James McCartney: Casting his Own Shadow
Mar 23, 2017 04:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
Photo courtesy of Grandstand Media & Management
James McCartney literally has music in his genes. As the son of the legendary Paul and Linda McCartney, James has been surrounded by music since birth and spent his first two years of life on the road with his touring parents.
However, McCartney is not a clone of his father coasting off of inherited fame. Quite contrary in fact, he isn’t touring in a private jet. Instead it’s just him trekking through the miles in a van. McCartney is putting in his dues, being his own man, and making his own way as a talented musician.
McCartney has cultivated a robust international profile through tirelessly touring the UK, Europe, and the United States, including a sold out three show residency at The Islington in London. His debut album, Me, released in 2013 showcasing his talents to the world. It was an honest, intimate, and deeply personal collection of songs. McCartney wanted the world to know who he was as an artist, not just as a last name.
Following the release of his most recent album, The Blackberry Train, McCartney’s 2016 U.S. tour included 44 shows in 25 states in just over six weeks. Now McCartney is set to hop the pond and ride The Blackberry Train across America again on the Marshmallow Maiden Tour. The Blackberry Train, engineered by Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies, and PJ Harvey), is delightfully diverse while maintaining smart hooks and an alt-rock sound that McCartney expertly frames with a psychedelic vibe.
“I like the music to have elements of the avant-garde, psychedelic, and be just a little against the grain. But in the end, it’s about having as much emotion as possible for me, musically and lyrically. It’s all about the music being cathartic, heartfelt, and true.” – James McCartney
James McCartney will be performing at Rams Head On Stage Thursday, March 30th, 7 p.m. Tickets are $24.50.
You started playing guitar at a young age and even started writing songs as a teenager. However, your first solo EP wasn’t released until 2010. Why the late start as a professional musician? Was there another career you were interested in before the solo career took off?
I felt that I needed to ‘sort myself out’ before taking music seriously and releasing music. There was no other career other than music that I wanted to do at that point. I did have previous interests in animation and the computer industry. Providing a service to others is important. I wanted to help people and for me, music is a way to do that.
You play several instruments such as the piano, bass guitar, and mandolin. Are you trying to learn any more instruments to increase your repertoire? Was there an instrument that was especially difficult to play or did they all come pretty naturally?
I’d love to learn how to play a few classical instruments like violin and cello, which I can in my own way, just need to find the time. So far, piano has been the most difficult instrument to master. It is frustrating sometimes, but also rewarding and can add a lot to a song.
The Blackberry Train has a more intense, alt-rock sound than your previous releases. Why the shift in style? Was it a creative choice made for the album or a more permanent evolution of yourself as an artist?
That music featured on that album is close to the music that I grew up with. It shaped me as a person and as an artist. I have a great affinity for rock music, so while it was a conscious, creative choice for the album, I believe it to be a more permanent evolution. The style will likely permeate through my future releases.
You’ve stated in the past that your previous full length album, Me, was about who you are musically and personally. What is the message audiences are meant to receive with Blackberry Train and how does the name relate?
There isn’t a message that they are necessarily meant to receive. It’s up to the individual to take what connotations they want. Some people might relate the album to their own dreams and the nature of them. Others could reflect on the truth of how people really feel on a universal level and how to move forward from that. The album could pose questions to some while also providing answers to others. It’s all up to the individual who chooses to listen to my music.
Your music sounds very complex, and it’s difficult to classify it as any one genre. What bands/artists have influenced or inspired you?
All the classics. Some of the most influential bands period have been an inspiration to me as well as countless others. Of course, The Beatles, but also Nirvana, The Cure, Radiohead, Earth, PJ Harvey, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Diana Ross, Little Richie, and Sam Cooke.
What is your primary motivation for being a professional musician? Is to give yourself a cathartic outlet of expression or perhaps to provide audiences something to connect too? A different reason?
Well money is a significant motivation. Feeling on top form as an artist is also satisfying. But there is no primary motivation. It’s a mixed bag. Again, both catharsis and connection are important to being an artist. If I had to choose one, I’d say money. But, in all honesty, having fun and spirituality though music are what really make it a worthwhile career. And it is a career ultimately, in which I want to be successful and achieve totality. Hopefully I will.
Can you discuss your upcoming Marshmallow Maiden Tour? Why the interesting name and what can audiences expect from the live show?
I guess the tour name is a reference to the infamous Beatles song, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. As for the live show, hopefully some empathy and spirituality will come through the music and connect with the audience. It’s always the best time ever, that’s for sure.
Speaking of tours, you’ve had an intense touring schedule in the past. The previously mentioned Marshmallow Maiden Tour includes a great number of shows in rapid succession. What is it like touring like that and playing so many shows back-to-back? How do you keep from burning out?
The relentless traveling is hard. It is truly a test of endurance to go on a long tour, but you try to get used to it. I find the art of yoga essential to recharging and staying performance ready almost every day. To me, getting more experienced with routine is the best way to keep going. But, the main thing is to remember to have fun as it is truly exciting work. I try to keep it simple.
When not recording new tunes or touring; how does James McCartney spend his leisure time? Any non-music related hobbies?
I like to engage in a plethora of creative outlets. Art in general, but specifically painting, sculpture, illustration, drawing, and writing. I like to exercise and do yoga regularly. I love exploring and enjoying nature as well. I keep up with sports and am always trying to learn more about spirituality.
What is next for James McCartney? After the Marshmallow Maiden Tour could fans expect another EP at some point or are you exclusively into releasing full length albums?
Let’s wait and see. I love EPs, LPs, and singles, so more likely that, but it is hard to say currently.