By Stella Joseph-Jarecki (Enquiries: stellamusicwriter.wordpress.com)
I recently had the chance to fire eight questions at Melbourne musician James Seymour, on the highs and lows of being a professional singer-songwriter. James has recently released his debut album Cut Your Teeth, under his moniker Feelds. Listen to Cut Your Teeth on Spotify here, on Bandcamp here
Feelds will be launching his album at the Gasometer Hotel, 8pm, Thursday 14th November. Tickets from $15, can be purchased here
When did you realise you wanted to pursue music performance more seriously in your life?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing some kind of musical performance. I’ve played a handful of different instruments across different projects and setups… And the more music I wrote, the more music performance became a staple in my life. I figure that much like any other musician, I’ve found a way of writing and performing that reflects me, and I suppose as a musician in today’s climate the best way to express that is through live performance.
Your debut album ‘Cut Your Teeth’ was sparked by the discovery of a photo album put together from when your parents met and went on ‘Karate Camp’ in the 80s. Could you tell us a little about how that inspired you?
My parent’s past as athletes wasn’t a world that I had explored much before finding that photo album – mainly, I guess, because they gave those types of things up when they started a family. With that in mind, those amazing photos sparked a desire to elaborate upon the story through songwriting. The album’s journey explores how we respond and react to things around us as human beings, essentially how our own experiences inevitably shape who we are.
How did you find yourself with Fright Night Music management?
Dean Valentino (who runs FN) is a long-time friend of mine. We met over a decade ago when our first band projects used to gig on the same line-ups around Melbourne. Since then, we’ve been through quite a lot together (both musically and otherwise), and when I started the Feelds project, he was right there, eager to give me a hand with whatever I was doing. I guess it snowballed from there, and now, here we are!
Who are some of your musical influences?
The biggest influence on my music and how I think about musicality is Justin Vernon. I really admire not only the way he constantly pushes boundaries and challenges himself, but the way he involves the community around him and the people that inspire him to influence what he does as well. The bands I’m obsessed with at the moment are Pinegrove and Saintseneca.
What are your favourite things about the contemporary music scene in Melbourne?
The community of creatives that surrounds it, undoubtedly. As an independent artist that lives and breathes music, having a supportive, collaborative and challenging network of like-minded people is so important – especially when you’re trying to make a career out of writing and performing music.
The first and last tracks on the album feature spoken word samples, and the first one is quite a lovely reflection on how we should pursue our individual goals in life despite what others may want. Can you tell us a bit about incorporating those clips into the album?
I met David ‘Papi’ Hunt on a university trip to LA in 2015. He was our guide/bus driver one day on a tour of the city, and I found him to be full of life, experience and insight. Instead of walking off on our lunch break, a friend and I sat down with ‘Papi’ amidst the food court of a bustling Los Angeles street market to pick his brains. We sat and listened for over an hour to his stories and viewpoints on life, being an older, Melungeon-Indian born man raised in the Appalachian Mountains. Snippets and sound bites from this conversation are sprinkled throughout the album – moments and words that really resonated with and stuck with me all this time later.
The album was written, recorded and mixed in your Melbourne studio. Do you think that helped to give it a distinctive character and musical sound?
For sure! The limitation of gear and space had a big influence on the sounds and techniques I developed in my home studio. That situation forced my thought process to be more decisive, less complicated. I loved becoming extremely familiar with my equipment and knowing exactly what each tool could be used for.
What are some of the most rewarding and challenging aspects of gigging and touring?
As simple as it sounds, seeing people getting involved with what we’re doing on stage is pretty darn rewarding! The most challenging thing about gigging and touring would be something along the lines of staying true to yourself, and trying to not let that setting affect how you might usually act. Making sure you’re still reflecting the things you truly believe in.