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If you hadn’t heard of Jarryd James yet, you’re missing out. Most known for his debut single “Do You Remember,” which was released the end of January, the Brisbane, Australia singer-songwriter and producer is one of the most talented rising artists at the moment. As a former member of troubadour Matt Corby’s band, he’s been pursuing a solo career, and is completely determined to do so. His self-titled debut EP, which he had worked on extensively with New Zealand producer Joel Little (Lorde) and Malay (Frank Ocean), releases last Thursday, September 3, and includes “Do You Remember,” as well as other singles “Give Me Something,” “Regardless” and “Sure Love.” In our conversation, we address a variety of topics, such as the type of music he makes, his musical inspirations, Australian versus US culture, working with Joel, the struggles he experiences in his career path, and more.
Can you explain what kind of music artist you are?
I think that I try to make pretty honest music, music that’s emotional. I think I’m a pretty simple musician, I think my songs are pretty straight to the point. They write off of emotions.
When you say straight to the point, that’s purely from who you are as a person?
Yeah, I think so. I don’t second guess anything, it’s just whatever comes out is what happens.
So who would you say are your top 3 musical inspirations?
Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney and tie for Stevie Wonder and Don Henley.
To go further into that, how do you use them as inspirations?
As far as Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder go, I think it’s melody. That’s kind of my favorite part of it all and Don Henley is a drummer. There’s a lot of other guys as well, but he’s the first one that springs to mind because it’s all about the kick and snare for me as well, like after melody, it’s that and tones. I love warm sounding music and I think the Eagles made that kind of music, stuff that makes you feel like you’re at home.
So why LA for the first US show?
I’ve spent a lot of time here, more time here than anywhere else in the States. After talking to people at the label, agents and management, we all sort of agreed that the Troubadour would be a pretty sick place to play our first show, it’s pretty iconic and it’s where a lot of other people play their first shows and it seemed to fit.
For the people that don’t know the Troubadour, how would you explain it as that perfect setting for this?
Well, it’s just got so much history, pretty much every autobiography or biography of great musicians I’ve read, their first shows in America, a lot of them or at some point, they mention the Troubadour, when they’re sort of coming up and just about to smash it.
Almost a notch, but you don’t want to call it a notch.
No, it’s a notch. It’s a notch for me especially where I come from, this kind of stuff you only see it in the movies and read about it books, it’s not down the road, it’s across the other side of the planet. It’s pretty magical so it’s crazy.
Talking about where you’re from, for an international audience, how do you feel you’re perceived back in Australia. What are your personal thoughts on you as an artist back in Brisbane?
That’s a good question. It’s funny like Australia is an odd place to get any kind of profile I think, which I’m nervous about because Australians by nature, I don’t know if you’ve heard of this thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome, where the taller poppies will get cut down. It ties in with the nature of how most Aussie people are. I love Australia, but there’s this culture of someone starts to get successful and people have this reflex to try and bring them back down to the same sort of level as everyone else.
Is that to do with the size of the industry?
Yeah I guess so, we’re still a fairly young country, there’s still under 30 million people and here there’s 300 and something million. I think things get critiqued a lot more, anyway, the point is I’m very conscious of that fact, but I think it’s going pretty good for me. I’ve been embraced pretty thoroughly in the independent side of things and the commercial. It feels pretty amazing because I know what normally happens in Australia, what commonly happens and it’s not this. So I’m really happy.
So you’re saying that is the case back there, but it’s not the case for you?
Yeah, no I’ve really struck gold I think and I don’t know why, but it’s just worked out. Normally you do well, like bands will do well in one area, but not in another. It’s fairly common for them to do well in the more independent side of things, I don’t know if you know about triplej, it’s like the non-commercial side of things. Or they’ll do well in the commercial side of things and they get shunned by the cool kids.
From outside of Australia, Australia’s the place we look to for solid international alternative artists, it’s always been like that for the past 5 years.
In saying everything I’ve just said, you’re right, it’s started to really pick up. I think it’s come out of that because it has been like that for so long. People are getting sick of it like, no we need to make quality, world-class music where it’s undeniable that it’s good.
So do you think coming out here, doing the show here, you’ve got the Europe tour coming up, do you think after that, when you go back to Australia it’s going to help? It’s going to change? In what way will it change?
I don’t know yet.
Or is that something you can’t really foresee?
Yeah. All this stuff has been quite unanticipated for me. It’s all sort of started to snowball and I haven’t had time to catch up with it in my head. For example, I’ve been making this album, I’ve been in LA a lot this year, things have kind of been killing it back home and I have no idea. I know I get told, but I’m not there for it so I don’t have the sense of what’s happening. It’s blowing up and I’m over here locked away in the studio. I see like two people for three months. The hours are weird and I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I guess we’ll see, I never have any expectations anyway except that I want to make really good music. If I go back home and everyone’s stoked on it, then awesome. I’ll just take that as it comes I guess.
So how’s it working with Interscope?
Yeah, so good. It’s been really easy, there’s a lot of really creative people there on the business side. A lot of the major labels have a lot of hectic businessmen and businesswomen in. When I first came over and met with all the labels that were keen, to work out what we could do together, I just got a really good vibe from Aaron Bay-Schuck and John Janick. I just felt like they really did care about a song and about music. Of course there’s all the other shit you have to worry about with such a big undertaking, but that was kind of the thing that sold me on them and on the company. I went around and met everyone, as many people as I could at one point. When I signed at Interscope, I went around and met all the different departments, I just got a really nice sense, everyone was on the same page. That’s kind of important.
What about when you were working with Joel Little for Give Me Something, how was that experience?
Awesome, yeah, it’s always easy with Joel. Well I’ve written 4 songs with him, 3 are on the album. He’s a Kiwi, Australians and Kiwis have this fun rivalry, where you just give each other shit all day and it’s awesome, it’s fun. It’s like England and Australia with cricket. We got along pretty well, we’re both pretty chilled out dudes so things don’t get crazy in the studio. We’ve managed to really casually put together some really cool pieces of music. He’s amazing, sonically he’s really good at making stuff sound good.
Going back to you being in the States, what are you looking to take away from the show, being here and from the tour?
I just wanted to connect with people in America, I know there’s a bunch of people who’ve heard my stuff online and the internet’s a funny place. There’s just stuff floating around and it’s nice to be here and look people in the eye. That’s what I wanted to do.
So was it the case where you had a perception of it being in Australia and now you’re here seeing it live?
Yeah. Things kind of got to this crazy level pretty quickly in Australia so it’s going to be nice cultivating that here. I’m really pumped about it, especially here.
You’ve just released the track with Julia Stone, who’s on your wish list?
I haven’t really thought about it too much, I think I’d be a bit shy to collaborate with most people, but it’s a case by case thing, the same with producers.
If you had to choose?
I’d go Earl Sweatshirt, I saw him play the other day, he played the same festival as me in Australia and he was awesome. I’d go Lauryn Hill and Kendrick.
What are you looking to do for fun while you’re here in LA?
I just want to have a good sleep that’s the funnest thing I can think of. I want to go back to Universal Studios, I just love the Transformers ride, I want to just go there and ride the Transformers ride all day. It’s just a headtrip, but it’s fun. My regular drummer he stayed at my hotel room and he went to Universal Studios by himself one day and then he came, and I found him in my hotel room, doubled over on the bed, sick as a dog because he just rode the Transformers ride all day. He spewed a few times on the way home in the cab. It’s one of those virtual reality ones, it’s crazy. Anyway I just want to hang out, I’ve got a bunch of friends here so I’d like to see them, just have a beer or something.
What about for New York?
I love New York, it’s my favorite place, I just want to eat heaps of burgers. I think we’ve got a few days, I’ll have to do a bunch of promo. A couple of dudes in my crew, it’s their first time in New York so I’m just happy for them. I just want them to go explore, it’s an amazing place. I think we’re staying out in Brooklyn.
What is touring to you? What is the tour life? Is that for you like the pinnacle of being an artist? How does that sit with you in terms of that aspect of being an artist?
Yeah, it’s one of these catch-22 things because sometimes touring means that you don’t have enough time. You rock up and you’ve only got time for this and that, and you want all the time in the world to make it perfect, but at the same time it’s the best part about everything. I write songs so I can sing them to people in a room for real, that’s my favorite part about it and you want it to be perfect, but it’s funny. I’ve done my fair share of touring with other people and sometimes it gets to the point where you’re like I just want to go home, this is fucked, like I’m buggered, I’m so tired, and the moment you get home you have that one sleep and you wake up and you’re like I just want to go on tour again. It’s amazing. People would kill to do this kind of thing, I’m very lucky.
You as an artist, how are you going about progressing as an artist, musically, yourself, aesthetically, or brand-wise?
I’m just trying to be pretty honest I guess. I’m not about to try and turn into some big superstar or some shit like that. I just want to do what I do, I’m open minded about enhancing that and having people give me advice, feedback and all that sort of stuff. There’s a dude out here, he’s like a music director and he’s given some tips here and there, Henri, he’s awesome. He’s worked with a bunch of amazing people, so stuff like that. This is all pretty new to me, being centre of attention. I’ve played in bands, but I’ve never been a solo artist, it’s a big learning curve, a sharp one. Like I said before, this is an amazing thing to be able to do for a job and it’s not even a job, so I’m pretty happy.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be or what would you be doing?
I’d probably join the army or something, like I’d do something hectic, try and be Commander or something. I’d just go all out. Before this, I was a youth worker, I looked after extreme needs young people. I did that for a long time so I’d probably go back to that or something.