Shuffling through his personal Spotify mix, you can immediately tell that James Hersey is cool; Paul Simon to Childish Gambino cool. With such an eclectic taste in music, it comes as no surprise that his own tracks glow with uniqueness and bounce around inside your head for days.
Half way through his headlining European tour, I interviewed James and – thanks to our trusty mobiles – have a virtual chit-chat over a cup of coffee. In London and en route to get his hair cut, James tells me how his four-year-long ascent from Soundcloud uploads to sold out shows has created some unforgettable experiences.
Having recently performed with electro-soul band Honne, James sings their praises, applauding the “very sweet and very talented musicians” that form the delightful duo. Even through my rusty old iPhone, I can sense the chilled vibes that seem to emanate from James. In a reminiscent tone, he adds that those shows are sort of “a chilled gig” thing where you’ll most likely end up “putting your arm around somebody.”
The Austrian-born artist admits he had been a fan of Honne for a couple of years before they even entered discussions about remixing his sensational track, Miss You. “I knew that they weren’t just going to throw a house beat on a track. They used piano instead which worked really well,” he explains. James wasn’t wrong; combined, Miss You and Honne’s Remix of the song have racked up over thirty-three million plays on Spotify. If you haven’t already listened to these sumptuous sounds, I suggest you do so.
Talking to James, I found myself itching to ask the impossible question: who are your biggest influences? After a moment or two of careful deliberation, James narrows it down to two icons, both of which seem perfectly fitting. From a writing perspective, “it would have to be Paul McCartney during his time in The Beatles” and, for the all-important beats, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. “I loved him as a kid and really loved the energy that he would put into his beats”, something which propels the tracks James produces as he nails the art of making “interesting beats”.
You can truly tell that James is an artist, music lover and performer rolled into one. Admitting that he is “really in love with his own headline shows” which are consistently selling out, he admits that he doesn’t get nervous anymore. Instead, he is “just excited to play” and indulges in playing 80-90 minute long shows – “I love long shows.” In a dream-like tone, James insists that he “wants everyone to be relaxed” and reiterates the key idea that his shows are all about “creating a special moment.” Instead of thrashing and sweating, James’ crowds can expect to leave feeling connected, calm and pleasantly mellow.
The video for Miss You has also been a massive hit online. Coming alive through layers of texture and cool tones, the video showcases tension between two stylish lovers. James reveals how he “wanted something that’s memorable. We used a really cool colour scheme which makes the video unforgettable.” The video itself is relatively minimalistic but skilfully executed with James telling me how “there was no paint in there before all of the editing took place which took three days in total. I think it just makes it a little more magical”.
The next year holds much in store for James which leaves him with little time for chilling and building up that musical. Gracing me with some exciting news, James tells how “The EP is pretty much done and we want to release it at the beginning of next year”, with an aim to “release the album by the summer.” If James previous tracks have been anything to go by then I’m sure the new album will provide some sweet vibes, best enjoyed with a cold beer and good company.
Talking to James was like having a catch-up with an old friend; one who you might have shared wild aspirations to create an angsty punk band with in your childhood years. Not quite the Mohawk-headed anarchist, James radiates a humble demeanour which only makes his dedication and musical talents even more admirable. His show on the evening of Tuesday the 22nd of November at London’s Kamio bar has sold out and it set to offer an abundance of smiling faces, golden memories and head bopping.
Words by Claudia Knight