PHOTO CREDIT: Debbie Ellis  

James Holt


IT is great to chat with James Holt


 PHOTO CREDIT: Debbie Ellis

about his new single, Alone Again, and how it came to mind. Holt discusses the song’s origins and reveals whether there will be more material; the artists he grew up around and what the music scene is like in Manchester – Holt recommends a rising act to watch.

I ask whether there will be any tour dates and how she spends time away from music; why he is inspired by the 1960s and that sound; a few albums that mean a lot to him – he ends the interview by selecting a great track.


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

Hey, Sam; all good thanks! Though, I’ve got a slight cold – aCHOO!

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

I’m a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from one of the shires of England. I write music in an attempt to make people cry – but in a nice way.

Alone Again is your latest single. Is there a story behind the song?

There are three separate narratives in Alone Again with the underlying theme of loneliness and regret. In the first verse, the character loses his love in death (“Never-ending dream”); in the second he never told his love of his feelings (“I should have screamed when I was whispering”) and, in the final verse, he blames himself for suffocating their passions (“Like fire clings to a burning man I have smothered you”).

It’s mainly just exploring the idea of loneliness: how someone can be lonely by no fault of their own or alone in a crowd – I usually include ‘turning points’ in my songs (in this case, there are two or three!).

The song has that mid-1960s vibe to it. Was there a reason for stepping into that direction?

I really enjoy subverting people’s expectations in songs through sudden tempo changes, similar to Brian Wilson’s production method of splicing together of different sections…which gives Alone Again an angular quality. I’ve always loved the classic songs of the '60s and - drawing inspiration from The Beatles (the Rubber Soul/Revolver years) and the dramatic variety of early Scott Walker - I aimed to write a song that pays homage to that golden era of songwriting.


PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Husband

What comes next in terms of material? Are you working on more stuff?

I’ll be going back in November to work on another track, maybe two. I can’t really say much about it but it’s a live favourite. 

Can you give me a sense of the artists you grew up around? Who do you count as idols?

I play piano, guitar and cello and I did all the exam grades and played lots of different styles of music (from Classical to Jazz to Rock) - because of this, I’ve grown up with so many different artists and composers. To name a few: The Beatles, Radiohead; Pink Floyd, David Bowie; Miles Davis, Bob Dylan; Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell; Scott Walker, Tchaikovsky.


PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Wolfgang Webster

What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?

I’m looking ahead into next year now. The rest of 2018 will be spent recording some more material and I have a couple of really cool shows to announce very soon!

Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?

I have two…

The first (is) meeting Brian Eno and have him champion and support my music; the second, performing at the Royal Albert Hall. The performance was great but I think I enjoyed the sound-check more. I could play with the room and hear it reverberating back to me; take it all in. When I was performing my set for real, I was just concentrating on my performance; making sure I didn’t f*ck up! Haha.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Debbie Ellis

As a Manchester-based artist; what is the scene like up there now? Are there particular venues you’d recommend?

The scene is pretty healthy in terms of new music coming through – sadly, we’ve had a few venue closures recently to make way for accommodation or restaurants, which I believe is a similar story all over the U.K. (I’d like to highlight the Music Venues Trust, who protect and raise awareness of grassroots music venues). If you go to the Northern Quarter in Manchester, you’re likely to find a diverse set of musicians playing in one of its venues every night of the week.

Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?

Abbey Road - The Beatles

It’s my favourite Beatles album. It still blows my mind how a band that was pretty much split up at that point could make such a complete album.

In Rainbows Radiohead

Just the perfect melting pot of Alt-Rock, Folk and Electronic music.

In a Silent Way - Miles Davis

My go-to chill album. This album was made by splicing together different sections and takes of different pieces. It was way ahead of its time and pretty genius really.


PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Wolfgang Webster

If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?

Have you seen U2’s live setup recently? They have this huge setup with like a double-sided screen cage (which displays huge images) that’s a few-hundred metres long and dissects the crowd and they run up and down; play on the main stage and play right in the middle of the crowd. I think, for that experience alone, I’d like to support them!

I have a thing for olives so they’d feature on my rider along with orange and mango juice.

What advice would you give to new artists coming through?

D.I.Y.! You can do so much yourself now, from recording and events to radio/online promotion.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Debbie Ellis

Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?

I’m playing at St George’s Hall in Liverpool on 1st November - it’s a event run by Universal Inclusion to celebrate equality and inclusion (featuring all sorts, including a big band; an orchestra, lute soloists). In December, I’m taking part in Foundations Fest in Manchester where I’ll be on a panel discussing the Manchester grassroots scene.

In February, I have a full band show at Victoria Theatre, Halifax for an all-day event hosted by Clint Boon. I also have a Manchester headline show announcement coming soon, so keep an eye out…


 IN THIS PHOTO: The Slow Readers Club

Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?

Check out The Slow Readers Club if you haven’t already - they recently sold out Manchester Apollo! I supported them for a couple of shows for Independent Venue Week earlier this year.

Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?

Sounds a bit sad but pretty much everything I do is music-related! When I’m not doing my own writing, recording or performing my own music I’m either teaching music or playing function gigs (I play piano in a restaurant and I’m playing keyboards in a production of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat in Bolton this November!)

Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).

Please can I have When You Know Why You’re HappyMary Margaret O’Hara


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