Sitting in one of the highest suites of the Clarion hotel, looking down upon the Lee on one of the hottest days of the summer, Gavin James is in a pensive mood. 2015 was one of the busiest and most rewarding years of his life, and the way things are going it seems like 2016 will be no different. Thinking back over his career, there is one memory above all others that will be very hard to displace.
“The highlight would have been Croke Park with Ed Sheeran,” he says, stroking his trademark ginger beard and talking in a way that you can hear the smile in his voice before looking. “It was mad, it was so scary, so scary; but it was great. It was so much fun, man. I loved it, it was great.”
Gavin James does, undoubtedly, have a lot to be happy about. His debut album “Bitter Pill” was recently awarded Irish platinum Certification, having been bought over 15,000 times. The titular single was in constant radio rotation upon its release, and the newest remix of his song “Nervous” by Mark McCabe is being played and requested in nightclubs and bars throughout the country.
Looking back on his career, it’s clear that it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Gavin’s first taste of success was in 2013, when he released the song “Say Hello” independently. It was commercially successful and got Gavin nominated for a Choice Music Award. However, 2 years can be a long time for a follow up release, and with the clock constantly ticking there must have been a period when he thought his glimpse of fame had passed? “I dunno, see, I went over to Europe and all that and did a tour with James Blunt, and I just kept touring and touring and touring, and gigging and gigging and gigging. I wasn’t releasing anything because it was always, like, a plan to release an album, but it just never really came about because of all the touring, and just waiting around a lot for the right label; waiting for all this stuff to happen and that. When ‘Say Hello’ came out and kinda kicked off over here, that was the first time anything’s ever happened for me ever, y’know – we released an EP, we played the Academy in Dublin and a whole Irish tour off the back of that one single and from doing that, that was literally just doing an EP and just putting it out randomly.” There was, however, a scrapped album that he admits “didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I wasn’t really happy with the sound and luckily enough I got to scrap it, which was great. It would have been bad.”
While there may not have been a studio album, a live album was put together almost on a whim. “I thought the best way to get the music across was to just give it back as raw as possible and just do a live gig, especially in Whelans, ‘cause I love Whelans. It’s a great spot. And yeah, I was just thinking I’ve been doing these gigs for years and the crowd that I had accumulated from the gigs and I was more or less thinking that I may as well just release a live album and if it doesn’t go well or it does go well, it’s grand.” “Live at Whelans” was released in January 2015 and quickly exploded across the world as independent radio stations in the U.S. picked up on it and started to play it almost continually, with a cover of the song “The Book of Love” picking up massive acclaim both in the U.S. and throughout Europe.
“That went mad!” Gavin recalls, laughing, his smile broadening with every passing second. “It went to the US and it got me a deal with Capitol Records crew, which – it did the job, it was grand. That live album did the job.” It certainly did, and it got James invited onto the biggest chat shows in the U.S. His red hair and his tall stature made him instantly recognizable and gained him a massive following. Touring with Kodaline and Sam Smith only helped the cause.
With his happy-go-lucky approach to music and a loveable persona, there’s no questioning the reason behind the multitude of famous friends. He can count the likes of Kodaline, Taylor Swift, Hozier, Sam Smith and James Corden as personal friends, but it’s a fellow red head that really helped him push his career to new and exciting heights. When Ed Sheeran tweeted saying that record labels were missing out if they ignored Gavin James, it attracted a lot of attention and almost instant recognition. “That was the big thing at the start, he got me for the Croke Park Gig,” James says, in reference to Sheeran’s Dublin gig last summer. “He’s just such a nice lad and I just bump into him every so often and we just chill, have a few drinks and have a small jam.” Asked about his relationship with Hozier, he reminisces about meeting him early in his career at a 2FM session and remembers he knew he would be a success when “he played ‘Take Me to Church’ and I was just sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my God’.”
As his momentum rolls and rolls, it looks like there are no breaks on the horizon. James is set to play Electric Picnic and numerous other festivals around the world, before going to the U.S. in November and finally ending the year to an Irish Crowd on the 9th of December. So, what’s next on the path to world domination?
“I’m gonna do a lot of travelling and hopefully I’ll have an album, or there’s a lot more singles and stuff to bring out in the next few weeks, but yeah… I haven’t really thought about it. It’ll be grand,” he laughs, looking out the window onto a gorgeous summer day. Who are we to doubt? The world is his oyster and Gavin James, smiling as ever, is ready for whatever it offers.
Gavin James’ debut album, Bitter Pill, is available now. It can be purchased on his website (www.gavinjamesmusic.com), Amazon, iTunes and any place music is sold.