James Harries: The Cool Guy

By C. Price

The day I wrote James Harries a message asking if he would do an interview with Global Texan Chronicles he was in France.I got a note back the same day that said “Can I ask you questions too? And how the devil are you?” Considering that we haven’t spoken in years it made me very happy.
James is a cool guy. He plays the guitar since he was a child, his voice is  like one that you haven’t heard before. He doesn’t fit in only one genre.

He plays solo, with a band or film music. If you see him in concert he will make you feel special because he talks to you. And if you ever need a ride I’m sure if there is room in the car he will give you one.


How and when did you discover your voice?
I can always remember singing (as a kid I’d always be whistling and humming to myself). I’d sing with the nuns at primary school and at the church I was made to go to. But my first instruments were the cornet in the local brass band, then clarinet and saxophone (my Dad was a saxophonist). I then started singing backing vocals for people from about the age of 15 and I just began singing more and more and after my saxophone was stolen from me I just continued singing. It wasn’t a “plan” at first but singing’s a love and a joy and maybe the way I get to express myself the best.

You grew up in the UK, you have been living in the Czech Rep. for a long time now. Which of the 2 is home?
I’m probably still trying to grow up…Both the UK and the Czech Republic are my homes yet I don’t feel fully at home in either. It’s hard to explain but I’m not complaining. I enjoy the best of both worlds. And luckily I get to travel a lot. I feel very much at home whenever I arrive back in the UK but I’m not really connected to what’s going on (practically more than culturally). I love living in the Czech Republic, but unlike say in the US (where once you’ve moved there you can feel like an American in a matter of years), I think I’ll always be a stranger in the Czech Republic.

I am assuming you are always working on music, are you recording at the moment, are you writing or “just” touring?
You assume right! As a working touring musician I’m just writing and “touring” a little til the end of August. I was supposed to be making a new record this summer but I’ve put it on hold because I’m not ready with a producer and I want this record to be a bit of a departure and I realise I need more time (I don’t want to rush). But I’m still writing —- I try to write a song a week. I toured a lot the first 6 months of the year. Now I’m writing before I go out again in the autumn.

There is also talk of another film soundtrack to be done in August…we’ll see. If I’m picked I’ll get my teeth into that. Oh and all the other stuff that you have to do as a musician while not actually playing… booking shows to fill in tour gaps, posting CDs to people across the world who’ve been kind enough to buy them, answering questions:) etc.

I have listened to you playing solo or with a band. Which one is more fun for you?
Ah! They’re both great fun! (I’m lucky hey!). I love the connection with an audience when playing solo (it can be much more intense sometimes plus it can take you on interesting journeys too…..it’s easier to pull out odd songs on a whim when you’re by yourself). Also, travelling solo usually means I get to meet more people and that’s part of the “job” I like. But playing with a great band is pure joy. When it’s right it’s an amazing feeling. I’d play more often with the band but right now with a young family it’s a money thing……. there should be more band shows soon though.

If you had the chance to collaborate with any artist you like who would it be?
Wow….I’ve been lucky enough to play with lots of great musicians and there are loads I love and respect but if I had to choose one I think it’d be Leonard Cohen. I saw him play last night in fact and it was fantastic. I’m a fan and have great respect for him but he seems so nice, generous, giving and humble I’d love to try writing something with him.

Does touring become a burden sometimes?
Not a burden no. It is hard to be away from my 2 kids. But I love touring and playing and with Skype it’s not too bad, at least I get to see them most days. They think it’s normal and then of course when I am at home I really am at home and spend enough time with them.

Which genre do you best fit in or is there one?
I suppose I must fit one but I’ll leave that up to you/someone else to decide: singer-songwriter’s a bit of a funny one since it literally covers anyone who writes songs and sings them….I don’t know.

Musically spoken, are there any unfulfilled dreams for you?
I can count my blessings that I’m able to make music and play it and have people show up to hear it and appreciate it and that’s my job. There are places I’d like to play I haven’t (yet:)) and things I’d quite fancy doing but…….. I’ll keep those to myself….

Three things that are still on your bucket list?
I just had to Google “bucket list”. A saying I’d never heard. Comes from a film I’ve never seen. Should I go see it? 3 things to do before I die?..No pressure then…errggghh…..not get sick, learn to play the piano properly, be a good dad.

Three songs that are gonna be part of your life forever?
I only get 3?? I’m too old for just 3. First 3 I can think of (and there are many more for many different reasons.

Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands – Bob Dylan
Queen Bitch – David Bowie
Sally Cinnamon – Stone Roses

Worst venue/ city you have played in?
ha ha having played 1000s of shows the strangest always stay in your mind. There are a fair few to choose from but the oddest this year was the 1st date of the Polish leg of the January tour (up North near the Baltic). I played a charity event outdoors on pretty much the back of a wagon to a city-square full of people (most of whom were drunk —- I was invited because I’d had a song of mine used on a popular advert in Poland so it gets even stranger). It was about -15 Celsius and they’d rigged up these dodgy looking gas heaters right next to me so I wouldn’t freeze while playing (though I couldn’t feel my fingers and I was worried I’d lose my voice for the rest of the tour singing in that temperature.). Just to make it a little more eventful someone I guess had spilt something on the “stage” and it was like an ice-rink. In the end the people seemed to enjoy it but it was mad. Then right after I’d finished they carried on this pig to be auctioned off. Weird. The town was lovely though at least (from what I saw…I didn’t hang about much…I couldn’t feel my feet) and it was funny. You’ve always got to see the funny side of it.

I prefer to remember the great shows.

Would you leave your phone at home for at least one day?
Yes!!! I have a smart phone and I made a record on it and it’s handy when travelling for email etc. but I’d much rather not have a phone at all. It eats up my time for other things (I’m terrible). Before I got it I was without a mobile for a few weeks. Bliss.

Danke!

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