James Vincent McMorrowʼs self-titled EP is intended as an introduction to James’ debut record, Early In The Morning, which will be released in the US in January 2011. Comprising of four songs, two of which are taken from the album, and two unearthed demos, the EP is laced with haunting melodies, mythical storytelling, and musical structures that bring a singular and unique vision to the traditional folk style that emerged in the states in the 1960′s. Having self recorded, played and released Early In The Morning in Ireland earlier this year, James is preparing to disclose the album in the states making it available to American audiences for the first time.
James first started to venture into the world of music in college. “My first instrument was the drums: I used to listen to a lot of hardcore music, At The Drive In, Refused, Glassjaw,” James notes. As Jamesʼ musical tastes broadened, so did his instrumental skills. “I started listening to older music from the 50ʼs-70ʼs, and learning guitar, piano. Then I heard a Donny Hathaway song called I Love
You More Than You Will Ever Know and it made me want to start singing.” The following years were spent in the front room of his parentʼs house with the piano. James recalls, “I sat in front of that piano for about three years singing notes over and over again until I could get them right.” Because of the high soulful tone to his voice, James found particular encouragement from female singer/songwriters whose vocal ranges were similar to his own. “Iʼve been a huge fan of female singers, probably because of the way I sing. I can understand the way they construct melody almost better than I can the way male singers write,” James notes. “But it wasnʼt until about 4 years ago that I actually wrote my first song. I knew I needed to have things worth talking about before I put pen to paper.”
With finished songs under his belt, it came time to record. Intrigued by the notion of tracking himself, James became fascinated with popular hip-hop acts self-producing some of the most sought-after albums amongst the masses. “Thatʼs how I started learning how to record myself,” remembers James, “by listening to people like The Neptunes and Timbaland, and trying to figure out how they did what they did.” In January of 2009 James moved to an isolated house by the Irish Sea, about an hour outside of Dublin, with the intention to record a demo. Within a month James found he loved the sound he was getting, and decided to create an album. “It took six months. I recorded and played everything myself, using one microphone and a computer, and all the equipment and instruments Iʼd used to make my first demos. In June 2009 I played it for people for the first time and everyone seemed to really get it.”
From start to finish, Early In The Morning is a ten-song recollection of one manʼs journey through a time of change and transition. Having four years worth of songs written and endless time to document them allowed for James to dissect each song and perfect. Early In The Morning begins with a five-part harmony echoing over the sounds of an organ and folk guitar in the eerie opener, If I Had A Boat. “I always knew when I wrote this song that it would open the album,” acknowledges James. “The last two years that preceded this record being made involved some of the greatest change Iʼd ever experienced, physical, emotional and spiritual. When I write lyrics they come together in a pretty uncoordinated way, lines get written, slowly link up until a story reveals itself. It was only when I was finished that I looked back and saw the words for what they were, realized what they meant.” Serving as a perfect prelude to the nine tracks that follow, If I Had A Boat lyrically captures the underlying tone of the entire album. Written about transformation and change, the first song is equal parts thoughtfully crafted words and inventive instrumental arrangements, serving as a foundation for the songs to come.
Towards the latter half of the record a darker tone emerges, or as James puts it, “the closest Iʼll ever get to proper mythical fantasy writing!” These songs are where we find him at his most literate and ornate, creating ominous figures, and a wholly tangible sense of tension and foreboding. Drawing on his childhood love of Roald Dahl, as well as his fascination with American novelists such as John Steinbeck and F Scott Fitzgerald, James draws life from their writings because “they all examine the darker less spoken about aspects of life, solitude, disillusionment. Iʼm not one for defining a lyric, or what it definitively means, but songs like ʻfollow you down to the red oak treeʼ, ʻfrom the woodsʼ, and ʻdown the burning ropesʼ are certainly me exorcising the underside of my personality. The characters I create in those songs, the ones existing in the shadows, they are all elements of me for sure”
And then the album draws to a close just as it started, bucolic five-part harmony. The title track of the record, which James describes as a “simple ode to the love that I have”, is backed by a banjo and a piano, a folk round that fades out as quietly as it arrives, the squeak of the piano stool a final reminder of the homespun nature of what has just occurred.
Early In The Morning was released throughout Ireland in March 2010 and was incredibly well received. After landing the #1 spot on iTunes in the country, James embarked on his first proper Irish tour with a sold out show in Dublin. Offers from various labels to release the album in other countries began to filter in but when James heard Vagrant was interested he knew that was the perfect fit. “Iʼve been a fan of the label since school, and getting to put out a record alongside bands like The Hold Steady, Edward Sharpe, and School Of Seven Bells is amazing.” James Vincent McMorrow will be releasing his self-titled EP, complete with songs off Early In The Morning digitally on October 5th via Vagrant Records.