Written by Kelly Holm
Think Ed Sheeran, but bluesier and more soulful, with a hint of electronica and a dash of hip-hop thrown in. That’s James Gillespie. This up and coming British singer-songwriter is highly esteemed by the likes of Elton John.
“I love your music and play it on my show all the time,” the “Bennie and the Jets” singer told Gillespie at the premiere of Rocketman, the biopic based on his life.
But, if the words of Sir Elton aren’t enough to convince you, just take a moment or two to listen to the casual, emotional strains of Gillespie’s “Dead in the Water” or “Him.Her.” You’ll be smitten in an instant.
“We could be high/If you’d be mine/I’m dead in the water without you,” Gillespie croons in the former track, his favorite to perform.
“Down low on the neck of the guitar and slide all the way up at the end,” he says of it. “I’m into it. It always sets me off.”
A loyal fan of Loyle Carner, Gillespie’s familiar with all the highs and lows of networking to get anywhere in the music industry, busking included.
“I only knew about [five] songs on the guitar,” he said of those early days performing on sidewalks and nightclubs. “[I] had to just repeat them all night.”
But, he was not one to give up on the aspiration he’d held ever since he was in school.
“Music just hit me so hard,” he said. “When I was a kid it would make me emotional before I even knew what the words meant.”
And now, after years of dedication, he can finally say that he’s helped to instill those feelings in others. He was initially shy about unleashing his original music upon the world, and admits that writing it “normally involves a bottle of rum.” But, in order to receive praise from none other than Elton John, Gillespie had to take that leap of faith.
“Part of me wanted to hide that stuff away and only show it to people I was close to,” Gillespie admits. “Letting strangers get so close to you can be a bit fucked up. Especially when they talk to you about it afterwards. [You are] kind of giving them all your deepest parts without saying a word.”
Gillespie’s upcoming record is called Safe and is a “crazy mix” of both brand new and remixed old songs. Some were written six years ago, while others are only six weeks old. “Someday Sundays” is an acoustic ballad, while “Love Lost” is what he describes as “a track… that hits me harder than ever before.”
“We kept it super stripped back so you can feel the honesty in it,” he says of “Love Lost.”
Gillespie hopes to take his tunes to Japan, and perform in “small places that don’t get a lot of music.” But, in the meantime, he’s got shows in Austria, Germany and Switzerland happening in November.
“Travel!” he urges his fellow musicians. “It will give you more to write about.”
Yet, he is humble enough to acknowledge that he doesn’t yet have everything figured out. “I should probably start doing vocal warm ups [before shows],” he said. “There will always be something else to aim for.”
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