13th Oct 2012 10:21am | By Jade Bremner
The Starsailor frontman-turned-solo-star on writing for movies, penning a hit single, and why guitar bands are still cool
Tell us about the new album, Lullaby?
People should expect a dark album lyrically but with some pretty melodies interwoven into some of the tracks.
It’s different to what I’ve done before because it’s based entirely on the plot of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name.
I did [2010 Brit music drama] Powder but that was more about writing songs for the fictional band rather than telling the narrative.
What’s Chuck like to work with?
I haven’t had any direct contact with him, although I’d love to meet him.
The film company worked hard to secure the rights to his book and they have ongoing contact with him.
It would be interesting to get his feedback. I hope he likes it, and his fans – he has a passionate fanbase!
What’s the album’s most poignant song?
For me, it’s a song called Start Again.
The rest of the album is very dark and fits the story of some twisted characters, but this track has more of a restorative universal message of trying to right the wrongs.
More people can relate their experiences to it, and it shows the characters to be human.
You collaborated with a friend on the recording of the album...
It was recorded with my good friend Sacha Skarbek, who’s known for his work with James Blunt and Adele, among others.
The record was a challenging departure for both of us, though.
Have you been collaborating a lot?
I’ve been doing a lot with a producer friend called Eliot James, who worked previously with Two Door Cinema Club and Noah And The Whale.
I’ve also worked with Eliza Doolittle a lot and have a song called Lately I did with Matt Cardle on his new album. I’ve also got a few dance collaborations, too – I’ve been busy!
Does this mean an end for Starsailor?
I don’t think so, although I can’t see us coming back in the near future. We had an amazing time – almost 10 years together and four albums that we’re proud of.
It’s important not to outstay your welcome as a band and it was important for the lads to explore life out of Starsailor, too. Stel [bass] is currently on tour with Spiritualized.
Is it lonely on stage as a solo act?
Sometimes if it’s a particularly difficult crowd and there’s no one to share those nerves with.
I have played a lot with Jim Duguid, Donnie Little and Mick McDaid who play a lot with Paolo Nutini, too.
They are good fun to make music with. Jim’s a songwriter, so we share stories about our recent writing sessions.
Is having a hit record to do with being in the right place at the right time?
Absolutely. I think it happened at the right time. I’m proud of the music from my era and how great melodies were at the heart of it.
Coldplay, Travis, Keane and ourselves contributed some great sing-a-long anthems that will last when more fashionable music fades.
Would the 15-year-old James Walsh be proud of the James Walsh now?
I hope so! Although I thought I was much too cool for school back then. Now I’m much more relaxed and open to different ideas as long as I can keep doing what I love – writing songs.
Your tracks come across pretty solemn. Are you a happy bloke?
I’m a very happy bloke most of the time but any songwriter will tell you sad songs are easier to write than the happy ones. Four To The Floor is pretty happy and it’s our biggest hit worldwide.
What’s the secret to good bands getting noticed these days?
Great guitar music is still doing well, look at The Vaccines, although the wider population seems to be lapping up more dance and hip-hop stuff.
Some incendiary live performances can catapult a band to success, though: Pulp stepping in for The Stone Roses at Glastonbury 1995 was a big one – we need another moment like that.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had on the road or travelling?
The most eye-opening experience was a visit to some orphanages in India with a charity project that helps street kids get out of child slavery.
We got to hear amazing stories about how they’re now in college or running a successful business.
Playing a few songs at a winery in Adelaide, New York’s Irving Plaza and doing The Letterman Show when Love Is Here was breaking – there have been some great times.
A lot of my best travel memories are from Belgium and Australia.
Belgium really embraced the band and we played some great festivals and some beautiful old cities, and Australia is such a friendly place – there’s a real ‘have a go’ attitude to things there that us reserved Brits lack at times.
Lullaby is out now through Smith And Songs Records
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