Get To Know: James Smith
This week we introduce you to Essex singer-songwriter James Smith! If you’re a fan of Lewis Capaldi, we think you’re gonna love his latest track ‘My Oh My’...
With his new EP, District Line EP, named after his many trips on the District tube line, James Smith is writing ‘classic pop music’ with heartfelt melodies and honest lyrics. Born in East London and raised in Essex, James says his music career was kick-started by his dad making him sing on his market stall when he was a kid! From then, James was gigging in pubs and clubs and eventually found his passion for songwriting.
Growing up listening to the likes of Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and The Beatles, James has always been passionate about the melodies of his tracks. With the majority of his new EP written on the District line and completed in his bedroom, he says this stripped-back studio set up really allowed him to really focus on his melodies and capture the essence of those classic songwriters. With what we have heard so far from the EP, we can definitely say he’s done that!
1) For those who don’t know about you and your music, tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from…
Hi! My name is James. I'm a singer/songwriter/producer tryna make some classic vibez. I was born in Newham, East London and grew up between Upton Park and Barking. I currently live in Upminster (end of the District line) and I’ve actually named my new EP the District Line EP. It’s a little project influenced by the inspiration I’ve found sitting on the tube my entire life. It’s a really long and boring tube line so I spend a lot of time writing on it! My mum is a taxi driver and my dad is a market trader. I’ve got a little brother who’s a lot smarter than me - he’s at uni studying maths.
2) Who/what inspired you to start a career in music?
I used to work on my dad's market stall on Green Street! My dad would always make me sing for his friends at work and it sort of started from there. I then started playing pubs and clubs when I was still super young and I eventually found a love for songwriting, which now is part of my every day thought.
3) Who are your biggest musical influences?
I grew up listening to a lot of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. It was the storytelling side of their songwriting which really resonated with me as a kid. I later got into The Beatles and a lot of older soul music like Donny Hathaway and Shuggie Otis, which developed my love for chords and melody. My mum is a huge Carole King fan too. So I was always surrounded by some really solid, classic songwriters.
4) Tell us about the writing and recording process of your new release…
All the songs included in the EP were songs I had started writing on sitting on the tube and were eventually finished in my bedroom at home; no fancy studios, or big songwriters on the project, just me and a few mates having fun and not trying to write 'hits'. But the songs turned out pretty good! It’s been the easiest time making the EP for me so far, super natural, ultimately very acoustic sounding and just a big ol' vibe. With the little production (that I made at my home studio) on the EP, it very much hones in on the songwriting and melody, which I feel shows the side of me that wants to make ‘classic pop music’.
5) What has been your biggest career highlight so far?
A career highlight would defo be performing on The One Show recently with a whole choir. It really did give me goosebumps hearing them alongside me. It felt like a step up for me as an artist too. I was super nervous to perform to the millions of people that watch the show, but I was able to conquer the nerves and sing my little heart out lol. Another big moment would have been touring Europe. That was bloody amazing.
6) Who would you be your dream collaboration and why?
I’d love to collaborate with Paolo Nutini, even if I sung some backing vocals for him… I am just soooo obsessed with his music and feel like we would make something really cool together. I’d also say Ed Sheeran because he seems like a lovely bloke.
7) Have you met anyone and been totally starstruck?
Ringo Star once touched my shoulder to move past me and I lost my breath for a second ahaha. I am a HUGE Beatles fan so that was crazy.
8) If you could only listen to one song on repeat for the rest of time what would it be and why?
I think it would be ‘She’s Always A Woman To Me’ by Billy Joel. To me, it's the perfect love song and what a beauty it is!
9) What’s on your playlists that people wouldn’t expect?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Brazilian Jazz recently. It’s really amazing. Artists like Seu Jorge and Stan Getz.
10) What can we expect from your live shows?
You can expect to laugh as much as you would cry. I try to make the shows as jokes as possible 'cause the songs can be pretty sad at points. So expect to see a lot of personality and maybe a big drink up at the end lol.
11) Have you got any livestreams/online events planned for this year? / When can we see you live?
I’ll defo be doing some live-stream shows around the EP release. I’ll also be doing my headline show at Scala in September! Very very excited to get back out and play again. Scala is gonna be littttttttttt.