INTERVIEW: James Fredholm



 James Fredholm


I have been speaking with James Fredholm about his…


latest track, Oars. The respected, Zurich-based musician discusses the inspiration behind the song and what Oars (released on 27th October) symbolises. It is from the forthcoming L.P., Love Is the Answer. He chats about the album and future tour dates – including a date at In the Round with Emma Stevens, Megan O’Neill and Mark Sullivan (who I feature tomorrow).

Fredholm tells me about his musical education and growing up in Austin (Texas) in the 1970s. He chats about his connection to poetry and artists like Neil Young; fond memories of his time in music – and the records that have impacted him the hardest.


Hi, James. How are you? How has your week been? 

In one word: great!

I have been busy with marketing activities and getting ready for the upcoming U.K. tour. I will play at a club in Zurich on Thursday – I will see many of friends from this area. I have a weekend house in the Black Forest and enjoy long, autumn walks in the countryside.

For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?

I grew up in Austin, Texas and came to Europe in the 1980s after university. I was in London for ten years, and then, Switzerland since 1998. I have always been true to my artistic heart but was quite busy with career and family for some years. Now I am on my 'road not taken’ as a full-time poet and singer-songwriter. 

This was always my dream.

Oars is your upcoming single. Can you tell me a bit about its background and origins?

It started as a poem and is in my poetry collection. 

The imagery was a metaphor about the search for meaning in life - and love was the intended destination. When I evolved it into a song; I was at that point of making the job change and just expanded it to reflect on how work, in my case, was kind of meaningless - an exercise in rowing.

I know a bit of the song concerns materialism and commercial lure. Do you think music is an industry obsessed with a quick dollar – or does your anger derive from industry and big businesses?

Well, in my case; it derives from doing something for the wrong reasons: specifically, a business career rather than something I felt passionate about, like art. Deep down; I always knew I was selling out: I felt kind of trapped by success; a victim of my self-doubt and social pressure.


It is taken from the album, Love is the Answer. What does that title mean to you and how much of the record concerns battling hostilities and divisions with love?

Nice...I like that question. 

At a certain point in my life, I realized that love and people are way more important than the truth, success; being right. I had to rethink my approach to life and, over time, I get closer to my heart - which feels right. I get more distance now from what you call hostilities and divisions - I am an artist, not a soldier.

I believe you are accompanying the single (on 27th October) with a collection of poetry. Why did you decide to do that and what form will the collection take – in terms of themes and subject?

I was always writing poetry and when I started to ‘uncage’ myself it intensified. I wrote about three-hundred poems over the last five years dealing with my personal struggles, relationships and the meaning of life. The songs and the poems are interrelated and publishing them together adds to the context of what I am trying to say. 

Poems are more literate: songs are more intuitive.


I guess you are a poet first; a musician second. Do the two disciplines overlap and interlock would you say?

Yes; they overlap beautifully.  

I also paint and find lots of connected inspiration from that as well. The source is the same: my inner-feelings and experiences; trying to express it in a meaningful way that feels right.

What was it like growing up in Texas during the 1970s? What kind of music were you raised on? Who are the artists that struck your heart?

It was amazing to be in Austin where there was this deep, authentic music scene.

Texas, itself, is a little backwards, but Austin was always different: a liberal university town with a cool, proud culture. I was raised on waves of music. First, The Beatles; then Psychedelic Rock like (Jimi) Hendrix and Led Zeppelin; eventually the more acoustic sounds of C.S.N.Y. (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), Neil Young (and many others).

I loved following local artists in the Austin scene - people like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Johnson and Christopher Cross.


Do you feel modern music has the same grandeur, conviction and quality as the 1970s? What are your feelings on the current scene?

Tricky question

I had the feeling that musicians in the ’70s were pioneers and not so much in it for business; it was more of a cause. Meanwhile, the times have changed. But, talent is talent - that has not changed. I never get tired of hearing new music. I am partial to analogue sound.

I have worked a lot with digital - but it doesn’t feel the same to me.

How is the rest of this year playing out? Where will you be spending Christmas this year?

I will be in the U.K. for the tour in October - and will probably get a place in London for the month of November. I will come back to Switzerland for Christmas, and then, to Austin for a while in the New Year.


What tour dates do you have approaching? Where can we see you play?

Well. The In the Round tour in October will be in seven cities around the U.K. I am planning another U.K. tour in the New Year, probably March (to be confirmed later this year).

I know you are touring the U.K. soon. Is this your first time here and are you looking forward to the visit?

As I said earlier, I lived in London for ten years. I was in Brighton and Wiltshire for three months this past summer. 

I love the U.K. and plan to spend a lot more time there in the future.


Emma Stevens is an artist you’ll be sharing the stage with. I am a fan of her music but I wonder what you connection is to her and why she is someone you are gigging with?

The tour was organized by our booking agency, IAA Touring. I have never met Emma but I like her heartfelt Indie music - and share many of the same influences she has. For me as a new artist, it is a real honour to share a stage and her fan-base.

I know we will have a great time - also with Megan and Mark.

If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?

I would start with Neil Young’s Harvest

Second would have to be something from The Beatles - probably, Revolver

Third would be Nirvana - Nevermind

But I am glad I don’t have to narrow myself down because there is so much great music - I would be lost without it.


What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?

Having now thought about this for all of about five minutes...

I would tell them to stay true to their hearts and to believe in themselves - no matter what comes.

It is so easy to lose yourself in today’s world.

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).

Well that sounds like a mood-question - and I’m in the mood to hear Flume by Bon Iver


Follow James Fredholm