We spoke with Liverpool Folk songwriter James Jackson about his latest single, the power of vulnerability and his residency at 92 Degrees....
Photo Credit: Reese O’Neill (@reesemeganoneill)
Q. What was the inspiration for your last single ‘Missing’?
A. “I wrote that one around this time last year. I was sort of minding my own business and going about my day to day life and then I accidentally slipped and fell in love with somebody that was in love with somebody else, which was really, really convenient. The lyrics come from a place of obsessive worry. it's very much about falling in love with somebody who's in love with somebody else and just going along with it anyway”.
Q. What is your usual process of taking a song from its initial conception to its finished form?
A. “With most of my tracks I just mess around with them and work on them for a couple of months. I get a lot from just playing them and getting ingrained in the song in my head. Then once it gets to that point, I go into the studio and record a few performances”.
Q. One of the most striking elements of ‘Missing’ is the string section, was this real strings or electronic?
A. “No, they’re MIDI strings I’m afraid, I wish I was cool enough for actual recorded strings but I do have a string player in the band, Zara Merican, who is absolutely incredible.They scored it all out for me”.
Q. What’s it like to have someone with those skills within your band?
A. “It's insane! They're just incredible. For most of my life I've been playing solo and it's only within the last year or so I've started to incorporate band members. I've managed to find the only people I can really trust and stick with and to have them with me is amazing. I think the music that I perform and the way I perform it requires a certain level of vulnerability and so I can only trust that with people I'm really close with. You just have to surround yourself with people who get it and you can trust on a personal level as well”.
Q. You talk about your music being vulnerable, does this ever make it difficult to perform your songs live?
A. “Weirdly, I find it really easy. Ever since discovering music from an early age I have felt more comfortable on stage than I do off of stage. I don't know how good a thing that is but its easy for me to be on stage performing, it is where I kind of deal with emotions. The songs that I write tend to be like pockets of an experience I've been through so when I'm performing I'm kind of trying my best just to relive it as much as I can”.
Q. Is it also important to you that your audience feels a sense of this vulnerability and intimacy in your music?
A. “Yes, 100%. The more I can do that, the more I can make people feel things, the more maybe they can relate. That's kind of what I'm here for, it doesn't matter if people are listening, as long as they can feel something, that's all that matters to me really. I have this weird innate ability and I don't think I know if I enjoy it or not. But like, I seem to have a habit of making people cry whenever I play. I don't think I enjoy it, but the more I can channel that emotion in my songwriting and the more I can make people feel something the better. That's like the most important thing to me”.
Q. Talking of live performance, you run a regular live night at 92 Degrees Hardman Street called James Jackson and Friends - can you talk us through the idea behind this residency?
A. “For sure. It came out of a need to try and find a level of self promotion that also benefited the scene itself because I think Liverpool does have the most incredible scene in the UK. I think I owe it to the scene that's helped me so much. Me and Reese O'Neill kind of sat down and planned a headline together here at 92 Degrees and it went really well. The atmosphere was incredible, there's just something about this room. You weren't having to fight an audience for their attention. I don't know if it's just the setting of everyone sitting down and watching but they just got there straight away.
Now, we’ve aimed to make it a monthly…it’s a beautiful thing that we’ve started. I think it's a very Greenwich Village kind of thing, like New York in the 60s kind of style with the coffee clubs and photo offices. We've had a few ones where it got dark really quickly and it started raining through the windows which is really beautiful”.
Q. Have you found the nights having a community feel to them?
A. “I think so. It's something I definitely want to build and incorporate more. Liverpool has had a habit for years and years of just filling the city for the music, so, in addition to showcasing my own music, these nights are also a place for building the Folk scene and Singer Songwriter scene in Liverpool”.
Q. How do artists go about getting involved in James Jackson and Friends?
A. “We're very much open to anyone. If they've got music, just send that along to my Instagram @jamesjacksongs “.