INTERVIEW: Mitch James

Mitch James is rapidly making himself an artist that you really want to get acquainted with. 

The New Zealand singer-songwriter bursted onto the scene in last 2017 with his breakthrough single ‘All The Ways To Say Goodbye’ before continuing that heavy momentum with ’21’, ‘Old News’ and ‘Bright Blue Skies’. 

His streaming success with those tracks alone is impressive before you even take into consideration the chart and radio success that also followed in pursuit. 

After extensively touring that record and introducing himself candidly to listeners, he jumped straight back into the studio with a goal to become even more vulnerable and to dive deeper into his identity as a young adult and a musician. 

His highly anticipated sophomore studio album is slated for a 2020 release, and the polished pop lead single ‘Sunday Morning’ showcases a playful side with a bolder and brighter production style that is reminiscent of Ed Sheeran and Dean Lewis. 

I recently chatted to Mitch James before he soundchecked for his Brisbane show at Eatons Hill Hotel with SIX60. We explored how his new single ‘Sunday Morning’ came together, reflected on his growth between his debut album and where he is at now artistically, as well as candidly chatted about the time that he was living on the streets of London and what inspired him to continually keep his head up even in the darkest moments. Check it out HERE; 

TB: ’Sunday Morning’ is a polished pop track that shows a playful side to your songwriting. So how did this track come together? 

MJ: I was in Sydney in August of last year and it was honestly just a reflection of what was going on in my life. I was getting used by someone at the end of a pretty long relationship. I always try to write about what is happening in my life because otherwise I don’t really feel like there’s a point. 

But there is artists and songwriters out there who just write about unattainable shit which the average person can’t relate to. So I’m always trying to make sure that it’s real. 

TB: There is definitely a playful side unravelled within this song with some slight cheekiness directed in the lyrics. So what would you say are your favourite lyrics from the track? 

MJ: That’s a tough one! I was really big on the imagery of this saint and sinner representation with sinners going to church on Sunday morning. 

On a deeper level when you pull apart the song there is this imager you religion. I’m not a religious person but I find the intricacy of it all really intriguing. 

This particular girl wasn’t Christian or anything but I just loved the contrast of how you could be one person on one night but then someone else the next morning. A bit of a saint and a sinner. 

TB: Reflecting on the release of your self titled debut album to where you are at now sonically, creatively and personally with ‘Sunday Morning’, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself? 

MJ: I’ve approached this last year as a real professional human *laughs*. All I’ve done this year is learning. Through breakups, to losing friends and people dying in my life, it’s just been a lot to take in. 

I’ve learnt how to deal with situations in more of a mature way. When I was in London, I was a boy. And when I came back I thought I was a man. But this last year has really been the final kick up the butt I needed into becoming a man. 

My first album was captured between 0-23 years old whereas this new album is only from the age 23-24, but so much has happened in that small amount of time. It’s all about loss whether that’s loss of love or loss of people in your life and learning to grow from it and trying to grow a new leaf and start all over again. But then it’s all about having your walls down, being vulnerable and welcoming it to happen all over again. With love can, and most of the time, come loss. 

TB:Would you say that is where the heart of the new record really lays?

MJ: Yeah! It’s just a honest record. I’m trying to be really vulnerable and encourage men to be more open about their feelings and express themselves more because it seems like there is a lot of walls up and it’s not something they feel comfortable doing or even want to do. So I want to try change that stigma because loss is something everyone has to face.

I’ve learnt to have a lot of patience over the past year and find that inner belief that everything is going to be okay even through all of the hard shit that occurs. Like the past year has been the best and worst year of my life, and all I needed to find was patience to get me through it and personal belief that everything was going to make sense. 

TB: For ‘Sunday Morning’ you teamed up with Australian producers DNA who are quite known for their big pop songs. So was that bold experimentation of working with more polished pop collaborators something you wanted to do in particular with this new music?

MJ: David and Anthony are incredible. They’re like a married couple because they bicker like crazy but what makes them special is that they won’t stop until something is perfect. They don’t give a shit about how they interact with each other in the process because they want the best outcome for the song. 

I knew they were super pop, but I personally don’t think pop is a dirty word. People are scared of pop, but pop is popular music for a reason. So yeah I knew it was going to be bit more of a polished sound when I worked with them but I feel like that’s what I needed to help create a song that was going to break through to a bigger audience. I wanted to create a flagship moment to bring people in and intrigue them with what the rest of the album holds. 

TB: Your debut album has some great singalong moments for your live show like ‘Old News’ and ‘Bright Blue Skies’ but it’s also got some tender moments as well. So reflecting on the record, what would you say was the most vulnerable moment for you as a songwriter?

MJ: Definitely the song ‘Apologise’. I kinda promised the girl who I wrote it about that I wouldn’t really talk about it because the song isn’t exactly what you think it’s about when you look at it from face value. 

But that song was so hard to write and for me to even put on the album because she didn’t want me to put it on the record but I felt like it was my duty as an artist to be open with what’s going on in my life. 

The whole situation with what the song is about and the process of trying to record it was probably one of the toughest moments in my life. I remember recording it in the studio like six months after writing it and it was definitely a very vulnerable moment. 

But then songs like ‘One More’ are quite special to because that’s about one of my best friends journeys with him and his wife having a kid. 

TB: You’ve opened up about sleeping on the streets while you were busking in London and trying to follow your dreams. So what would be some advice you’d give to  someone who may be in the same situation you were while trying to chase their dream? 

MJ: I honestly think the only piece of advice there is for that situation is to just persevere. Because when you’re about to give up, that is usually when the “moment” is about to happen. 

And for me, that is exactly what happened. I was in Germany at a hostel and I was seriously considering what the fuck I was doing as nothing was happening and nothing had happened for years. But I decided to keep pushing and then literally two days later I received an email from Sony Music. So I would say it’s all about perseverance, even to a fault.  

TB: When you were in that place of no real consistency with money and accommodation, there must have been some really dark times involved, so how did you try to make sure you always found that balance and lifted yourself up? 

MJ: I just never wanted to have a “normal” job. I was always a little ambitious. At first it was to play Baseball and then it transferred over to music. 

I saw how miserable 90% of the world is and I just knew that life wasn’t for me. There was a lot of times that I questioned “what am I doing here?” and why I was doing something but I guess it’s just all about dreaming big and believing in yourself. I’ve never let anything get in the way of my vision and I guess that is what has kept me going. 

TB: From supporting the likes of Conrad Sewell and Ed Sheeran to playing your own headline shows, how has playing support roles help shape the flow and feel of your headline shows? 

MJ: I’ve just honestly learnt a lot from my support slots. And even with this tour with the SIX60 lads, I’ve just been learning a lot and taking notes on what I want to focus on and improve on. 

Like every time I watch SIX60 live I learn something new. I want to turn my show into something bigger and more engaging. Especially with the fact that I’m playing arenas next year on my New Zealand tour. So I want it to be a real show. And that’s where those support roles come into play as it helps teach me of where I could go with arrangements, production and showmanship. 

The two that I’ve learnt the most from would definitely be Ed Sheeran and SIX60. 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions. Just answer these little questions with the first thing that comes to your mind. You ready?

MJ: Always! Let’s do it!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new single ‘Sunday Morning’ is…

MJ: The devil face smile

TB: Pineapple on Pizza is…

MJ: Awful! Shots fired! 

TB: If I could have any super power it would be to…

MJ: Have space and time control.

TB: My pre-show pump up song is…

MJ: ‘I Want It That Way’ from the Backstreet Boys or ‘Breaking Free’ from High School Musical.

TB: One Australian slang word I still don’t understand is…

MJ: Why you call Jandals, thongs. Like thongs are not for your feet, they are sexy lingerie!

‘Sunday Morning’ is out now on all streaming platforms!

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