by Robert Kinsler
There are a number of groundbreaking acts that will be featured at the upcoming Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, CA this month including The Stone Roses, Blur, Phoenix, Social Distortion, Dead Can Dance and Grizzly Bear.
But many of modern music’s most exciting new names are also part of the two-weekend mix (April 12-14, 19-21). James McCartney, the son of legendary Paul McCartney, has rapidly earned accolades for his powerful mix of accessible melodic songs and experimental rock introduced via 2010’s “Available Light” and 2011’s “Close At Hand.” Via an impressive 16-song set at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA last May, McCartney also proved to be a formidable live act. Now he will bring his burgeoning talents as singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist to Coachellafest on Fridays, April 12 and 19. He is also set to release his full-length album “Me” in late May. Here is my interview conducted with McCartney via email last week.
Q. I was impressed by the range of your material on your “Complete EP” collection, from melodic power pop to more experimental rock. Talk a little bit about your growth as a songwriter since those songs were recorded and how that influenced the process of writing and recording the songs for your upcoming album “Me”?
McCartney: That’s nice, thanks so much. Well, I wanted to show a progression…my favorite artists are definitely ones that grow, and I want to be one that does too. The songs on my first two EPs were written over a broad period of time, some songs were older, and some brand new. All of the songs on the new album are new, so this is much more of a snapshot of where I’m at right now. It’s a real singer-songwriter record, with an emphasis on lyric writing, and melodies. I worked with David Kahne on the recording, which was lovely.
Q. When I saw you perform last year you were backed by a band, and now I understand you are going to be performing a solo acoustic tour beginning next month. Maybe talk a bit about what led you to decide to go out and perform a solo tour (rather than a band)?
McCartney: Yes. In keeping with the album title, this tour is, in fact, “me.” I did a solo show last year at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, and it went great. It gave us the idea of doing the same thing on a national scale, in listening rooms around the country. Just me, and an audience, and of course…these new songs. No distractions. I’m really looking forward to it.
Q. Maybe discuss a bit of going on your first U.S. tour last year and what that experience was like.
McCartney: It was amazing. I love America, and it was my first chance to see it as a touring musician. Meeting fans after the show, seeing the cities, it was great.
Q. Maybe share your thoughts on if you will approach Coachella differently than playing a show in a more intimate club.
McCartney: I don’t plan to…I’ll do it just the same. I think the way I’m doing these songs will work very well, even in that bigger setting. I haven’t played the festival before, so it will be quite an experience. And quite a way to kick off the tour!
Q. In your recent bio I received you noted that your favorite artists are those who evolve over time. I have not heard “Me” yet, but maybe talk about some possible areas (both lyrically or musically) that you hope to explore with the new album that wasn’t reflected in the songs on “The Complete EP Collection.”
McCartney: Really just an evolution, as we all go through. This album and these songs are the next steps for me, just as “Close At Hand” was the net step from “Available Light.” I think there’s even more depth in the writing and singing on this record, and since the last batch of songs I’ve continued to learn who I am…as we all continue to learn about ourselves.
Q. Lastly, maybe talk about any of the producers and/or artists that worked with you on “Me” and how that had an influence on you or the album.
McCartney: Well David Kahne, primarily, is who I worked with. I’ve recorded the previous EPs with him as well so we have a great working relationship. He’s also worked with my dad, of course. Dad was a part of the recording too, and of course he’s an influence. My band from the UK is on the album, Kate Davis (a NYC singer) appears on the album, as does Steven Isserlis, and Shawn Pelton. Just a great group of people, and a great time in making the album.
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