James Smith is fast becoming a name we all know with his songs being played on the radio and on Love Island. James has even appeared on family favourite programmes like The One Show and Channel 4's Sunday Brunch.
He's recently released a new EP named 'The District Line EP' which has been described as an intimate insight into the ‘person’ behind the music. His newest single, 'Got The Love' was written for his brother and closest friends and focuses on mental well-being. His music is the perfect pick-me-up on a bad day.
In light of James Smith taking the UK by storm, Vibez Music caught up with him to talk about his musical journey so far.
First of all, could you introduce yourself to our readers and who and what encouraged you to pursue a career in music?
Hello! My names James Smith, I’m a singer-songwriter-producer from East London. I grew up with London markets; my dad had a stall in Upton Park. I found music around the age of 10 when I was introduced to the likes of Elvis and Johnny Cash, whilst working on the stalls. My family would make me sing to all their friends at the market, and it sort of grew from there. I was always interested in ‘older’ music, unlike the other kids my age, and listening to the likes of Bob Dylan and Carol King encouraged me to start writing songs.
You first started performing at 14 years old in local pubs and clubs – is there a difference in atmosphere in a pub compared to music venues?
100%. A lot of the time in pubs, no one really wants you there ha-ha. All people want to do is drink and have a barney with their friends. So, I found that I had to fight for attention a lot when I did the pub circuits. I found the classic songs grabbed people a lot quicker, and that's why I became a student of this form of songwriting! I’m always trying to write a classic sounding song!
You were a finalist on Britain’s Got Talent when you were just 15 years old. Could you tell us a bit about that experience, how you felt and what happened after it had aired?
My mum had signed me up for it without me knowing! It was a real shock, but I think it was the best thing for me - I would have never had the confidence to do a big show like that without my mum pushing me to do so. It was a cool experience, and I learned a lot about the industry at a young age, which now looking back has really helped me to navigate my way through this crazy industry!
You’ve released quite a bit of music since then, having your song Tell Me That You Love Me featured on Love Island and it achieving 60M streams on Spotify. How much does that mean to you as an artist who started in their own bedroom?
It means a lot. It’s given me the confidence to know that really anything can happen. This song was a basic little idea I had made in my bedroom that surfaced itself into mainstream pop! I never in a million years thought that TMTYLM was going to do that well on Spotify. But it did! And I’m so grateful for all the support I’ve had on it. I’m very keen to have big songs like this again and again.
I know for a lot of us the pandemic has made it insanely hard to keep any sort of creativity up, but what has it been like for you personally?
It has been hard, but I’ve tried not to beat myself up about it because I know that everyone is going through it! I’ve tried to work on myself more than anything else in this pandemic. I feel that if I can be more comfortable in my own head, without letting all the anxious and negative thoughts creep in, I can write better songs and be more open to exploring different topics. It’s taken a while, but the last couple of months have been great for me creatively, I’ve not done a lot of writing, but I’ve done a lot of learning, and I’m eager to get these songs out of me now!
You’ve recently performed on the One Show, a programme everyone in the UK knows and loves, what was it like singing on the show?
I was SO SCARED. ha-ha. I grew up watching this show, so it was a big deal for me. Luckily, everything went well, and I’m super proud of myself and the choir's performance on the day.
You’ve released your EP District Line, what influenced you into writing it?
It was an EP that I always wanted to do. It was a concept EP in the fact that the initial stages of writing the EP were all done on the district line. Every song on it had started as voice notes that I had made whilst travelling (which I tend to do a lot of). The subject matter is about a heartbreak that I can finally let go of now, and I’m very pleased that the project is out.
What’s your favourite track on the EP and, why?
It would have to be the title track, 'District Line'. It feels super reminiscent, and it sums up the relationship I had in the most simple but creative way. I love the metaphor of the train that I use. I’m very proud of this record, and it was fun to produce too.
What are the next steps for James Smith?
I have a few more songs in the catalogue that I want to get out of the way before my debut album! I think it's time. I’m also playing a show in September at London Scala and going on tour with a band called New Hope Club. I’m very excited!!!
There’s no doubt James Smith is one to watch. From his bubbly personality to moving songwriting, James has us at Vibez Music hooked.