Seated in the snazzy guest area of BST Hyde Park, James Hersey is gearing up to headline the Summer Stage and – despite the fact that J Biebs is wandering about – there is a definite buzz surrounding the Vienna born songwriter.
Dropping his debut EP “Pages”, earlier this year, James’s unique voice and ability to craft the perfect sun soaked dance-a-long song have seen the multi-talented musician propelled into the spotlight where he belongs and he is, quite rightly, being hailed as the sound of the summer.
Now getting ready to head back into the studio to start work on a new EP, we caught up with the songwriting sensation to find out more…
Hey James, how are you?
I’m good, it’s such a nice day!
I know it’s amazing! You’re so lucky, London’s not normally like this…
Yeah. I’ve been here a lot and it’s always been pretty mild. I’ve never had that horrible weather even though it’s known to be quite a dark city…
Yeah, it can get a bit gloomy. So firstly, how did you get into music?
My dad played a lot of guitar when I was a kid and I started just copying what he did and playing the songs that he played. Then I found my first band, so I played in a punk band for seven years, studied jazz guitar, got into writing and they were like “Hey, you should go do that!” because guitar players don’t get a lot of money, but writers get a lot of money. So I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do it!”
And what music were you listening to back then?
With my dad it was James Taylor, The Grateful Dead, Simon and Garfunkel, then I got into punk bands, then I started listening to jazz and now I listen to everything!
Do you have a favourite artist or band at the moment?
No, not really. I’m listening to more Chance, The Rapper and Kendrick right now.
Who would you say are your main musical influences?
Early on when I got into writing, John Mayer was really cool at the time.
You kind of look like John Mayer… Have you been told that before?
I have been told that before! I’m still waiting and looking forward to meeting him. I haven’t met him yet, but I’ve been in his studio!
Wow, how was that?
It was cool. I had a ghost experience there. I was touching a piano and playing a song and then they told me a story about a little boy and it turned out to be the little boy’s song that I’d been trying to figure out on the piano. That was kind of scary…
Moving on in terms of other influences, stuff that comes on or that I used to listen to. Songwriters like Bryan Adams and I like a lot of James Taylor’s stuff. Now I’m listening to a bit more hip hop and trying to bring that in, but I just listen to so much music you know?
For sure. Your debut EP “Pages” came out earlier this year, congratulations! How long has it been in the pipeline?
I wrote it at the end of 2015. The label felt like the songs were so cool and we had a brand new deal and they really wanted to take time with the release and set up cool promo stuff and fly me everywhere to meet all the Spotify and Shazams of the world. So you have to sit on top of these songs and you feel like you’re kind of pregnant with music and you just wanna get it out after a year and a half. So I’m happy it’s out and now I’ve got new stuff! We’re actually going into the studio now…
Plans for an album?
Not yet. That’s kind of why I’m doing a second EP because I wasn’t sure what sound I wanted for the album. The “Pages” EP came out great but I want to do something a little more eternal with the second EP and then find something in the middle, something that I can press onto vinyl and it sounds like it’s always been around and it’s just gonna work forever. I feel like the “Pages” EP came out very current, which is good, because a song like “Miss You” will get the radio plays that it needs to get attention.
Yeah, the track has done insanely well. What’s that been like?
It’s great. I’ve had a lot of remix work done around my voice, but nothing that I’d produced myself has blown up like that and now we have over 80 million plays on “Miss You” and it’s just not stopping!
So when can we expect the new stuff?
Next year. Definitely. I’ve locked it in. I wanted to do the EP like October, so make sure that I finish recording in the summer. I might get somewhere in the countryside here and go record it…
Ooh yeah, maybe get a nice little cottage?
I’ve heard that Devon is really pretty…
Are you excited to perform at BST today?
Yes! It’s such an amazing place to have in the middle of the city.
Have you been to the festival before?
No, I haven’t. I wanted to come see Stevie Wonder last year but I couldn’t make it and friends of mine were calling me crying like “I can’t believe you’re not here, it’s so beautiful!” The line ups are always so insane!
What’s your fave part about performing?
When we perform it sounds a lot different to the records because I have the band with me and we use live drums. We play electric guitars and it gets kind of heavy and I love that. I love opening up the rock side of me and not having to be tied to doing it exactly like the record.
Have you had any wild on stage moments?
Not yet. I’ve had cool stuff, like I’ve been able to play Coachella twice and done those things when the DJs let the CO2 blasts come out and the fire rain comes down. Those are pretty cool.
Aside from the EP and album, what else have you got planned for this year?
Definitely a tour in fall again. I’m gonna take the summer to record so by the time I tour the second EP should be out, I’m hoping. Then get some cool Christmas and new year shows. I’ve never played a new year show, so I wanna plan something good. So I have to make sure I make a good EP I guess…