The SXSW festivities were in full effect when I sat down with Australian singer-songwriter Jarryd James for an interview. For some artists, it takes an entire career to make it to the top of the country’s music charts; however, for James, that success came a bit quicker in his home country of Australia. Peaking at numbers 1and 2 on various Australian charts, James’ debut single “Do You Remember” gained traction quickly in 2015 and opened up opportunities for him to tour with artists like the Broods and Angus & Julia Stone.
This was my first SXSW, but I quickly learned that I was not the only newbie at the festival. It was also James’ first time performing at SX, and he considered it quite a frantic experience. Although we were talking about how crazy packed the festival can get, he remained ten times calmer than I did even though he was the one going to perform in a few hours. Despite the chaos that was occurring around him, he seemed to appear right at home when he spoke about his music and even more at ease when he later performed.
You took a break [from music] recently. What is the reason why you left and what inspired you to come back?
“I just wanted to focus on making the kind of music that I love. Not that I don’t love the music I made in the past, but there’s a difference between the music you make and the music you listen to and respect a lot. I just want to make sure that the music I’m making is something that I would listen to myself, in my car or when I’m on a plane. Sometimes you need to take time to like get a bit perspective on those things and that’s what I was doing. Just trying to write the best songs that I can with the people that I love making music with.”
I noticed that “Slow Motion” does sound a little different from your previous work. Are you trying to go with a different sound?
“Well yeah, but I’m not trying to go for a specific sound. Each song I just try to make it sound exactly how that song should sound rather than a whole album of the same sort of stuff.”
Who is your biggest inspiration for starting music in the first place?
“Ow, there’s a lot of those…I’m a huge Beatles fan. I grew up listening to a lot of that stuff—Stevie Wonder, Harry Nilsson—just really good song writers—the Eagles. Kind of like stuff that’s not anything like what I make now. Just really beautiful lyricists and melody writers.”
Are there any new projects or collaborations that you can share with us that you’re looking forward to?
“I recently wrote a song with a producer called Malay, who I’ve worked with previously. He’s probably one of my favorite people to work with and we needed a rap, like some bars on it at the end and we found this guy called Trapo. He’s a rapper from Wisconsin and he is amazing…that’s the one I’m really excited to put out, it’s something very different for me.”
Have you done a lot of collaborations with rappers?
“Only one time with Raury. We did like another version of “Do You Remember,” he did a bit at the end of that.”
How has it been being noticed a little bit more because of “Do You Remember”?
“It doesn’t really happen to me personally, which I like, I’m fine with, but it’s just really nice. It allows me to continue making music, that’s the best part of all of it. When you have a song like that, that does quite well in what it is, it allows you freedom, like I can take two years and just make music and I don’t have to worry about anything else…I don’t see myself as a performer, I see myself as a music writer and you do need time for that. That’s a luxury and I am so lucky to get that.”
Do you like touring in the US?
“It’s so much fun, it’s really fun. It’s different from everywhere else because you’ll be in a different state every night but it’s not really that far away. Compared to Australia, if you’re in a different state every night, you gotta fly.”
Did you ever have an “Aha” moment, when you realized “wow I can take this seriously, I can take music seriously as a career”?
“I’ve had a few of them. They’ve been of various varying strengths, but when I put out “Do You Remember” and people really latched on to it, that was a real moment I was like ‘oh s***, maybe I can do this.’ I’ve always wanted to, but there is a big gap between wanting to do It and actually being able to do it, like being capable of doing it. Like I said, I’m a very lucky boy to able to do this all of the time.”
“I just hope they like the music I put out next, that’s all. That’s my whole existence. That’s what I do every waking hour and I just really care about people liking what I do.”