Interview: James Morrison, musician

James Morrison
James Morrison
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THERE are many reasons to admire James Morrison - three of them can be found in the album section of all good record stores for starters. Other things impress you, though. His down-to-earth attitude among them.

Taking time out from rehearsals for the tour that brings him to the HMV Picture House tomorrow, the biggest-selling British male solo artist of the last three years explains how he’s managed to become a global superstar while avoiding the glare of paparazzi flashbulbs.

“It’s not that difficult, really,” says the 27-year-old singer. “I stay out of the way on purpose - it’s just the way I choose to live my life.

“I’m not an ultra-private person or anything,” he continues. “I just don’t like the feeling that my life is out of my control. For me, music is the most important thing and I want to be remembered for that - not for what I wear, what pub I go to or who I hang out with.”

Tabloid fodder or not, the past five years have seen him become one of the most widely recognised singer-songwriters in the UK, selling 4.5 million albums.

Not bad going for someone who was earning a living washing vans before his music career took off.

Morrison burst on to the scene in 2006 with debut single You Give Me Something, which became a hit across Europe, before his first album, Undiscovered, debuted at the top of the UK charts. He won a Brit Award for Best Male Solo Artist for his efforts, before releasing second album Song For You, Truths For Me, which provided him with another pair of hits in the shape of You Make It Real and Broken Strings, his acclaimed collaboration with Nelly Furtado.

Last month, Morrison returned to the top of the UK charts with third album The Awakening, which saw him work with ex-Suede man Bernard Butler, as well as collaborating with pop’s girl of the moment Jessie J.

“It’s a good mix of soul music,” he says, explaining how The Awakening differs from his previous two albums. “I was listening to some stuff from the 60s and 70s, like Carole King, Cat Stevens and Van Morrison - just those simple productions with a good live band in the room. There’s also a bit of folk.”

Despite the huge success he’d enjoyed with his first two albums, Morrison deliberately set out to take his music in a new direction on album number three.

“I knew I wanted it to go in a new direction,” he says. “I wanted it to be less poppy and less sort of... I don’t know, I just felt I was in this little box and I wanted to get out of it. I felt like I’d been stereotyped as this romantic singer-songwriter who just loves singing f****** love songs, and I wanted to get away from that.”

The softly-spoken singer says he’s been through a difficult time in his personal life in the past couple of years.

He explains that he suffered a long bout of depression after his father, Paul Catchpole (Morrison is a stage name), died in August last year after shunning his son’s attempts to help him beat alcoholism.

And he admits he also went through a very difficult time in his relationship with his long-term girlfriend, Gill, after their daughter Elsie was born three years ago - though the couple have since put personal problems behind them.

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, though, and out of all that heartache and turmoil came the songs for his new album, - including Right By Your Side (about Gill) and Six Weeks (a song inspired by the death of his father).

“I think that’s why I like this album so much,” Morrison reflects. “It’s because I went through a really s*** time in my life and I’ve turned it into a positive.

“All my heart and soul has gone into it,” he continues. “I think that it’s coming from all the places that I love music to come from.

“Up to then, I had been a little bit lost in my life - despite my success,” he adds.

One of the more upbeat tunes on the new album is the aptly-titled Up, Morrison’s radio-friendly collaboration with pop diva Jessie J.

“It was pretty awesome working with Jessie J,” he beams.

“It was one of those things that just happened by itself, really.

“When the idea of another duet came about, originally I hated it. But eventually I came around to the idea of doing another one, and the only person who I could think of who would be really interesting to collaborate with was Jessie.

“I think we both come from a similar sensibility of songwriting and style.

“I must admit, I was a little bit nervous to work with her at first,” he continues. “But she actually was really funny, quite self-deprecating.

“When she got on the vocals, she knew exactly what she was doing - she really is such a good singer.”

James Morrison, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, tomorrow, 7pm, returns only, 0843-221 0100