“I’m trying to make songs that make people feel something and, if I’m lucky, even move them,” a statement from the official website of James Bay, a rising star on the British pop music charts.
26-year-old singer-songwriter, James Bay, lives outside of London, at the point where the city’s vast swathes of suburbs become the green fields of the countryside, Hitchin, Hertfordshire. No we have not reached his home or even met the singer, but his far off location away from the bustle of city life, is where the vocalist finds his inspiration to write his music.
James Michael Bay, born 4 September 1990, is truly a soul singer by all means. He has been entrancing listeners with his feather-light vocals and acoustic guitar. His model good looks and already trademark image, chiselled cheekbones, wide-brimmed hat, long dark hair, makes you want to tune in to who he really is.
Brought up in Hitchin, Herefordshire, James attended Hitchin Boys School. Around the age of 11 he was inspired to play classical guitar after hearing Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominoes Layla and songs by Van Morrison. He was encouraged to play the guitar after he found one lying in a cupboard unused for the last 15 years. With five rusty strings it was the guitar his father had bought from his uncle. Young enough to learn how to play from watching YouTube videos or instructional CDs, James spent hours practising in his bedroom, but later developed playing it by ear.
This Virgo singer’s first gig happened when he was in his teens in a pub not too far from where he lived. When he was around 17 he moved to study guitar at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. Soon he gained a greater education from playing the city’s open mic nights which taught him a lot about writing and performing on his own and trying to hold his own way in a crowd. It was here his solo venture really kicked off. A talented and accomplished painter and artist, it was his long and cherished dream to study fine art, but made a last minute decision to study music instead. At a college showcase he excelled with many encouraging him for his suave and carefree feel of songs.
From Brighton, the next step was a move to London. Building up a solid live reputation in the capital was very important for James who was still regarded as a newcomer to the scene. He soon started getting chances to perform as an opening act for prestigious bands including a life-changing opening set for none other than The Rolling Stones at their gigantic Hyde Park show in the summer of 2013. He’s also toured with the likes of ZZ Ward, Kodaline, Tom Odell, John Newman and Beth Orton, playing some of the most prestigious venues in the world, including Los Angeles’ Troubadour and San Francisco’s Fillmore.
Whilst playing at a club back home, James caught the attention of a Republic Records A&R executive, after a fan uploaded a video to YouTube of him performing at an open mic, and within a week he flew down to New York and was signed to the label.