‘I don’t give a shit whether it’s classic or country music, if I can feel it and feel it in his voice I fuck with it’: An Interview with James Gillespie
Words by Tamay Nehir
Interview and Photos by Karan Teli
From Finland to the Caribbean, James Gillespie, a singer/songwriter who has been writing music and poetry since he was just 13, talks to 14HQ, while he celebrates the release of his debut album, Safe, with his current 12 date UK/EU tour.
English-born, Scotland-raised, James says he’s “from all over the place”, as he left Scotland after realising that “boarding school, up in the mountains”, didn’t really have anything for him. “There wasn’t really a music scene and that’s one of the reasons why I left and moved to Spain”.
Emotionally in-tune from an early age, he started song-writing and writing poetry, “anything I could really do to get the emotions out, even though I didn’t really know what they were”. Even though James was in a choir, he remembers that, “growing up I was a massive fan of hip-hop and a massive fan of 2Pac, I was more interested in the emotions and the things they were saying, I kinda miss that now, like when 2Pac says stuff, I believe every word of it, when he was angry you knew it and when he was smiling you knew that too, that was everything for me as a kid”.
However, with most artists, they might try to follow in the footsteps of their favourite artists, yet James said that even though he knew he loved listening to rap, he wanted to continue singing. “For me it’s singing, even though in Spain I did a bit of rap, it’s more about getting over emotions and how I could represent the emotions I have going on in my head”.
“I’m a big fan of Loyle Carner, Slowthai, I’m a big fan of emotion". That might be something to look forward to. But he says, when it comes to music, “I don’t give a shit whether it’s classic or country music, if I can feel it and feel it in his voice I fuck with it”.
In Spain, Gillespie was in a punk band. You can tell that although James’ music evokes your deeper feelings with his eloquent yet grit-filled sound, he has another, more reckless side to him. James spent a few years doing an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop and designs his own tattoos. Hands on, James not only likes to design his own tattoos, but have a big involvement of every aspect of his music as he doesn’t understand how, “people can create a song, and just leave it and not co-produce it, or mix it. You don’t want to lose a part of your song because you haven’t been hands on with the whole process".
With a strong belief of becoming a musician from an early age, James has been developing his identity in the music scene in multiple destinations, explaining that he got “itchy-feet after a year and moved around whenever the opportunity came up". Friends seem to be important for James as he always brings his friends on tour - “they all have roles, like my tour manager, photographer; I want to be with someone I know”.
Recently, James has been getting into film photography. However, despite his interests in photography, when asked about his thoughts on Instagram, he described it as a “double-edged sword” and says he’s “not really fussed about what you had for breakfast”.
He says he’s also big on “rum and whiskey” and laughs about how his tour is going to get messy. Looking forward to “Budapest, Zürich and Bristol” the most, “weirdly Bristol because it’s sold out, Berlin’s always crazy, I always come back from Berlin with 20 stories”.
Be sure to check out the emergence of James Gillespie.