Image by Sarah Doyle Photography
James Vincent McMorrow is a difficult man to pin down. He’s been busy doing press for his third album, We Move, which marks a change in direction from his previous two releases (2011’s Early In The Morning and 2014’s Post Tropical). The album sees a departure from his usual folk pop, ripe with dense imagery to a much more stripped back, R’n’B/hip-hop sound, with central themes of loss and anxiety. “Everything on the record is written from personal experience – writing it was cathartic and healing, you could say creating it was a bit selfish. It covers different aspects of my personality and life over the last ten years, leaving school and growing up. There wasn’t really anywhere to hide.” He reveals.
On tour last year McMorrow met Nineteen85, a Grammy-nominated record producer (best known for producing some of Drake’s biggest hits) who ended up co-executive producing We Move. The first single, Rising Water, perfectly blends his classic falsetto with layers of synths and beats. Did the change in direction make it more daunting to make? “In every part of this new album I see myself. I hear it in every lyric and every note. And it’s still terrifying. But it’s exactly what I needed to make.”
In the past McMorrow has been accused of hiding behind his metaphors, but there’s no place to hide on this record. He’s very open about his struggles with anxiety and low self-esteem, having started playing drums at sixteen to release pent-up anger, he didn’t see music as a potential future career. A friend at school gave him a Jeff Buckley CD which made him think differently about music; he also cites Fiona Apple as a big musical influence.
Everything on the record is written from personal experience – writing it was cathartic and healing, you could say creating it was a bit selfish
Since then he’s battled anxiety, an eating disorder and is no stranger to failure (he was dropped by Universal very early on in his career). Having had a strong belief that he could be a musician as a teenager – he could hear strange abstract thoughts in his head and knew he could translate them into songs, McMorrow sees creative inspiration everywhere and is constantly writing and recording snippets of songs into his phone and laptop, although he admits his songwriting process is chaotic. “It’s amazing how a genius like Nick Cave has an office and treats songwriting and recording as a nine to five job then goes home.”
McMorrow went to London to 2008, by his own admission very naive and not prepared for what was in store. He’s thankful for the experience though, as it helped him to better understand the music business, having watched friends sign big record deals which fell flat. “If I’d been more self-possessed earlier on, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now – I’m always pushing myself to improve and grow as a result.”
It’s perhaps these observations that have helped McMorrow create the new record. “There’s no reason why dancing and heavyheartedness need to be mutually exclusive things.”