Singer songwriter James McGrath reached the top of the iTunes chart. He tells Fiona O’Brien why his next step had to be move to London
After seeing huge success in Ireland Tipperary singer-songwriter James McGrath has moved to London to further his career and is delighted with how well he has already slotted into the music scene here.
The 27-year-old Nenagh native landed a number one in the Irish iTunes charts last year after his EP 8 Cans went viral on social media, and has now decided to make the move across the Irish Sea to further his career.
“It was a long-time coming, maybe we didn’t strike when the iron is hot. But I’m putting everything into it now,” he says. “I can’t wait to get my music out there to a new audience. I was playing at home but I think I was getting too comfortable, everyone knew my songs so it was almost like doing a cover set.
“Now I want to see how it is received elsewhere.”
James, who has an ally and great contact over here through his friend Dave Lally, music promoter for the Queen’s Head in Stratford, is overwhelmed by how much he support he has received in his short time in the capital.
“I’ve been over here a week, and I’ve already got on stage with the BibleCode Sundays and met Liam Gill of the Monday Club among others.
“Dave told me before that it was a great scene over here, and it’s true everyone is so welcoming and friendly.
“I feel like I nearly know everyone already.”
And James is not short of backers. His management team consist of Jim Kirkpatrick and Scott Ralph, who write songs for Robbie Williams and Lana Del Rey. He has also recorded his upcoming single Tony Montana with Mark Ralph who has produced hits for current chart-toppers like Years and Years and Clean Bandit.
They spotted him when he was performing in his hometown. “They were on holiday at the time and approached me afterwards, which was a huge shock. But getting signed up like that doesn’t mean you have it sorted, there’s still a lot of hard work ahead, there’s no limos waiting on me just yet!”
The musician, who has landed a number one in the Irish iTunes charts, is settling in and playing a few pub gigs at the minute before he launches his single. “I am playing in the Man of Aran this Sunday, and launching my new single in two weeks.
“It’s quite a lively tune and one I think the London Irish crowd will really enjoy.
“It’s different to some of my other deeper, more depressing ones about ex-girlfriends!”
James says that he aims for all of his shows to be ‘emotional rollercoasters’ that have ‘the wildness of the Pogues’ but also tender emotion of his other influences. No surprise when he has been described as a mix between Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and Ed Sheeran. And he has also grown to know his hero Shane MacGowan of late, as Dave Lally is a longterm friend who used to work with the band and the punk singer lives near James’ homeplace.
“Shane calls him ‘saint Dave’ which pretty much sums him up. “The mood when he enters a room is eery, almost biblical. He commands attention without saying very much. He is just in control and people can’t help but be in awe of him.
“But I like to leave him be, keeping himself to himself.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be drinking with my hero and his friends.
“But when he does speak he makes it count. One time I asked him what advice he would give a young artist who can’t stop writing music.
“His response? ‘Don’t run out of pens!’ I suppose it was fairly useful advice! I’m always writing music though. My room is full of beermats and dockets from the bookies.
“I do well out of all the free pens and paper from the bookies I can tell you! But songwriting is different every time and it’s hard to explain it.
“There are some songs that you build and develop over time, but a lot of my songs literally just come into my head. Ideas, lyrics, words just come to me from somewhere above and I have to scribble them down straight away. I can’t really describe how it happens, it’s just always been that way.”
James, who estimates he has enough material at the minute to fill two albums, has been playing music for over ten years, and says the last decade has taught him a lot. “I started out in a band when I was about 15 or 16, but since then I’ve always been a solo act.
“God, back then I used to just roar and shout into the microphone!
“But I think you have to learn your trade that way, even just down to little things like setting up your sound system on your own.
“That will stand to me now. I think eventually I want to record an album over here. It made more sense to move to England as that is where my management is based and they have more contacts over here.
“If I could record a video then too that will be great too. Everyone at home has been in touch to give me support too which is nice.”