“I always keep control of everything I do” assures James Hersey. The 28-year-old ‘electronic singer-songwriter’, the label he says sits with him best, has carved his own musical career up to now. From editing his own graphics to changing the posts his agency shares on social media, Hersey is the most talented kind of control freak around.
Even when internationally recognised DJ, Kygo, approached Hersey to remix his gentle acoustic melody ‘Coming Over’, he was eager not to sell him the rights to the song. Reflecting on the past year at his new home in Berlin, Hersey, originally from Vienna, talks exuberantly about Kygo’s eagerness to work with him. “I just sent that (track) over as a preliminary thing and then two days later he had a session with Dillon Francis and on Snapchat I could hear my song in the background of this beautiful hook!” Kygo, who for some time sounded like he was rehashing all of his tracks, has found a unique gem in Hersey, juxtaposing his feather-light vocals with grandiose production that pops and locks into place.
Off the back of the success of the song, the Norwegian invited Hersey on tour, including a date at Brixton Academy. “I did the (Coming Over) guitar solo in sound check and it was mostly roadies who flipped out and then Kygo saw the reaction and was like: “We have to do this”.” Fast forward to last weekend and Kygo invites Hersey onstage to his mega home coming show. “I was shredding on my ballad in EDM form in front of like twenty something thousand people! It’s been a crazy story for that song” says Hersey.
Being on the road does have its downsides though but Hersey has managed to channel those emotions into latest single ‘Miss You’. “Being away from people that I love and need, I think for ‘Miss You’, in the verses, I’m trying to find proof that relationships can work” but he admits that he finds the meanings in songs unintentionally: “I only just started analysing it after the release because people ask me so much!” he laughs. Raking up over half a million Spotify plays in a week, ‘Miss You’ simmers on agitated emotions to create a delicate 4am comedown moment.
Throughout our conversation it becomes clear that Hersey has a clear vision, backed up by being more than just a jack of all trades. He pieced together the production on ‘Miss You’ before working in the studio with Will Hicks, known for his work with Ed Sheeran, whose ear for creating a catchy pop hook is second to none.
The track will feature on Hersey’s forthcoming EP ‘Pages’ due for release on Glassnote Records which has a modest 27 name roster including Chvrches, Daughter and AURORA. When asked what the extended play will sound like Hersey has given the label strict instructions: “I told the label the songs I’ve written, they’re not just filler tracks. They’re not like track seven on an album, they’re really meaningful things to me and they each have stories to tell.” Ever the perfectionist, it’s clear James Hersey is a main in control of his own destiny.
Words by Josh Shreeve