Tuesday, before his show with Oh Wonder
at Brooklyn Steel I sat down with singer-songwriter James Young
for a quick chat. We dragged some folding chairs from the main floor of the ballroom to the entryway of Brooklyn Steel and talked over the sound check booming out of the doors behind us. Jaymes, who during his fantastic set announced that he, along with everyone on the tour bus, had caught the fall cold that was going around, spoke to me about his early musical influences, his family's influence on his music, and his creative process.
ANNIE BRINICH: So where were you before this show tonight?
JAYMES YOUNG: I was in… New Haven? I might have to double check that.
AB: How long have you been on the road?
JY: Since the 5th of September, I believe. And New Haven was the last one.
AB: Do you feel tuckered out yet? Or just getting started?
JY: It's always ups and downs, energy-wise. I think we're all doing pretty decent. We had six shows in a row. Three of those were in Toronto. After that they were not in Toronto. It was Montreal and two in the States. So that was a little tiring. Six nights in a row, plus travel, plus a couple days of, you know, the other stuff. But I mean, that's just--
AB: That's life?
JY: Yeah. The more you tour, the more you acclimate.
AB: Do you like touring? Or do you prefer studio time?
JY: I'm always gonna be a super fan of writing and making music. Playing on the road is really fun, but there's just nothing like creating a new song. Like new sounds and new songs--it's hard to compare the two.
AB: Can you talk a little bit about your creative process, when you're getting ideas for songs? How they come to be songs?
JY: I don't have a normal or consistent process. Sometimes I write lyrics first, or sometimes I make music first. Both of those things can happen or start in different ways in their own right as well. I play a few instruments and sometimes I'll be sleeping when I wanna write a song, or wake up and have an idea. So it's kind of--I'm kind of all over the place.
AB: Once you have an idea for a song, how do you make it happen?
JY: A lot of my music is done pretty much in house. So that would be in my personal studio. Occasionally I'll work with another producer. But so far it's been kind of a solo project. Besides staying in house, like the actual process of starting a song, sometimes I'll go right into production, sometimes I'll write the whole song first. I mean, these days there's like, not a lot of rules. Technology allows you to kind of start anywhere along the process and either backtrack or start recording the song before you're done writing it.
AB: Do you have a person who vets your work? Someone who you always send stuff to to tell you if it's crap or not?
JY: I think every artist or musician--or any kind of artist I guess--has those people that they share their work with and you can kind of ask, 'Oh man, I just made this last night. What did you--did you work on anything? This is what I've been doing lately.' You have that group of people you work with, and naturally you kind of share with them. And vice versa.
AB: How long have you been making music?
JY: Since I was probably 15 or 16--seriously. Obviously, there was interest earlier than that, but "aspiring" musician since I was 15 or 16.
AB: What was the first instrument that you picked up?
JY: It was a guitar.
AB: Do you have any early influences?
JY: Too many to name. I grew up with grunge, hip-hop, classic rock, and classical music and opera. It's really hard for me to latch on to just one style or a few artists because I feel like I'm putting too much credit in one place.
AB: What about your parents? Did they play music? Did they play certain kinds of music?
JY: They listened to all kinds of music. My mom apparently played guitar a lot when she was younger and I've seen her play a few times as well. I think she taught me my first real chord.
Also check out our session with Jaymes Young from back in the day: