James Arthur, the free spirit

James Arthur, the free spirit

Pour la version française, cliquez ICI.

So last week, I’ve had an interesting conversation with James Arthur. Over the phone, to be honest. Just ’cause my schedule of the day was as busy as a superstar’s one, obviously! But let’s be serious for a minute: I was not thrilled to learn I’ll have to do a phoner interview. I’d rather talk face to face to any artist as it’s so much easier to bond with someone and to figure out when they are joking or uncomfortable to discuss a specific topic.

My worry #2 : his accent. I’m not really friends with the British accent although I find it to be one of the sexiest ones on the planet. Doesn’t anything sound so damn clever in the beautiful language of Shakespeare? I know, right? But the thing is, it’s already complicated enough to get it in live so don’t even ask me to understand it over the phone. But I’m a smart girl so everytime I have an interview with a British act, I just watch tons of videos to get used to his accent. It’s also a way for me to spend hours researching about the artist and therefore to make sure I won’t ask the same questions he’s been asked a thousand times before.

And this very specific task turned out to be easier than I thought for James Arthur. I just felt like the journalists sadly spent more time asking him to explain every single one of his tweets rather than being excited about his debut album (that you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already, especially the tracks Get Down and New Tattoo – you’ll thank me later). Luckily for him, I couldn’t care less about all these gossips: reporting so-called scandals is my daily job so, for me, interviewing artists on Urban Soul is the opportunity to finally learn about someone through his art. And I couldn’t be happier to chat with James after I discovered he chose to follow an urban direction with his music.

Then came my worry #3: he looked pretty bored in some video interviews, meaning more pressure for me ’cause I like the artists to laugh and interact with me, to joke around (even if I end up not understanding the joke, which awkwardly happened with James thanks to my poor English), to speak their minds, to EXPRESS THEMSELVES. And I feel like I somewhat succeeded in my mission, at least I hope so and I like to think so when I receive a sweet text from the awesome Michelle working at Sony Music Belgium telling me ‘He loved you!’. So without further useless chit-chat, I’m happy to present you my interview with James Arthur (and make sure to check the part 1 about his current favs and musical inspirations)!


You started singing in rock bands. How did you evolve to a more soulful sound?

I’ve had different influences in music. I don’t really pick and hold myself to one genre. I like all kinds of music. I’ve always been a big fan of soul music, R&B, hip hop, urban music, as well as rock music and things of that nature. I guess I’ve just kind of evolved as an artist.

Is there a specific artist or person that influenced you to go in that direction?

Yes, I guess my Mom. She used to play people like Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Prince, Stevie Wonder, you know… All the great R&B/soul vocalists. And yeah, I used to hear that hear that when I was young and I guess it kind of just imprinted upon my consciousness and I always have  those guys in mind whenever I’m making music.

Now even when you started singing as a real soloist, you would put your band forward calling yourselves the James Arthur Band. Were you scared of going solo and therefore always rather hiding yourself behind bands?

No, I actually was doing solo projects. The thing is, when I used to play on my own, I used to have to do covers in order to make my money in pubs and clubs. I had to play an hour and a half of other people’s songs and then I’d get to do maybe half an hour of my own stuff at the end. But the reason why I was in so many bands is because they are where I could really express myself and use my songs I had written, and hear them come to life. I didn’t really see any point at being The James Arthur Band before The James Arthur Band was formed because I was young and I didn’t think I could be fronting a band, having session musicians or anything so it was more of a joint thing with other people.

Let’s talk about your debut album James Arthur. How did you put everything together? Did you get to choose the people you would work with or have you been introduced to some of them? Did you all sat together to write and jam?

Yeah, I demanded that there were washed and sent to my studio… because I just needed them to and… I’m kidding! [laughs] When it’s X Factor, it’s mandatory to work with some of these producers and I’ve been given the chance to work with great people like Naughty Boy and Salaam Remi and people of that nature so it’s a real honor.

What happened to the Labrinth and Mike Posner collaborations though?

Those will be for future projects! We started quite a few things and we just didn’t have the time to finish ‘cause we really tried to do a lot in one day and that left a lot of loose ends so we’ll have to revisit those.

You’ve also been recording with your mentor Nicole Scherzinger… Is that for her album?

I don’t know. It’s definitely for a future project: for her album, maybe for my next record, I don’t know. Maybe for a one-off thing. But it certainly will happen and it’s gonna be great!

You’re showing a bit of your rap skills on Flyin’. Is this something you’d like to explore further? I’ve read that you might release a mixtape…

I’m definitely going to do that mixtape. Flyin’ is kind of a nod to the future. Before I was a commercial, big major label artist, I used to rap a lot and I haven’t really had the chance to showcase what I can really do with my rap skills. It’s also a different thing to rap commercially: you have to think about censorship and things like that. I really wanna do this mixtape so I can just put it out for free and I’m not censored and I’m not watered down ‘cause it’s important for me to be able to say what I wanna say. I’m hoping for it to be released before summer for sure, early next year.

You’ll be on tour next year. How are you preparing, also knowing that you’re dealing with some anxiety attacks sometimes?

I guess that I have to accept that I will always have a struggle with my anxiety disorder. I think a lot of my idols and a lot of people that are in the music industry suffer with that kind of things. Like Adele. She suffers terribly with stage fright and things like that. Mine is more from overthinking my performances, overthinking things, letting the negative comments about me in the media get to me or… I’m just pre-anticipating things. I think it’s a creative persons’ thing and artists’ thing maybe. But I’ll have to overcome it, at some point. And I’m beginning to do that. I’m in a much better place than I was in the start of this year.

How is your show going to be like? Will it be an intimate setting or do you want big lightings, special effects and all that jazz?

Well, everything you hear on my album will come to life ten times over in the tour. We’ll have lots of lights and instruments. It’s gonna be a big cinematic show with lots of lights and live music that sounds great! Me and my musical director are collaborating together on a great show because people pay their hard-earned cash to come and see me playing, I don’t wanna disappoint anyone.

Your next single will be Recovery. Do you already have some ideas in mind regarding the music video?

Yeah definitely! [Talks to his entourage] Can I reveal any of it? [Back to me] No, I can’t really say what we’ll be doing. Well it’s exciting and we’ve got a really great concept for the video. I’m gonna get to showcase a little bit of my acting skills. It’s gonna be interesting. This one has a lot more of a narrative thing than You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You. That previous video was pretty much about having fun and sitting in the middle of a dusty street and just playing. And here, there’s a real heartfelt message behind the song so the video really has to compliment it. And hopefully we’ll get that right!

The British press is always giving you a hard time and I honestly don’t care about all these gossips but I was wondering if there’s any question you wish they’ll ask you but never do or something you’ve never really got a chance to say?

You know, the thing about the British media is that they will always have to be on a witch hunt for somebody who’s come from nothing. And for anyone who’s come from nothing and achieves a bit of success, the British media have this mentality that they have to drag them down. It’s a shame because I’ve done so many positive things this year and most of these positive things haven’t been highlighted in the press, you know? I think it’s just the classic UK media: they don’t like a success-story. I know I wish they’d ask me more about my future, inspirations, my music and… trying to get to know me more. Because to me it seems like they just want to paint their own picture of who I am.

Is this also why you stopped running your own Twitter account?

Yeah, I mean, you know what? I gave up giving my opinion on my Twitter because when I say things in the media they get twisted. I think there are too many unapproachable, inaccessible, shiny, hair-sprayed, smiled, pretentious pop stars in the world and people we can’t relate to. When I was just a regular guy working on my music, I wanted to hear more people that speak their minds. My opinions are always on music, they’re never about people’s characters, they’re never about people’s appearances: that might be controversial. But I’m speaking my mind about music and people in the public say worse things than what I say everyday but because I’m in the public eye, I’m scrutinized. You know I don’t get the feeling that it’s like that in Europe. You guys are all pretty laidback. In the UK, it’s very uptight.

It’s almost been a year now that you’ve won X Factor and are in the show business. What have your learned and what are you going to remember after these crazy months? 

I actually can’t wait for this year to be over ‘cause I’ve learned an incredible amount in this year about myself. I’ve learned that I can’t really have an opinion, I’ve got to sort of be seen and not heard and let my music speak for itself. And to embrace the opportunities I’ve been given more. You know, I’ve been really tired this year because I’ve been nonstop and I have had experiences that I haven’t fully been able to relish because I’ve been so exhausted. So I can’t wait for next year, come back stronger, do my tour and really appreciate all the different countries I’m gonna get to visit and just work on myself, work on being a better person and try to spread some more love.


Special thanks to James, Michelle the greatest and Haniyyah aka my saviour!


James Arthur will perform at Ancienne Belgique (Brussels) on the 25th February 2014.
His self-titled album is already available in shops and online.

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