INTERVIEW: James Walsh

It seemed the party was over once the ‘90s rolled into the noughties, but thankfully Starsailor knocked out ‘Love is Here’ in 2001, an album that stood shoulder to shoulder with many of the seminal albums that graced the decade that kept on giving. The man that penned it is James Walsh, who,besides being one of the nicest people in the business, continues to work his arse off producing a prolific catalogue. His latest offering is an EP entitled ‘The Places Where Our Love Begun’. Out on the 21st August. I caught up with him to chat about ‘Love is Here’ and its 20th anniversary next year, mental health, beer, t shirts, tunes and footy. and an exclusive clip of James playing a track off the new EP  

Hello James, last time I saw you was at the live album recording of ‘Tiger on the Bridge’ at Rak studios in March last year. Such a great experience, and an album that in places felt more personal than anything you’ve written previously. You have also during the last year been pretty open about some hard times you’ve been through and the mental health aspects of that – which must be applauded. The new EP – ‘The Places Where Our Love Begun’ – is rumoured to be a positive and rather romantic affair. Has life been dealing you some better hands? 

It has indeed! I’d been through a hard time prior to ‘Tiger On The Bridge’ but I’d say the fog was just starting to lift in writing & making that album. Then just as I’m looking at the road of independence ahead, I meet a girl and fall in love. But I couldn’t be happier. I guess the old adage is true that when you’re not looking…

Mental health is quite rightly becoming an easier subject to broach. Do you think this whole lockdown weirdness has meant that people have opened up more, and are more receptive to that in the other direction and has this had an influence on you creatively?

I think so. This shared experience and the impact it’s had on everyone has definitely made people aware of the impact on mental health that not having a steady job, or a steady life can have on your mental health. Which goes for most musicians and creative people. If there’s one positive, it’s that it’s given me the confidence just to get my thoughts out into a song then release it into the world and not worry about it too much. The same process to build, tour and promote a release, worry about mixes etc isn’t there anymore & most musicians and writers can’t afford that old way anyway so I feel I might as well stay active & creatively satisfied in any way I can. I feel like the fans of my music come in two categories & I’m so grateful for that. I appreciate there are people that love ‘Good Souls’ & ‘Four To The Floor’ and might have gone to a Starsailor gig when we’re in town but aren’t really engaged beyond that. But then there’s a small and loyal group of people who are really engaged and appreciative of a lot of what me or the band does & they really keep me going. The business side is another thing but creatively speaking if one person loves a song or relates to it deeply then it’s done its job. 

I saw there’s a bespoke range of t shirts designed to accompany the EP, in conjunction with Hap-Parel, how did this come about?

My girlfriend Leta is a very talented designer so she’s designed the EP cover and a few other images around it. And my friend Luke up in Manchester has started a clothes company called Hap Apparel that makes organic cotton T-Shirts made to order. So, it was a perfect storm really. It’s been nice just to go for stuff like that knowing it’s starting on a small scale and could grow but if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. Instead of having 10 zoom calls about a pencil case design that never sees the light of day. The music industry can be a bit ‘Geoff Linton’ at times ha ha. (See Bob Mortimer) 

Is there any type of music you listen to more regularly since the lockdown, reflective of your own state of mind?

I’m obsessed with Bon Iver & any melancholic music that vaguely fits into that bracket. Phoebe Bridgers, Laura Marling. Watching the film ‘Blinded By The Light’ again has reawakened by love of Springsteen too. 

How do you usually seek out new music?

Often from TV & film (there are some great songs in amazons ‘modern love’ series I’ve discovered like Gaz Coombes ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth’) but I have to admit although they really need to look at their streaming rates and pay artists more some of the Spotify playlists are quite good. I know that if I hit a playlist called ‘Lost In The Wood’ or ‘Girls Of Folk’ there might be some filler but there’s always some gems in there. It should never have been so cheap when it first started though. £10 for all the music in the world? Fuck me 

The first new covid-era live venue is being built and the first acts booked, how do you feel about this? Is it needs must or the end of an era?

I think it’s admirable. I hope it doesn’t become the norm because it’s not sustainable for everyone, but you’ve got to admire anyone who won’t be defeated even with the most challenging obstacles in the way and wants to keep the music playing. For some places it’s simply impossible though no matter how hard they try and it’s a shame to see so many venues falling victim to both the epidemic and the lack of support. 

We did a great radio show together paying homage to Love is Here, 20 years old next year that album! Put that into words!

Am I that old? Ha ha. It’s amazing. I did a live stream for the NHS playing the album in full acoustically and the response was amazing. Almost £10,000 raised from a little idea. It shows that the album still means a lot to people. 

I saw that, just you and you guitar, and it still raised the hairs. Does it still feel the same, playing those songs? Or is it like looking at old photos of yourself?

Some songs have evolved & still feel fresh like ‘Good Souls’ & ‘Tie Up My Hands’. I still love playing ‘Fever’ and ‘Lullaby’ too. The others give me more of a nostalgic feeling though. Like I’m delivering the songs for the people that love them rather than connecting with them still myself but there’s still a joy in that. 

If new music and t shirts isn’t enough to keep you busy, I saw that you’re also working on some fresh ass beer with Rivington Brewing Co., for the anniversary, anything you want to tell us about that and anything else around the 20-year anniversary?

It just felt right to do something like that. We’re all keen beer connoisseurs in the band & Rivington Brew Co are a great little local company. It’s early days yet but we want to make sure it’s a quality beer & something original rather than a gimmick. I hope we can do some shows around the anniversary too or if not more live stream events. Possibly a podcast of some kind. I’m really inspired by how Tim & The Charlatans do things. It’s not just a trawl round the usual places playing the album. They’re making tube maps and iPhone screens too. It sets them apart. 

What’s your favourite music documentary and anything new you’ve seen recently that you’d recommend?

Next Goal Wins about American Samoa (preciously) the world’s worst international football team is an amazing watch. The Mark Ronson doc on BBC iPlayer is great too. You’ve got to admire someone with Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse and Queens Of The Stone Age on their CV.  

If you could collaborate with anyone on a new track, who would it be?

Norah Jones or the ultimate Bruce Springsteen. I just feel that Norah Jones amazing tone would take one of my songs to another place or we could write something together. She an under rated artist because people mistakenly put her on the ‘coffee table music’ bracket. 

Now, most importantly, let’s get onto the footy:

Your boys, champions once more. Sum up how that feels?

It feels great! Much better than I thought winning in lockdown would feel. I’m glad it was already on the cards. It would have been weird to play out a more dramatic end to the season in those circumstances. It’s great we’re living in an era of endless content and montages. Bring it all on. Ha ha 

We did your LFC dream 5 aside team on the radio show which I believe was – Clemence, Hansen, Carragher, Gerrard, Dalglish. Fowler and Hunt on the bench. Would any of the current side nudge their way into that? Or make the subs bench?

It’s a tough one. Virgil Van Dijk is a machine but how could I drop Carra or take the great Roger Hunt off the bench? Henderson is up there with Gerrard now too. He had huge boots to fill and he did it. 

What’s your prediction for the top 4 next season? Any dark horses?

Liverpool (obviously) 
Man City (boring I know) 
Arsenal (Arteta will do the business) 

Wolves will be up there again. Who knows with Leeds too? Bielsa’s a mad one. It might depend if they can get the fans back in Elland Rd anytime soon. No doubt they’ll make some noise being back in the big time. 

Before the final question, just want to say thanks for your time mate, as ever you’re one of the good guys who always makes time for others. Let’s have a pint soon as we can, keep up the quality content on insta and can’t wait for the EP to drop on the 21st. 

Sounds like a plan! 

We have a tendency at Gigslutz to ask people what their supergroup would be, usually so that we can get pissed in the pub and argue about it. So, take it away mate!

Paul McCartney (vocal, bass) 
Jeff Buckley (vocals, guitar)
Levon Helm (drums, vocals)
Bill Withers (keys, vocals) 

’The Places Where Our Love Begun’ is released on August 21st. Pre-order on iTunes

A special range of merchandise is also available here
David Ham
David is a co-founder of the good ship Gigslutz, slightly obsessed with Hunter S Thompon and Public Enemy. Could be worse.
David Ham

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