THIS interview will be spread around my social media…
in February – when James Perryman’s latest track, Why Do You Only Love Me When I’m Stoned?, is released. It is out on 12th - and is a fantastic offering from the talent London-based songwriter (I have had a sneaky listen and can attest). Of course; I wanted to get the interview out now so people can check out Perryman’s existing work; get excited about what is to come and make sure they prepare their mind for the single - and his third E.P., The Narrow Gate (not out until April). It has been a frantic period for Perryman, so I was keen to catch up and see what his new material is all about – and the themes that have driven his latest work.
He talks to me about his time working with Angus & Julia Stone; thrilling audiences with The Honey Ants – and what it was like having The Honey Ants’ John Grimsey co-produce his (upcoming) E.P.
Perryman discusses the changes in his work and the albums that mean the most to him; some new artists to investigate; how paternal duties (for Perryman and his band) changed things; musicians that have inspired him; whether there are any gigs in the calendar; what advice he would give to new songwriters – and how it feels being compared with the likes of Father John Misty.
Hi, James. How are you? How has your week been?
Good, thanks. Busy at the moment getting ready to release new music and rehearsing new songs for some upcoming shows.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter from West London - and I’m soon to release my third E.P., The Narrow Gate. It’s kind of Alt-Country (but it’s pretty broad overall).
Why Do You Only Love Me When I’m Stoned? is your new track. I love the title! What can you tell me about the song’s origins?
Thanks. Glad you like it - the title is a bit deceptive…
The song is really about the media and people’s general obsession with celebrities’ lives falling apart; whether through drugs, drink or marriages breaking down. It’s on the front covers of so many magazines - and we just feast on it.
It seems like, when these people have sorted themselves out and are well again, we just lose interest and move on to the next one.
The video shows a series of images/sketches. Who illustrated them? What was the reason for the concept/story?
I can’t really take any credit for the video: my friend Thalie Stephan did the art for the cover and the video.
I didn’t even know she’d done the video. I just asked her to do something for the cover that was inspired by the lyrics. When she gave me the cover artwork, it turned out she’d also done this amazingly illustrated video too. She took inspiration from each line of the song and drew something.
It’s really cool.
She’s on Instagram as invisible.supply and is definitely worth checking out.
The E.P., The Narrow Gate, is out in April – the single is released in February. What are the themes and stories explored on the E.P.?
There’s no real overarching theme on the E.P. I think, generally, all my songs come from something I feel quite strongly: I can’t just write about any old thing.
The opening and closing tracks are really about me and my life; some of the struggles and journey so far - and knowing that we’re not alone; even in our lows. A couple of songs are about a hard time from a few of years ago when someone close to my wife and I was going through some heavy stuff around mental-health. Those songs are about how it affected each of us individually and together.
Probably, the most epic song on the E.P. is the third track, Every Piece of the Way - which is about a break-up (not mine), but that song probably carries the most angst and emotion on the E.P.
I think there are a lot of stories in there that people will identify with.
You worked with The Honey Ants and Angus & Julia Stone. What was it like working with them?! Did you learn a lot from that time?
Yeah; both experiences were great.
I learnt a lot from Angus & Julia. It was a bit of a turning point. Before that, I was playing in a loud Rock band. Angus & Julia definitely taught me about space and depth - and being true in your songwriting. Also, you could play their songs in an arena or a living-room and they still have the same presence. I got to play some amazing places with them, too. They took me to Australia and we played Sydney Opera House on that tour.
The Honey Ants have been really cool, too. John and Rebecca are both great songwriters and really work at it all the time. They sing beautifully together, too - and have definitely influenced me harmonically on some of the newer songs I’ve been writing.
The Honey Ants’ John Grimsey co-produced The Narrow Gate. What did he bring to the work – in terms of guidance and insight?
John brought a lot to the E.P…
He’s a really good producer and has a great vision for things. He really helped shape the sound and make the songs punchier in places (and cut to the point). He produced the single, too, and got me to shorten the song - and sing it softer than I had been doing. It came out really good because of it.
What was the reason for setting up a band? How did you come to meet your cohorts?
Although we play under my name; it’s really more of a band vibe I’ve known them all for ages and we’re all good friends. It kind of just fell together a few years back. When I broke up the Rock band I was in, I started playing solo acoustic shows. After a while, I got Rob Pennel to come in and play some light percussive drums. He suggested Tom Quillfeldt on bass and, after a couple of years, we got Olivia Coghill in to sing with us (and sweeten up the harmonies). I love the guys I play with.
I’m always gutted if one of them can’t make it to a show.
I believe paternal duties delayed the progress of your new music. Was it important for you and the band members to focus on family - before following up on To Whom It May Concern and Consumed by the View?
It wasn’t really planned: it’s just that we all ended up having kids around the same time (five of them in total!). It really put the brakes on things in terms of free-time and finishing off the E.P. Although we love playing together; I think it was really important to get our priorities straight - and get to know these new little cool people in our lives before proceeding with the E.P.
Your voice has been compared to the likes of Father John Misty. (I hear shades of Glen Campbell, too). Are these names you are compelled by?
Yeah, definitely. They’re both great singers.
When I was younger; I didn’t really know what my voice was: I just emulated singers that I liked. I think, eventually, I started to really identify with singers who, I felt, were delivering truth and weren’t putting it on - they were just singing in the voice they speak in.
Johnny Cash and Sturgill Simpson are definitely a lot like that.
Which artists did you grow up listening to? Which musicians have inspired your own music?
My music taste is a bit all over the place: anything from Mastodon to Take That. I think the bands that really stand out - and have influenced the music I write - are The Beatles, The Band; The Black Crowes, Bon Iver (all the Bs) - amongst various other things.
I grew up listening to Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age - and I still love all that stuff. I was very influenced by my dad’s record collection, too: stuff like Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Eagles; Led Zeppelin, Evan Dando/The Lemonheads.
The Lemonheads were probably my entry to Country music because they covered some Gram Parsons and, through Gram Parsons, I discovered a load of other Country that I fell in love with.
IN THIS PHOTO: The Honey Ants/PHOTO CREDIT: http://jenmphotography.com/
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
Well…obviously The Honey Ants.
There’s a great singer-songwriter called Louis Brennan (who is a mate of mine). Also; Officer is really cool. His album sounds pretty different to his live shows - but he’s great and definitely worth catching live.
IN THIS PHOTO: Officer
If you had the chance to choose the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be?
The Band – The Band
This album is amazing. It’s just a load of guys working it out and playing in a room. It’s honest. They’ve got three great singers - and it’s just fun and groovy.
Chris Whitley and Jeff Lang – Dislocation Blues
Angus & Julia’s old drummer put this on my radar when we were in Australia. I think it’s recorded in a warehouse. It’s so cool and gnarly. Very raw. It just has a great feel and there’s so much power coming out of it - considering it’s all acoustic guitars.
R.E.M. – Up
This album is so cool. I saw R.E.M. on this tour the first time I went to Glastonbury Festival in 1999 - and it was magical. The album is so broad. (There’s a great Beach Boys influence). It’s rocky, edgy; sorrowful in places.
Is there any advice you would give to fellow artists coming through right now?
Enjoy it. Find people you love to play with and have fun….
Also; find people to help you if you can. There’s so much stuff to sort out around gigs and releases: if you try to do it all yourself, you’ll probably run out of steam for the music.
Can we see you perform anywhere soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I’ll be playing on 7th February at The Bedford in Balham (just ahead of the single release on 12th February). Also; I’m playing at The Coppermill in Walthamstow on 16th February (the week after the release).
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
Hopefully; I’ll be sitting down doing nothing. My only request this year was that we didn’t host - as I’ve spent about six hours in the kitchen for the last few years.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart!
Haha. Cos a mate of mine has been calling me ‘Billy Ray’ recently and cussing my mullet. I’ve had it for about eight years -ain’t nothing wrong with a bit of tail!
Follow James Perryman