Artist Spotlight Interview - James Meadow
The latest album release from James Meadow delivers an inspiring set of folk rock songs that take on a life all their own as the record plays through.
A Scarecrow Sight is complete with neo-folk, rock, and is laden with cinematic tones and a beautiful soundscape.
Tasteful distanced guitars scattered about through the album add vibrant colors to the sound and it's not hard to hear that James Meadow is a storyteller.
Songs are passionate and can be quite emotionally driven but also incredibly descriptive at times enabling you to visualize some of the things he describes.
Most songs feel like they come from a deep rooted place in his heart and are often moving.
With such an in depth album, we had to have a talk with James to find out more.
RAG: Okay James, let's begin with A Scarecrow Sight. The album touches on Americana,
classic rock, and even jazz. Where did this come from?
James: Well, it's not easy to trace a linear path, but I think it all started several years ago from some kind of appeal of the North American acoustic music scene over a young me. In fact, for many years I had an unconscious education nourished by the discovering of
songwriters from my father's vast collection of CDs and vinyl. I believe that much of what I listened to then shows up in what I am doing now.
While if A scarecrow sight has some jazz vibe, it relies on the more recent encounter with
Luca Perciballi, well-known European avant-garde composer and guitarist, producer and
arranger of my album. The songs were born as acoustic pieces with only guitar and voice,
but during the recording sessions we took a different direction in search of new sound
textures. Basically, I think what we are (still) trying to do is to translate the solid legacy of
my musical background into a more contemporary song form.
RAG: With so much going on with the album, I wanted to ask. What bads really influenced
James: The album is actually characterized by a certain heterogeneity in sound and atmosphere; I think that this may come from several years of digging into the rich record production of Bruce Cockburn, an artist to whom I feel particularly indebted. He has always been a point of reference for me in finger-style guitar technique as in writing, often marked by an elegant ethnographic touch. He is also a musician who has been able to explore different musical horizons, deeply renewing his production every ten years, as he tells in his memoir Rumours of Glory. I believe that my reluctance to focus on (or identify with) a
single musical genre depends very much on the richness of his discography.
RAG: How long have you been doing this? How did it all start for you?
James: As I think happens for many, taking a guitar in your hand when you're about ten years old can be quite dangerous: you start dreaming up a life as a rocker or singer songwriter. So it was for me, and the guitar was an object that accompanied me in one way or another during my growth. The decision to turn it into a concrete project, however, comes from a three-month road trip to Canada in 2016, an experience that was initiatory. For a few weeks I was hosted by a family on a remote lake in the Laurentians, near the small village of Morin-Heights. The first night they told me that the room where I was going to sleep had hosted, among many others, Cat Stevens. I had happened, quite casually, in the house that had belonged to the owner of the famous Le Studio, which was a few steps away, no longer used and rather badly reduced. Then, after a series of daring adventures, I was staying at a farm in the Slocan Valley not far from Nelson. There I came across this guy
from Las Vegas who worked with Miley Cyrus; his name was Benoit Brideau and one night
he picked me up and drove me to an open mic night. At the end of my performance he
offered me the opportunity to go to Las Vegas and record in his studio at Bencin's
Productions. Unfortunately I had a plane ticket to Italy scheduled for a few days later, but
when I got home I had clearer ideas about what I wanted to do.
RAG: Do you think you'll be performing live when the time comes? Did you used to gig
James: I believe that the live dimension is essential for an artist, and the difficulties of the current socio-political context are often particularly frustrating and destabilizing. This year,
however, I had the good chance to open a concert for Christian Kjellvander and another
one for Bocephus King. Moreover, besides some smaller live shows, I was able to present
the album in an international livestream organized by River Spirit Music and Musae, both
based in NYC. It was a curious and at the same time challenging experience, being able
only to imagine the audience behind the camera. If you are interested, you can find an
extract of the concert on my YouTube channel.
RAG: What's next for you as an artist?
James: Next year, hopefully, I will be on tour to present the new album and I’ll be releasing an EP with live versions of a bunch of songs. At the same time, I will continue the work on a new album that is taking shape.
RAG: This is a pretty big musical accomplishment. Is there any advice you'd give to other aspiring artists out there trying to get heard?
James: Well, thank you for that! Today I realize, from my personal experience, that an enormous work of promotion is increasingly delegated to the artist. My advice, and I also address myself, is that we should always try to maintain a certain detachment, remembering that we are promoting an artistic project and not ourselves. Finally I believe that, as fascinating as social networks might be, they cannot replace the concrete possibilities of growth that come from taking care of irreplaceable personal relationships.
RAG: Did this album turn out how you expected? Are you happy with it?
James: Yes, I'm particularly satisfied because in the album I wanted to get something more than the acoustic versions I had of my songs, possibly looking for a new sound; working with Perciballi, in this sense, was extraordinary. The only thing I'd like to change, if I could, is the arrangement of Turbulence, bringing it closer to the live version we are currently
RAG: What does someone like you do when you're NOT working on music?
James: Apart from everyday tasks, hanging out with close friends, studying and reading, the latter however, activities that for me are part of my work with music, I love to frequent the mountains. Especially in winter, when conditions permit, backcountry-skiing is an
incredible activity, which allows me to experience a very special relationship with the
austere environments of the snowy mountains.
RAG: Before we go, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?
James: Well nowadays, what could have been just a simple cliché becomes more meaningful... so: «I hope to see you soon at a concert!»
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