Journey from building to poetry culminates in Stephen's debut EPAugust 2, 2012 - 7:00am
Stephen James is a Galway based songwriter who released his debut EP earlier this year. His influences include Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but Stephen also puts his own spin on things. He started writing about six years ago, and hasn’t looked back since.
“I just had a mad urge one day to go writing,” he says. “I worked in construction for 10 years and it was towards the very end of that. I started writing poetry. I had a bodhrán first; I used to be mad into DJing, mad into house music and electro. I loved it, and I still have a great appreciation for it, but I don’t listen to it.”
“My sister gave me a guitar and she used to teach me chords over the phone,” he adds. “So I just started writing, and that was it; decided to give up everything else and write and play. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Stephen James’ EP was recorded out in Silver Hammer studios in Loughrea. Silver Hammer is the brainchild of Ken Keary, whom Stephen is keen to praise.
“I couldn’t rate him high enough. He just made everybody feel really at ease, and he had a class studio. Really good mics. He’s also a fantastic musician.”
The five track CD is very much a collaboration between Stephen and his band, which is: Padraic Joyce (lead guitar), Paddy Kerr (bouzouki), Tom Ricard (bass) and Terry Cooke on drums.
“I knew Joycey, Padraic Joyce, for years, vaguely,” says Stephen. “I met him on the AMP course, the Access Music Project [which runs in St.Patrick’s Bandhall Galway]. And then I met the drummer there, Terry Cooke and Tom Ricard.”
“It was me and the drummer first. We’d just go up to his house and jam out. Then we got Joycey up one day, just for a rehearsal. He started digging it. And then a friend of mine, Paddy, plays bouzouki and bodhrán.”
Having four musicians playing with him has helped Stephen to improve as a player. It also gives his EP a bigger sound, though the studio was also a new environment for the singer.
“I’d never had a band before,” says Stephen. “Prior to that I always played guitar and sang, and did solo gigs. When I started rehearsing with the band it was a whole new thing to me. Learning about dynamics.”
“And learning about the studio as well. I had to go off and spend about a week practising a technique on the microphone. Just to come back far enough when you’re singing – it’d only come to light when you’re using €2,500 mics in the studio.”
Springsteen threw an early mastered version of Born To Run into a swimming pool; in the digital era, technology allows you to tinker endlessly. But Stephen faced no such drama.
“I was glad to let the stuff go,” he says. “We did five songs on the EP and we rehearsed for about 230 hours. We rehearsed really hard; we were happy – when we went into the studio we really knew what we were doing.”
“We’d be a big rehearsal band. It was one of the things we said when we started rehearsing together, ‘if we’re going to play together we’re going to work really hard at it.’ All the lads are really focused, it’s good to be around people like that. It instils a kind of confidence in you.”
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.