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James Walsh - The IndieLondon interview

James Walsh

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ON MONDAY, March 22, 2010, Hard Rock Cafe London will host exclusive an exclusive solo acoustic performances from James Walsh (Starsailor) and Arno Carstens, with proceeds going towards The Bombay Teen Challenge (BTC), an organization committed to improving conditions for women and children involved in prostitution and poor communities in Mumbai, India.

As he puts the finishing touches to his forthcoming solo album, Walsh took time out to talk about his charity work, his musical inspirations, his new solo album, and what lies in store for Starsailor…

Q. What does it mean to be playing a gig such as this for The Bombay Teen Challenge? When did you first become aware of the charity and its work?
James Walsh: I have been involved with Hard Rock’s charity concerns for some time and they approached me to perform some gigs for The Bombay Teen Challenge. Upon reading more about the charity I learned about the great work they are doing and plan to do helping the poorest people in India receive the correct medical care and education. I’m happy to be involved in a small way with the effort to turn things around.

Q. Similarly, how exciting is it to be playing an intimate and historic landmark venue such as Hard Rock Café London?
James Walsh: It’s great to play The Hard Rock in London. Some notable figures have passed through its doors… not least Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend when it first began.

Q. This must be an exciting time for you creatively and professionally?
James Walsh: It’s a very exciting time but also quite nerve wracking! Its great to have a blank canvas and I’ve been involved with some great projects already. I recently contributed a number of songs to a film called Powder, based on Kevin Sampson’s acclaimed novel. There is another film project in the pipeline and recording with an orchestra in Tromso Norway!

Q. What can we expect from the new solo album? And what made you decide to do something solo?
James Walsh: I want the solo album to be really lush and beautiful (ideally!). I’ve been listening a lot to artists like Randy Newman but also contempary female singers like Laura Marling and Jenny Lewis. I’ll start with something quite country/folk and gradually make it more Northern English.

Q. What inspired some of the songs?
James Walsh: My wife and kids inspire a lot of songs as you can imagine. I’ve also been reading a lot so that may come out in some of the songs. Graham Greene is my all time favourite author.

Q. How was/is working with Suzanne Vega?
James Walsh: It was great working with Suzanne. My only regret is that we didn’t do it in a recording enviroment. It would have been great to have got some stuff down. I hope to hook up with her agin in the future. She is a fantastic lyricist

Q. You’ve mentioned your involvement in the soundtrack for the film Powder? How did that come about?
James Walsh: I got involved with Powder because Kev Sampson is a fan of the band and also a fellow Liverpool fan. If I’d been a blue nose he might have looked elsewhere!

Q. I also read that you’re negotiating to do the soundtrack for another film – can you reveal what that is yet?
James Walsh: It’s all in the contract stages so I can’t reveal too much. It’s another one based on a novel by an acclaimed author and the cast looks amazing, I just hope it works out!

Q. What does this mean for the future of Starsailor?
James Walsh: I think we all needed to take a break from the band. We’re all still friends but we worked so hard and we’re so proud of the last album its got to a point where its like ‘What more do we have to do to prove we’re still a relevant force in music?’ It just didn’t seem to have any impact critically or commercially despite our best efforts.

Q. You must have many fond memories of Starsailor – can you name your top 3 Starsailor moments?
James Walsh: Signing a record deal, the summer of 2003 Great festival memories and Ronnie Wood/Phil Spector/Donovan all being involved with the band at various points. Three legends!

Q. What was supporting an iconic band like The Rolling Stones like? How much do you take away from an experience like that? And learn from their longevity?
James Walsh: It’s hard to learn from The Rolling Stones because they are so unique. There is no formula for longevity apart from starting off in the ’60’s and having loads of hit records!

Q. Similarly, what’s supporting the likes of U2 and The Police like? Getting a back-stage insight into such bands?
James Walsh: The Police were probably the most accessible, Sting would watch us from the side of the stage. U2 we never got near. I don’t blame bands for craving privacy when they get to that level though. Your whole live is a bit of a circus I guess

Q. Who inspires you musically? And who would you love to collaborate with? And perhaps duet with live?
James Walsh: Springsteen is a big hero of mine. I think he has a human quality some of the more ‘credible’ artists lack. There is nothing condescending about what he does.

Q. What advice would you give emerging artists starting out today?
James Walsh: I would say to emerging artists build a fanbase and keep them happy. Record company interest will grow and fade so make sure you can do it with or without them

Q. What are your hopes for the future? Do you have details of any touring schedules?
James Walsh: I hope to tour all over! I enjoyed the early days of Starsailor when you’d get oon the tour bus and not get off till six months later! Then you could afford to have a massive holiday. Now it’s a bit stop start. A gig here a gig there. Festivals are on the agenda and USA.

Q. If you could cover any song, what would it be and why?
James Walsh: Feels Like Home by Randy Newman. It’s a real emotional song and it could sound epic.

Q. Finally, what are the 10 tracks that are never far from your iPod player at the moment?
James Walsh: Laura Marling – Failure
Joni Mitchell – River
One Republic – Secrets
Alicia Keys – Empire State Of Mind
Laura Veirs – July Flame
Mumford and Sons – Hold on Hope
Randy Newman – Feels Like Home
Ron Sexsmith – Gold In Them Hills
John Lennon – Watching The Wheels
Cold War Kids – Audience Of One

Tickets for the James Walsh and Arno Carstens at Hard Rock Cafe London are on sale NOW via priced at £20.