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KING JAMES



He once was an AC/DC acolyte and occasionally resembles a gingerbread man, but Gavin James is now most recognisable for that distinctive voice. The young Dubliner who got Adele's manager rocking talks to Craig Fitzpatrick...

 It's All Hallow's Eve and promising singer-songwriter Gavin James is on the other end of the blower, two days before his debut EP, Say Hello, drops. There's plenty to talk about – chiefly, whether he's gone all festival and is dressed as a decomposing zombie. The 21 year-old lets out a laugh. "Well I'm gonna dress up now I think – as a gingerbread man! Stick a loaf of bread on me, simple as that."
  We can forgive his lack of afternoon prep, he's just over a show at one of his favourite places. "Yeah, I did Ruby Sessions. I love that gig. It was cool because the very first gig I did, there was this Australian lad called Renny Field on the bill, and he was playing again last night. I was like 'fuck!' because he was unreal and I could barely play back then when I was 16. To have him performing before me was amazing."
  We'll get to all of the amazing developments in this young man's career but, seeing as last night's Ruby Sessions saw things coming full circle, let's trace back around to the beginning.
  A Dubliner born and bred, James grew up in a musical family.
"I did yeah," he nods. "Basically, my sister has been singing since I was born. She's in the Dublin Gospel Choir and she has an unbelievable voice. She'd walk around the house singing all the time. Apart from that, my dad has great music taste as well. He got me into Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens..."
As evidenced by his EP, Gavin James' voice is all depth, warmth and soul. Recalling the classic R&B stars of yesteryear, you imagine him wandering down the vinyl avenues of Motown as a lad. "I love that stuff, definitely. Those epic singers. Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr.... Because that's what I used to sing the most. And I think my style now has to do with performing all those songs. At cover gigs, I'd be doing the likes of Etta James. I must have just adapted to that. Is it brave to launch into those kind of numbers? It can get bad... they don't always go very well!"
  He might be protesting too much. Having learnt his craft performing around his hometown from the age of 18 ("I wasn't very good in school so I thought if I just keep practising I might be able to make a living out of it!"), he's been earning support slots from well respected, established Irish acts (Heathers, Ryan Sheridan) and turning industry heads. His first gig, however, was quite different, back when he was merely a member of another teen band.
  "Do you remember Ramp N Rail skate park? It was there!" he laughs. I can't imagine his chilled, lovelorn balladry being the ideal soundtrack to a bunch of baggy-trousered kids doing ollies.
"Not AT ALL. I was more into AC/DC back then. That's all I could play when I younger. Well not just... Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix, all of that. It was a bit mad. We'd only got a drummer the week before and he ended up breaking his arm. He only had one hand to play drums with but it was memorable anyway." Memorable shows are now de rigeur for James. It was to be a trip to LA early in 2012, appearing at the Worldwide Radio Summit, that took his fledgling career to the next level. Having been courted by Believe Recordings, who also take care of James Vincent McMorrow his showcase slots sealed the deal. "Big time. We actually did a showcase for Believe before we went away but I think it was playing in front of all these other big record companies over there that landed me the deal."
  Despite the positive outcome that brought about the EP release and will hopefully result in an album in March, James admits that the showcases took out of his comfort zone. Still, he made it work.
  "The first gig was in the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood and all the biggest heads in radio were there. I was so nervous. At the next one, Adele's manager was sitting in front of me. [Warner Bros. Vice President] Seymour Stein was there. Crazy. This was early in the morning as well, 7 o'clock. I'm used to the whole 'get everyone singing along!' kinda atmosphere so it was funny. A lot of them were really serious, which is obviously a good thing, but it was just me and the guitar so... I just started to get them singing along. It was weird to see Adele's fucking manager singing along! I'll always remember that sort of stuff."

The Say Hello EP is out November 2.

Live Dates:UK Dates:
5th November | Birmingham - The Arcadian
6th November | Manchester - The Ruby Lounge
8th November | London - Union Chapel
10th November | Glasgow - Oran Mor

Irish Dates:
12th November | Belfast - The Stiff Kitten
14th November | Dublin - The Academy
15th November | Cork - The Pavilion