After almost a decade with his enormous yet somehow tender, fragile voice fronting Starsailor, James Walsh has emerged as a singer-songwriter in his own right, with an acoustic guitar and some big, new tunes to travel wherever the road may take him. Early 2013 James launched his brand new EP ‘Time is Nigh’ on iTunes and is a reflection on the past couple of years experience for him. He is now embarking on his debut solo album through PledgeMusic.
After taking the difficult decision to put the band on extended hold, James has barely looked back. He’s toured with Sheryl Crow – playing to more mainstream but “tremendously appreciative” audiences than he ever did with Starsailor’s indie following; written with Suzanne Vega after inviting her to sing with him in New York and recording the Live At The Top Of The World EP with Norway’s Tromsø Chamber Orchestra in the closest major settlement to the North Pole. Working with an orchestra and world famous composer Bernt Simen Lund is a long way from Starsailor’s Wigan roots – “very cold” laughs James – but incredibly exciting. As a result of adventures like that, James admits, “songs have been pouring out of me.”
After collaborating with songwriter/producer Sacha Skarbek (Duffy/Adele), James has found an unlikely new career path as a provider of songs for other people. “That was the great thing about working with Sacha,” he says. “We really got on, and he’d say ‘I’ve got this girl coming in, do you wanna give us a hand?’ Thus, James has ended up in the unexpected position of songwriter for stars. He has enjoyed the new-found spontaneity of “writing a song in an afternoon and the next thing you know someone’s on TV singing it. It’s really exciting.” In 2011 James worked with Melanie C on her album ‘The Sea’, produced and work songs on X Factor 2012 winner Matt Cardle’s UK Top 5 Debut album ‘Letters’. He also has been working with Philadelphia’s Christina Perri and London based Eliza Doolittle.
But most importantly, this sense of rejuvenation has fired his own new music. Working with Skarbek, he’s been able to bring out the Randy Newman and Rufus Wainwright influences that – he chuckles – “the [Starsailor] lads weren’t very into”, acquiring a new maturity and a new sound, more sophisticated and raw at the same time. Playing with musicians often ten years his junior has resulted in a “mix of styles, quite raw heavy backing but with my voice and melodies over the top.
Older, wiser – and a father – he’s looking forward to “doing something different for a while”, setting off in a different ship but touching people once again and making what promises to be a very adventurous solo album. What hasn’t changed has that voice – still wounded, still soaring, still bursting with hope and passion – and his belief in his own music.
“I’m in a position now where I feel like I’ve washed everything off and am starting again and there aren’t really any rules. It feels like I can do what I want now.”