If Ben Howard, SOHN and Frank Ocean’s vocal chords decided to make sweet honey dripping love with each other, what would come out of this mix would be a swoony, lady-part tickling voice that would make the butter melt. While this superpower of a voice is pretty much destined to live in our dreams, we can let us be woo’d by the second best thing: the Brisbane-born Aussie smoothie called Jarryd James. Combining sultry Rn’B with moody electronica and bittersweet lyrics, James has managed to take over Australian charts and is slowly conquering the rest of the world.
I caught up with Jarryd James to discuss nostalgia, musical memories and our mutual detest towards wasabi. “Hi, I’m Jarryd. Sorry, I had a bit of a late one last night. I’m in Brooklyn right now and last night went to see Julian Casablancas’ pop up show. Still trying to recover from that," James admits and chuckles. “This year has been crazy. I have been spending most of my time away from home and done a lot of writing.” While James has spent the first half of 2015 rising to fame with his two hit singles “Do You Remember” and “Give Me Something”, there is a sense of sincerity in his tone. “It is incredible to see people embracing my music in Australia and I feel like the luckiest person in the world when I see more and more people discovering my work," James states gratefully.
At the time of our interview, James has just done the finishing touches to his upcoming album Thirty One which is due to be released in September and for which he’s teamed up with producer wizards like Joe Little (Lorde), Pip Norman (Urthboy), Malay (Frank Ocean) and James’ longtime friend and a fellow musician Matt Corby. “This album is like a mixture of feelings. I tried not to put too much stuff in my head and I tried to just channel my subconscious when I was writing this album. I sort of just start writing and mostly the stuff that comes out is quite bittersweet and it sometimes even surprises me," James laughs and continues, “I just want to write music that I would want to listen to. I used to deny the pleasure of writing music that I would like from myself.”
With four singles out, Jarryd James has managed to cook up a musical formula that bares the familiarity of the likes of SOHN and Frank Ocean, it has a unique sound which can be traced back to the heartbreaking wordsmiths of our generation such as Ben Howard and Keaton Henson. James’ work is beautiful in its simplicity. It lives off our need for nostalgia without making it too complex. “When we recorded ‘Do You Remember’, we had to do it in a spare room because we could not access a studio. When I was putting the track together, I had to use whatever stuff we could use as instruments. We used stuff like a nutcracker and a ukulele but we didn’t really want to come up with some weird shit so we disguised some of the instruments that we used," James reveals. While James’ music is not the hipster wet dream of all-things-experimental, it is an intriguing patchwork of human emotion sprinkled with memory triggers that are to take you back to that one time when “that” song was playing when you had your first kiss or met your best friend.
It is this kind of musical nostalgia that inspires James. It is more of an abstract form of time travel where no Delorean is needed to take us from one ‘First’ to another. “I am very nostalgic but I don’t want to live in the past”, James tells me. He recalls his earliest musical memories being Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. “I remember hearing it for the first time and feeling like I need to learn it. After I learnt it, I played it all the time. I learnt every word and every chord of that song!” James reminisces and shares a warm laughter that makes me feel like I am chatting with an old buddy of mine over a cold pint. As we enter the world of musical memories, I am intrigued to know what kind of situation has he tailored his music for? “Apparently a lot of people like to make love to it,” James laughs and continues, “I think it’s amazing! That just shows how people connect memories with certain songs and that is exactly what I want to do with my music.”
He isn’t a carefully marketed product but a person with a past. The bittersweet nostalgia is what makes Jarryd James. He shares stories of his past with me in a way that makes you feel like you were there with him. He tells me a story of his old band that made it all the way to the top, signed a record deal and went nowhere. “We did the whole “major label”—thing but then it just didn’t go anywhere,” he reveals. James isn’t afraid though, and feels more prepared for what is yet to come. “I still have some fears but I feel like they are diminishing every day,” he admits and continues, “Right now I feel like I am ready and I have a great management supporting me.”
Within the past year, James has toured with his fellow Australians Angus and Julia Stone and sold out his debut tour. James’ tour with the Stone siblings has also led to a collaboration that can be found from the upcoming album. “I co-wrote ‘Regardless’ with Julia after we got to know each other during their tour. I met her in the end of 2014 and we just spent a lot of time chilling at the backstage”, James tells me. In ‘Regardless’, James’ R n’ B electronica is accompanied with Julia Stone’s fragile and hauntingly beautiful, almost child-like, vocals. It is an intriguing mixture of the world of sound which flirts with the sonic dimensions found in both R n’ B as well as hip hop. However, James declares that that he didn’t turn to any other artists for inspiration: “I listen to a lot of hip hop, especially Kendrick Lamar but I didn’t really try to search for inspiration.”
As I wrap up my interview with Jarryd, I am overwhelmed and intrigued by James’ mellow charisma. He is simultaneously the old friend who you’ve always known but also a mysterious creature that has written his way to every girl’s heart and made them think “I’m SO fucking single”. To make him less mysterious, I ask him to share us one of his secrets. “This isn’t really a secret but I HATE wasabi. You know, that paste? I tried it last week and it’s disgusting,” James states with hilarious detest. Well, Jarryd buddy, you are not alone.
Jarryd James debut album Thirty One is out on 11th of September.