James McVey: Rough and Ready

“I’d always had the dream of creating a collection of songs entirely on the road,” reveals James McVey. Without in-depth planning, inspired by the spur of inspiration from the constant relocating and the feeling of homesickness, this dream is no longer a fantasy; it is James McVey’s reality.

In light of McVey’s travels across Europe, supporting Henry Moodie, the post-show winding down became impromptu writing sessions. The by-product of endless musicality and tour endorphins is James McVey’s upcoming second solo EP ‘Letters Home.’

Moving from city to city, McVey quickly fell in love with the ‘rough and ready’ approach to writing music. His recent single, ‘All The Things,’ was tested in front of an audience the day after its conception, which ultimately heightened the material’s level of honesty and rawness.

‘Letter Home’ is centered around James McVey’s spontaneous conversations and unfiltered lingering feelings induced by the high-pressure environment of tour life. Besides tapping into the longing for the loved ones left behind, he explores themes of mental health, grief, struggles in relationships, childhood friends, and brotherhood in his new single ‘Thick and Thin.’

After over a decade as a member of the mega boyband The Vamps, James McVey has done a tremendous job establishing his solo artist trademark on emotional vulnerability and true musical passion. ‘Letters Home will continue his first EP, ‘Manabi’; watch his accounts for more updates.

On the release date of ‘Thick and Thin, the second teaser from ‘Letters Home,’ James McVey talks to Noctis about what it takes to write on the road, London’s diversity, and being at the right place at the right time.

Congratulations on your new single ‘All The Things’. Before we get into the song itself, what was it about being on tour that inspired this new wave of material?

I’d always had the dream of creating a collection of songs entirely on the road. I liked the idea of making something that sounded live and raw, something that was honest. There’s a feeling I can’t really describe on tour; obviously you’re physically traveling, but there’s also a sense of mental journey. That journey is essentially what I’m trying to convey through Letters Home.

What was the prevailing emotion you were feeling that ultimately inspired the song?

All The Things was written straight after coming off stage at the first show of the Henry Moodie tour. I wrote with with Alex Stacey, who had never toured before. Being on tour is quite tiring emotionally; you’re having to process a lot of different places, people and scenarios in relatively quick succession. Dealing with that led to us sitting down on the bus that night and writing a song about leaving your loved ones at home. Henry then joined in after his show and we effectively finished All The Things that evening.

Once finished, you performed the track at one of the tour stops. Could you tell us more about why you decide to try it out with an audience? How did it feel to be able to perform a song so fast after its completion?

I love the freedom of being able to a song then perform it the following evening. Before The Vamps, that’s exactly what I would do with songs I wrote in my bedroom. I would figure something out and then take it to the pub open mic night the next day. Ultimately, the songs I write are meant to be shared and I figured the quickest way to do so was to just add All The Things straight into the set.

You shot the music video in London, could you list all the places that made it to the video and hold a significant place in your heart?

We shot the video in northern London in an area where I used to live in a student flat with my wife. We couldn’t use the actual flat and, being honest, I don’t think anyone would’ve wanted to… It wasn’t great!

What do you love the most about being from London?

The diversity. I love meeting people from all walks of life and having the opportunity to learn about different cultures on my doorstep. There’s a real buzz that I can’t quite define. I also fell in love with the architecture pretty early on and I think I’d really struggle if I had to leave that behind.

‘All The Things’ is the first single from you new EP ‘Letters Home’. Could you tease what other themes will you be unpacking on this project?

Other themes include mental health, grief, childhood friends and struggles in relationships.

This EP was written while you were on tour across Europe supporting Henry Moodie. What was your favourite part about organically working on a project while on the road?

I love the ‘rough and ready’ approach we took with the production. For example, the guitars on the song ‘State of Mine’ were recorded together in one take. I love not over-thinking about production and just playing parts that feel natural. We barely ‘cleaned up’ the production, so you can hear doors closing and people laughing ion the background. 

How will ‘Letters Home’ compare to your debut EP ‘Manage’?

I’d like to think that Letters Home is a continuation on from Manabi, but also a step up. The EP came together in a month but I’m super proud of the songs. Manabi will always hold a special place in my heart but I do feel that Letters Home resonates with me more than anything else at the moment. I also write about grief in the song ‘Hold On To The Times’, a theme I’ve never explored before.

Could you summarise some core moments that encouraged you to give music a real shot?

My music teacher in year 9/10/11 really inspired me. I’ve never been able to read or write music but he did all he could to help nurture my passion for songwriting and performance. Without him, I can’t imagine I’d have carried on doing music. Receiving a message on myspace from my manager was a massive moment too because it was the first time someone from outside my small town had acknowledged my music. There are several stand out moments that aligned throughout my past. Looking back I was pretty lucky and in the right place at the right time.

Where can your fans see you live this Summer?

I’m hoping to announce something very soon!

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Photographer: Daisy Lola

Words: Karolina Kramplova