Jarryd James at the Fine Line + Interview


Australian Jarryd James played at The Fine Line Saturday night, opening for Meg Myers – check out our review of her show HERE. His set was modern and emotional. His music has the clean and minimalist style that is becoming more and more appreciated by critics and discerning listeners. James was front and center on the tight stage. His calm and soft-spoken demeanor, did not need much room  as he just swayed back and forth while singing. James’ voice and song structure gave the music its hip-hop/R&B feel. Like most R&B, James’ vocals drove the songs, but what separated him was the richness and quality of his voice. Recent R&B tends to have instrumentals that sound like they came off of a children’s Casio with color-coded keys, but James’ music had a much higher level of quality with it’s full and complex sound. It filled the room with a dreamlike atmosphere. The tempo was slower, but with two keyboardists the group had variety without sacrificing their own style. Jarryd James’ music is built on richness. His voice has body and control even in his highest register. It is a smooth whisper that wasn’t shrill or breathy. Most of the songs began with a calm heartbeat rhythm, but eventually blossomed into fully mature songs. While the rhythm rarely changed, its texture maintained interest and it took the arc of the set to appreciate the patience and endurance of the music. When the show started the audience was still chatty and eager, but once the richness washed over them, they became attentive and fully involved in the emotional set.

Set List:
Sell it to me
Give me something
This time (serious symptoms)
Giving it up
The way you like it
Do you remember

Before his show I was able to sit down with Jarryd and ask him a few questions as his US tour comes to a close.

How’s the tour?

Tonight is our last show. It’s been about 16 shows and we have seen a lot of America. It’s been really nice.

Has the long tour taken a toll on you or are you ready for more?

I’m alright. I’m alright. Before this I was in Europe for about three weeks and I got sick right at the end of it. When we left Germany for Phoenix, of all places. I love touring so it really isn’t that bad.

Have you ever toured the US?

No, this is my first time touring America. It’s been a new experience.

Do you see a lot of similarities and differences in the music business in American and Australia?

One thing that I have noticed is that a lot more people are more likely to come for the supporter. Which I am on this tour. It’s really cool because I am supporting Meg Myers. Back home that doesn’t really happen. People will drink somewhere else, or drink at the bar and then come in for the main act, largely speaking. So that’s very different, which is really good because it feels really nice to have a crowd when you are supporting. Other than that it’s pretty similar. There are a lot more places you can play here. Australia is a lot more spread out, and there are less than a tenth of the people.

Was that a motivation to do this tour?

Yea, and especially since I have just started putting music out over here and it’s to help backup that.

Do you write alone?

I write my lyrics and melodies alone and I’ve been working with producers. We work on stuff together and build a track. Even when I was in bands I wrote by myself. Especially lyrics, it doesn’t make sense to me to write with other people. I’m a very introverted person and it is kind of weird for me to mull over a thought process with someone else. That feels really foreign to me because I am so used to doing it by myself. Lately I have been working with really great producers who have helped me piece my own thoughts together.

I hear a lot of R&B in your music. Especially in the way you layer your vocals. Are you an R&B fan?

I love R&B music. I love Hip Hop. I love the way they structure their music. It is very different from rock and roll. They start from the beat/chord progression up. I love the way you can build it and make it really sparse and it’s all around the vocals.

You currently have an EP out and an album coming out in January.

The album is out in Australia and New Zealand and moving fast there.

It’s doing well over there?

It’s all different. There are different timelines all moving at once, but we are still in the early days of everything. It is really exciting.

Tell me about this new album? Any specific influences or inspirations?

Anything and everything really. I don’t select to make anything in a genre. I don’t know how to explain it well, but I like the music to come out naturally and never stop and say, “that’s not R&B, I should change that.” I just let it come out the way I feel it should sound. And when I react to hearing it myself, I adjust things based on that rather than just based on how it sounds, but how it makes me feel. A lot of that has to do with the space that is around the vocal and that is what is important to me. I want to create things that are beautiful and where everything has it’s place. Every sound has it’s place and it’s not just filled up with stuff for the sake of it.

Do you have a lot or recorded music that you haven’t released?

Not really, I’m not the kind of writer that writes 10 songs to get one good one which is what a lot of people seem to do and that works for them, there are 11 songs on the album and there is an interlude for every single one. Those are all the songs that I wrote. I didn’t write any other ones because I don’t want to waste my time writing nine songs and only getting one good one. To me that is crazy. That adds to the fact that I am relatively at that start of this part of my career and I’m 30. I don’t want to dick around writing sub par songs in hopes that people will like them. I want to make sure that when people hear it they are affected by it. So that is always in the back of my head. I strive for perfection in every little part of the writing process and I hope it works.

Has you perfectionism come from a time where you took songwriting for granted, or is that just in your nature?

It’s my nature. For the last 10 years I’ve been making music properly. I’ve been writing and singing in front of people since I was 20. Before that I was very shy. I’ve always made sure I put the melody first and make sure that I don’t settle for anything. I always make sure that when I hear it back myself I get excited by it every time. If I am not excited by it each time then I go back a few steps and change something so that I do.

After this are you heading home to Australia?

No. Tomorrow I go over to LA and I am going to do some writing there. After about a week there I go to London and I will be doing some writing there for about a week. I will then be doing some shows with Tove-Lo throughout the UK. Then going through Europe and playing a show of my own in Paris and a bunch of shows with Jack Garratt. He is so great and he’s a good person. So at the end of November I’ll be finally heading home for the first time in about 3 months.

What’s the first thing you are going to do once you get home?

I think I’ve got rehearsals and there’s the ARIA awards, they are like the Australian Grammy’s, which I have been nominated for 5 of them. After that I am doing so co-headliner shows with Meg Mack who is incredible, you should definitely check her out. She toured here with D’angelo.