INTERVIEW: Creating A Debut Album In Lockdown

What better way to start the week and the month then to chat to someone who got inspired in the current lockdown situation to create and delve into a brand new project. James Walsh has just released his debut album Ruthless Window  where most of the lyrics were improvised on the spot, with only a tiny amount of editing. I spoke to James to find out about inspirations for the album as well as whether there will be any live shows in the future.

Hello there James tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hello! I am James Walsh, a singer-songwriter who was never in the indie band Starsailor, not to be confused with James Walsh, the singer-songwriter who was in Starsailor. That man has been ruining my SEO for many years. 

Tell us all about the project that you are bringing to the online world at the moment?

At the age of 41 I have finally learned enough chords (seven) and strumming patterns (two) to release my debut solo album. The idea was simple: try to write a song for every day of lockdown III, then, when you have enough for an album, release that album into the world and see what happens. 

How was the project formed?

I’ve been jamming with friends and recording covers for years, but I haven’t successfully written a new song for almost ten years, since the cult indie-pop anthem “First Dog In Space”. The melodies have always come easily, but I find writing lyrics excruciating. I hit upon a cunning solution: stream of consciousness, or perhaps even “improv”. I sang whatever came into my head at the time, and those are the lyrics that appear on the album, with only a modicum of editing and tidying up. I found it liberating, almost like therapy, and I’m really proud of some of the words that had been lurking in there all along. The album is called Ruthless Window because I gave myself a ruthless window of a single hour to come up with each song.

How did you get into music?

I’ve been an obsessive music fan my whole life, and used to DJ at a series of varyingly successful indie nights in London. But I was a latecomer to music in terms of making it myself, learning my first and only instrument at the age of 30. And it’s not even a very serious instrument: the ukulele has many associations, mainly comedic and twee, but they make a beautiful sound and the chords are easy. Everyone should own at least one. MJ Hibbett was right: they should give them out in primary schools instead of those infernal recorders.

What is your favourite track?

The album closer, This Can’t Go On Forever. An emerging-from-lockdown wish fulfillment banger! The tune has been in my head for a decade, and it was a relief to finally make good use of it. My friend Dr Ruth Martin kindly took time out from translating an enormous German novel to help me sing the chorus. 

With everything happening in the world at the moment, why is it so important to have activities like yours available?

Art, music and culture are life, and a lot of that which makes life worth living is not available to us at the moment. Plus the world of work seems to have melded into the world of free time even more since the pandemic, with emails always there to be answered and no-one is ever truly “off”. I would strongly urge everyone out there to treat themselves with kindness, and perhaps have a bath while listening to my new album.

What can people expect over the next few weeks from your project?

I’m quite busy with my sketch comedy group, but I will be writing to every single human individually in the world imploring them to listen to my songs. I have been stockpiling stamps for years. They said I was crazy, but who’s laughing now?

For the follow up, I am going to collaborate with other musicians so I am not awkwardly playing synths on my iPad.

Will there be any live performances or online shows? 

The idea of doing online live shows absolutely terrifies me, but now you’ve suggested this, I will see if this is something I can arrange. I wish I’d written down which chords I used.

If people want to find out more about you on social media where shall they visit?

You can stream (or even buy!) my album on bandcamp and I tweet @jamesofwalsh

Finally why should people get involved?

Every time you stream the album I pet Chloe, the little cat featured in Oystercatcher Sunrise. And for every copy sold (it’s only £5!) I will buy her a new treat, scratching post or human-filter for Zoom. 

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