Interview with singer-songwriter Gavin James: ‘I was looking around thinking I don’t want to be in my sixties playing Galway Girl’
Square one can be a lonely place. Trying to make his mark in the UK right now is Gavin James, who I meet at Dublin’s Morrison Hotel, named after a Doors album but rather more sterile. It’s a familiar location for the young singer-songwriter, as until recently this was the type of place where he plied his trade. “The worst shows were in hotel lobbies,” he says, surveying the decor. “Because you’re wallpaper. I used to play for three hours maybe, a full room. Not one person would clap me.”
James earned a good wage playing nightly gigs, mostly in the tourist pubs of the Temple Bar area, but giving them up was his own decision. He chose artistry – his own songs – over steady paychecks.
“I was looking around thinking ‘I don’t want to be in my sixties playing Galway Girl,” he says. “I did love doing it and I made great money, but it’s a rough one because you’re there doing three hours a night, seven nights a week, so you haven’t got any free time. I was learning things though. Learning how not to f*** up my voice.”
The gifted young singer became about as celebrated as can be in that restrictive environment, gaining a loyal following and once even being whisked over to sing at someone’s wedding, in Las Vegas. The move to performing proper gigs paid off quickly and handsomely, when his song Say Hello won Ireland’s equivalent of a Brit Award, at which point he was already touring the UK, supporting his popular compatriots Kodaline. Securing similar recognition there has been tough, though.
“Say Hello worked quite well over here, but I don’t think it’d work that well in England,” he admits. “Gigs here, you’d get everybody singing along. You’d go ‘everybody, one, two, three, four…’ But in London I did that and it was completely dead. I was, like, “Ohhh, that didn’t work at all. But I kept it going for 10 minutes or something, in spite of it not working, and eventually one by one I could pick people out who were singing.”
Still resident in Dublin, James admits that he “didn’t love London at the start, I thought it was very busy and nobody really knows anybody,” and the idea of relocating to further his career is clearly troublesome. First he insists he would, then changes his mind. “I probably wouldn’t move there,” he concludes. “You wouldn’t want to go back [to Dublin afterwards] because people would be thinking ‘ah, it didn’t work out.’”
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