have had a bad day or something was bugging me, I can’t remember specifically but I sat down and wrote the whole thing in half an hour. I had no idea where it came from or what was running through me but it was a moment I didn’t want to question I just went with it and it felt like the song wrote itself. I love it when that happens, it really is like magic! To record, now this is tough! I suppose one that sticks out in my head was a song called “Second Wave” which is a ballad. It started off as a really gentle song and really sparse in production but you could hear that it wanted to build into something sounding more epic. Every stage of recording added something cooler each time from the drums, to the guitars, the overdubs, the vocals it just got better and better and I think we hit the nail on the head by the time it was finished.

What can we expect from you once the release is out? Will you be touring in the UK and US?

I’m expecting to be playing a lot of shows, starting with the UK. I’m hoping to make it back over to the US because to tour there would be amazing. There’s a lot of exciting things going on here at the moment and I just want to run it up the flagpole and play to as many people as I can and spread the word wherever the music takes me!

Anything else you would like to add about yourself, the release, etc.?

The release will have a song from my record cut in NYC plus two songs not on the record, so it will be a real EP. To keep up to date on everything from releases to gigs I would say the best place to visit would be my Facebook and Twitter pages, otherwise I’ll see you down the road somewhere!