Six Of The Best – Alistair James | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Eston-based singer-songwriter Alistair James releases his latest single Just Wanna Be Free, a track that speaks about being stuck in one place but wanting to be somewhere else as well as discussing our post-Covid return to normality, relationships, work and general life.

Recorded at home during lockdown and mixed by Paddy Jordan the track is a Dylan-esque, folky affair with harmonica, euphonious guitar sounds, a throbbing bass drum and a mellifluous vocal that takes a more transcendent tone in the chorus. Its Summery ambience and reflective themes will no doubt provide a relevant soundtrack to those who listen to it.

We find out more about Alistair’s influences as he gives us his six of the best…

The Sopranos
The best TV show I have ever seen hand’s down. I love the character of Tony Soprano being the ‘hated hero’ at times it’s just amazing. Not only that but the way he tries to juggle his mob life with his family life just screams out real life trying to juggle a job and also trying to have some kind of time to enjoy yourself. I think it’s easy for everyone to fall into the trap of working too much or getting tied up on the things that really don’t matter that much when the important things like taking time to do the things we love get put on the burner and before you know it, years have passed you ‘can’t remember the last time you did so and so’. I always end up returning to watch this series start to finish, I became slightly obsessed with New Jersey and the east coast of the USA after watching this years ago, still am. Not only that but the music is great, you can tell Steven Van Zandt had a hand in it.

Ever since I was a kid I have loved Batman (the comics, films, animated series) and it’s never left me.. I love it all! I’ve always found the dark side to it fascinating. Other superheroes always had a comedy element or some kind of ‘happy ever after’ theme at the end but Batman never had that and everything seemed to lead on to another problem/mission. I mean take the comic ‘Knightfall’ for example where Bane breaks the Bat, I won’t lie I was heartbroken…but it seems more like how it would go in real life. Let’s be honest Batman was just a dude with a unique set of skills, no superhero powers, it was bound to come to some kind of end. But I think that’s the point, he’s just a man. I’m not saying someone could go out and be Batman (god knows I wish I could!) but it’s just one example of the extraordinary things humans can do if we choose to. He also kept integrity, he had one rule which was he wouldn’t kill after being tested and pushed to the limit so many times. If we were to put that in terms in the music world it’s easy to sell out or get sucked into doing something you don’t really want to do, but you’ve got to keep your integrity and do what makes you happy!

Yorkshire Tea
I don’t know if it can come under the category of ‘life’ but I love it too much to not mention it. It’s well known across the people tune in to my live streams and follow me on social media that I adore Yorkshire Tea. I always say I’m a man of simple taste…at least I like to think I am ha! No other tea compares to it in my book and I have tasted a lot of tea let me tell you! Good strength, good colour and all problems are solved by ‘shall we put the kettle on and have a brew’. As a company though Yorkshire Tea are great, they support live music and venues. They sent me some tea a little while back, I had a little buzz on haha. There’s nothing more I love better than to make a brew of YT and pick up my guitar or piano and just let it flow to see what comes out. But it never happens with a cup of YT, it’s a rule in my house.

You can see a theme emerging here with my taste in TV and film. I remember when I first watched Goodfellas I was blown away. I love real life stories that are made into films and when that ‘grit’ is kept in there it just makes it that more relatable for me. I always loved the way Scorsese has the main character Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) who narrates but then we get to see into these other people like Jimmy Burke (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci). It’s just a great story about Henry Hill’s life and the way the character rises into the mob, does the Lufthansa Heist which was their highest ‘score’ and then the demise of them all through getting ‘whacked’, going to jail or in the case of Henry going into witness protection. We don’t seem to get many films like this anymore, we had The Irishman a couple of years back. I guess the mob isn’t what it used to be, but they make great watching and the stories make for great song writing!

People Watching
Again it doesn’t really fall into the arts but it’s something that influences me massively. Sometimes you cannot beat just sitting in a café and gazing out the window watching people go about their lives. I’ve written a lot of songs after watching market stalls, people blocking up aisles in supermarkets, listening in on conversations people have about their partners and work life. I know we always get taught not to do that but sometimes I can’t help it, so watch out if you see me! I think sometimes inspiration for songs can be hard to come by and you keep searching for something that isn’t there, I often tell myself all I need to do is look out of the window or walk into town and I’ll find what I’m looking for.

The California Sound
There’s a documentary that Jacob Dylan did about this and he meets with bands throughout 60s and 70s who were part of this California sound from Laurel Canyon (The Byrds, The Mammas & Papas, Tom Petty, Crosby Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne etc), it’s a great watch. I’ve always been influenced by the sounds that came out of California around these eras, there was just something going on that can’t seem to be put into words. The harmonies and the melodies were just breathtaking. What is particularly interesting is how the Beatles influenced all of these guys, it was like they were trying to give us their answer to The Beatles and then some. I love the 12 string guitar. I have always been massively influenced by that sound The Byrds and a lot of others used, it’s something I’m looking to work into my own music in the future.

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