Acoustic meets the UK’s hottest new guitar player to talk about his new record, tour, and choice of guitars – check him out on the cover of the April issue on sale March 14
The awards are mounting. The world’s critics have been won over. The legions of fans are waiting. The album is just about to drop. The shows are sold out. James Bay is standing in the eye of a musical storm. And for someone at the epicenter of it all, he’s remarkably chilled. He’s unfazed by everything going on around him, and exudes a calm and collected confidence worn only by those who know they’re truly great at what they do. And great he is. Everything music was lacking at the end of 2014, James Bay is putting back into place. Along with the help of fellow go-to guitar newcomer George Ezra, James is putting the guitar back to the forefront of popular music.
Interview by Guy Little Photography by Richard Ecclestone
“Hold back the river let me look in your eyes, hold back the river so I can stop for a minute and see where you hide, hold back the river, hold back…” I hear James Bay sing. Despite being all over the radio, I’m not listening to it via the wireless – my ears are pressed up against studio two’s door at The Premises studios on the Hackney/Shoreditch border of East London. James Bay is here rehearsing for a sold out KOKO gig the following evening and a subsequent sold out UK tour in April. He’s not been in London for long; returning from gigging in Australia via more gigs in Los Angeles, I expect to find Bay slumped against the studio wall in a haze of jet lag and mainlining caffeine, but the 24-year-old songwriter is in good form. And, why not? James Bay is the hottest ticket in town.
Setting down his guitar, he welcomes me into the studio via a set up of Gibsons, Epiphones, Taylors, and Martins, and begins to tell me about his trip down under. Having never visited Australia prior to 2015, James landed in the country for the first time to a platinum-selling single: ‘Hold Back The River’. He’s taking a lunch break, and in between mouthfuls of a panini, he talks of being in a guitar store hearing a kid play the riff to that song.
‘I just stood next to them and waited for them to realise it was me,’ he laughs, sipping from a can of Coca Cola. ‘It was so crazy in Australia with the single going platinum before the album was out, but it’s good to be back in the UK and to get ready for the shows here.’
To read the full interview, get the April edition of Acoustic magazine in print or via the App Store, on sale March 14. James’ debut album Chaos and the Calm is out on March 23.
Get Acoustic magazine here
Subscribe to the Acoustic YouTube channel here and be the first to see more James Bay interview clips