James Bay Talks His Brand New Album Leap

Three-time Grammy Award-nominated British folk recording artist James Bay first blew onto the music industry in 2014 with his massively successful singles, "Let It Go" and "Hold Back the River." Forcing all eyes into his direction. A year later, Bay dropped his now platinum-certified debut album, Chaos And The Calm (2015), which included the two tunes. The record garnered Bay three Grammy nominations. Following his debut album, he released another hit record, Electric Light (2018), and shortly after, he followed it up with a stripped-down four-track EP titled, Oh My Messy Mind EP (2019). Now, James is back with his surefire next hit record, Leap, just over a month ago -on July 8, 2022, to be exact- and was released through Mercury Records and Republic Records. James is currently on the road in North America, performing and promoting Leap.

Press image for the Grammy-nominated British folk artist James Bay.
Photo courtesy of UMG.

James Bay's new album Leap took large inspiration from the John Burroughs quote, "Leap and the net will appear." Ultimately, the quote shaped the album's songwriting and lead James to give the album the title, Leap. "It sort of inspired the turning point in the writing," says James. "I was using music as a kind of therapy, as I always do. These songs are anthems of hope. You have to reach fucking high. You have to leap and not worry about if there's a net that's going to catch you, it's just about the reach, about the leap, about the going for it. I was reminded of that when I read that quote and read those words. So it affected the entire album. It affected the writing and inspired me to name the album Leap." The album is shaped by its twelve tracks, which James describes as "anthems of hope." "I was making music from an emotionally, dark, and sad kind of place. I've done that before in the past and to some degree, I feel I've become, not known for sad songs, but almost. I very intentionally pushed that boundary and evolved it. I wanted to make songs that people could... Not to be too bold, but to go on anthems of hope," James reveals. A lot of Jame's inspirations and influence that push him as an artist comes from all kinds of media or the arts (books, movies, etc.) and of course, life experiences, are what is always inspiring James. "I will be hit by a moment in a movie or a book. I've always referenced James Baldwin's writing. I started reading his books when I was about twenty, or nineteen. Another Country and Giovanni's Room... Wow, the way he handles love and anguish, and heartache just blows me away. So sometimes different media and different corners of the arts are always affecting me and inspiring me, but in terms of what actually comes from me as an artist and a person is over fifty percent of it will be rooted come from a life experience," James explains. When it comes down to writing and creating music, James loves a good collaborative effort. While James does still love writing music solo and being the only person in the credits of a track, he prefers getting into the studio and writing a tune with two or more people to take an idea of his and have more than one voice bounce ideas off an incubating piece of music to further it in some kind of way. "Collaboration is the spice of life," James admits. "Sometimes I just need myself and an instrument to get through some stuff." However, when it came down to Leap, James tried something entirely new with his co-writing sessions. "Actually, on Leap, I decided to go to co-writing sessions with no ideas. I'd just speak from the heart about what's going on and see what we could make musically in the moment," he shares. Something everyone has in common is a preferred method of listening to new music for the very first time. For James, his preferred method of listening to music is while he is on the move. That's how he described it when asked, how should you listen to Leap? "In transit," he says with a smile. "Driving in the car is one favourite. Go for a walk, get on a train. I love a good train listen. A plane listen is nuts because once we get thirty or forty thousand feet in the air, everyone's emotions go wild. I recommend listening in transit because that's the moment when we spend time thinking about other stuff in our lives, I suppose. I think that music and songs pair well with life circumstances, whatever they are," he continues. While certain ways of listening to music can be a sensory experience for all, sometimes music can throw you into an old memory, place, or time, and can be accompanied by feelings or smells. For James, Leap reminds him of sandalwood, the soft light of the sunrise in the morning, and the stability and security of laying down on the floor. "Sandalwood. I will throw that in there because I love it and it's inviting," he shares as he smiles again. "Light... like dawn light. The first light in the morning, that glowy, soft light. That's so fresh. In a way, the sense of laying on the floor and feeling the ground... feel that stability. There's some balance in sitting on a couch or chair but go lower than that to the floor, where all your limbs and body can touch the same level surface. That security and sturdiness." "Some of my first memories that come to mind are being in Nashville in 2020, held up in the studio with this pandemic thing on the news that no one really knows anything about. Like whoa! What's happening in the world? and we were like, 'Well, guess we're okay in here if we have takeout food and instruments,'" James reminisces. Some of Jame's favourite fond memories from the Leap sessions are uniquely related to having recorded it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic with producers over Zoom. "Even though I never want to make an album through a pandemic again, I'm so proud of what we made, but it's the moments over Zoom where we are like this [points to himself and the screen], while I have a guitar but with a producer on the other end saying, 'Okay, go!' [mimicking hitting record] and I'm like 'Okay, here it comes!' [doing an air guitar gesture] I'll never forget that. That's how this album was made, or at least part of it. It's this crazy hybrid of these wild times in the world." Another significant memory for James from the recording of Leap came during the five weeks prior to lockdown, when he was in the studio with three other musicians and they recorded a handful of tunes without a click-track. "Ninety-nine percent of music is recorded to a click-track so the music never speeds up or slows down, and that every song is the same tempo, and that's brilliant. There's nothing wrong with that, I make lots of music like that. I respect it, I love it. But the freedom I remember loving, and even being a little scared of, in that room with those musicians when we decided to record music without a click-track, which we did do, there are about five or six songs on this album, that is a memory I will always enjoy and I want to replicate in the future," James divulges. One of Jame's favourite tracks on Leap is "Endless Summer Nights." One of the first songs written for the album. It was written about a moment you never ever want to end. To detail what he would love in an endless summer night, he recounted a fun story from his joint tour with Ed Sheeran in 2019."This was actually a highlight in what was a pretty difficult year," James recollects. "I went on tour with Ed Sheeran. He invited me to open up for him in all these big sports stadiums around Europe. We finished the tour in Iceland, where summer is in American numbers about forty degrees. He was staying in this unbelievable house, the driveway way was about ten minutes long. We went there to party after the end of tour and I'm just standing in the kitchen and Ed turns up in his underwear. And he said, "We're getting in the lake.' It's dark outside, so I said, 'What? What lake?' He said, 'At the bottom of the garden, there is a lake.' And I said, 'It's very cold outside.' It's like after midnight, and it was very fucking cold. He said, 'It's okay, there's a hot tub.' I said, 'Okay,' and so I look at my guitar tech who was next to me that I was talking to and said, 'We're getting in the lake!' So we took most of our clothes off and ran into the darkness, nobody could see where the fuck the water was. It was so unbelievably cold, that I think my heart burst out of my chest for a second. We got out and ran for the hot hub and we got in, and it was the greatest feeling ever," James describes in detail. With Leap and its twelve tracks, James has a major heartfelt message he hopes listeners and fans can take away from the music on the new record. "Given what I went through when I started making this music, these struggles with mental health I was dealing with are struggles I know I will deal with again. These things come in waves, they just do. I'm working my damnedest to deal with it all better, but given all that, the message I want to empark is something I'm trying to tell myself every day. It's that if whatever happens, rather a day sucks or it really really sucks because sometimes they do, there's tomorrow. It can all be fresh and start again. I know it's a bit simple, but I'm learning as I grow that these simple things can be quite effective. I'm just trying to keep my chin up and I think if people can find ways through this music to do the same thing, I'm really glad," James conveys wholeheartedly. Moving forward as a successful recording artist, James just wants to keep writing and recording, but he most importantly wants to keep performing in front of his fans and new fans he has yet to make. He wants to keep doing what he loves, and that's being a musician and conveying his feelings and life experiences into song. "I want to be able to carry on doing it," he admits. "I want to be able to sell out venues at the end of 2022 and at the end of 2032. I want to make moves to exist and not disappear. I don't know how that sounds. I don't know if that sounds over-eager, ugly or something, but I LOVE this. I love music, but I love performing live. I love sharing the experience with crowds, with bigger crowds. I feel like I have so much to offer. These are bold things to say. I don't know if I'm at my peak best yet, but I'm trying to get there and I want to share the journey with all these people who are interested in what I put out and make. My ambition is to do it in ten years and be old," James discloses. "...and own more guitars," James shares as he grits his teeth.

 

Be sure to check out James on tour right now in America, Europe this fall, and South America this winter. More info here.

 

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