It is a few minutes after 6.30pm on Monday, June 25th. The tube is hectic as ever with everyone rushing from work to enjoy the hot Summery day in London. Walking down the streets surrounding the always lively London Bridge area, people are slowly queuing up to see James Gillespie at the Omeara live music venue.
Heading inside Omeara’s green room, James shows no sign of stress and is having a casual laugh with his team. He closes the door and points at a sofa bed to create a more relaxed environment for a pre-show chat. Cozy looking green room put James into a carefree state of mind sitting with his legs crossed cracking open a bottle of beer.
With ‘cheers’, James begins to introduce the show and what he has in store for his fans or as he calls them later in the evening ‘Day Oners’. James stands for changing up the set list as he goes, believing it is important for the musician. He says: “For a musician when you’re doing the same set even like more than twice, for me I would get really bored of that, I’m like oh I know what’s going to be next it’s that feeling and now it’s that feeling, now I’m going up and then I’m going to drop it down. I would still have the set in front of me and I would still go ‘ahh mate, let’s not put that one right now, let’s go back and let’s do this one, the audience is feeling nice and hyped up, or let’s keep them nice and quiet before we go up back again”, making this live show an once in a lifetime performance.
An original set list is not the only thing that is unique for the Omeara show. James seems the most excited about their new custom-made pedal that will allow him to do experiments with loopings and playbacks. Essentially, he plans to perform unreleased songs with new equipment, such as the pedal that certainly acted as a cherry on top of a very good ice cream cake.
Introducing his band, James was accompanied by his drummer John, who will be playing drums and the SPD pad ‘to kind of mix the electronic live vibe together’. For the first time ever, James is making Andy Hall Hall his MD (mixing DJ). James co-produced ‘What You Do’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me’ with Andy, who also did ‘Good Life’ with Mike Spencer.
“It makes sense if we work on songs together and I co-produce everything with him so if we’re working on sounds together why don’t we see how it would be if he’d build my live show. So I kind of consider him as part of the band as well. We did everything together, we’ve come up with the pedal together, we did the set list together”, James explains.
Moving on to the venue. Performing at Omeara is no coincidence. Prior to his show, James saw few underground American artists there, but it was when he came to see alt-J after the NME after party when he truly discovered the magic behind Omeara’s walls.
“As soon as they played ‘Deadcrush’ *he hums a portion of the song* and as soon as it started I was like I want to play here, that’s all I want to do even if I was a mega star I want to play here, it looks cool, sounds great and I really like the stage, it’s curved and it just has a really good vibe to it”, James elaborates on his preferred choice of venue.
Considering the release of James’s latest single ‘Good Life’ only a few days before his Omeara show marks another ‘first’ for him and his fans. So far, ‘Good Life’ received contradicting interpretations what the song actually stands for. Having your track perceived in more than just one way, radiating more than one message, is hitting the musical jackpot. James shares people have come up to him and complimented how good of an upbeat club song ‘Good Life’ is, whilst others enjoy is for the sad ballad elements.
Now that James is going to perform ‘Good Life’ live in front of 200 people, he sets the record straight: “Good life is about kind of being in a pattern of meeting somebody and it taking a complete control of what you do. In this case when you’re in a club or in a bar, and then you see somebody and that little connection you made when somebody sees you and you see them back and it’s the two second thing and then suddenly my whole night is about like ‘oh my god that girl that just looked at me like that, I need to find her right now’ and then the sort of *he sings*
He continues: “I never want that part to end. I like the idea of when I wrote the song I was thinking about this waltz. In a club when you arrive you’re kind of straight and you’re put together and everyone is dancing around and it’s like the prodigy of the streets and you’re int he vibe and everything is messy. Some people are like waltzing and turning around, and people are wearing masks and everything is like a big crazy scene and everyone is trying to get that one thing”.
The song that scored the biggest applause already in first few notes was ‘Dead In the Water’. The ode to forbidden love, you want, but you know you can’t have. Earlier this month, James released an animation video for the song by a girl Antonia that James and his team found online. The idea was to bring to life all the drawings James has already done for the album. For James, drawing and tattoos are extra modes of expression. Most of the artwork done is essentially his tattoos. As all of his songs are about people in his life, James’s tattoos represent the path and bits of history all over his body.
“I kept drawing a lot of stuff and the more I drew the more I realized it came hand in hand with what I was doing so if I was writing a song about the good life or you know this girl or seeing someone in a certain way and all things changing and things getting really messy. There have been times where it was like this for me and then I got inked to kind of represent that and that’s how the animation came about”, James clarifies.
The unknown was appreciated as well as the familiar. James performed songs never done before. One of these was a cover of Citizen Cope’s ‘Salvation’. A track that received the most ‘wows’ that left the audience silently and enthusiastically stunned. His fans could also enjoy a version of Khalid’s ‘Location’ with the touch of James Gillespie written all over it.
With hit songs like ‘Dead In the Water’ and ‘What You Do’ that was recently featured in the reality show Love Island, the audience sang along word by word. Seeing live the unorthodox cover of P!NK’s ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me’ made the whole James Gillespie experience complete.
It’s not your average Joe occurrence when an artist gets invited to duet with P!NK on a stage in front of 20,000 people. James shares the details of this experience: “We released ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me’ and then she got in touch and was like ‘I really like the song’ and ‘do you want to come and duet it with me in Germany’. That was the first thing, ‘do you want to come and sing on stage’ and she was doing these shows like 22000 people a night. And I was like ‘yes, definitely I want to do that”, James still feeling surreal about the whole thing.
From singing a duet with P!NK, it went straight to James opening the show for her in Berlin, singing by himself for half an hour. This was then topped by joining P!NK on stage at the V Festival that she was headlining with Jay-Z. Already an exhilarating opportunity, P!NK’s easy-going vibe made the whole experience that much enjoyable.
James remembers the moment when he looked up and saw 80 rows going up compared to the V Festival where it was flat and seeing all the people and thought to himself: “This is everything, this is what I want to do for living, that’s it, there’s no coming back now, even if everything went to shit I would spend the rest of my life thinking about this, that was everything”, James humbly smiles.
Right at the beginning of the show, James called the entire audience ‘Day Oners’ marking us as the OG fans, supporting him since day one. It was a moment that will go down in history for James’ career. The combination of church-like atmospheric venue, with simple light effects accompanying a man singing his heart out, convinced everyone in the room to mark his upcoming shows in the calendar.
Karolina Kramplova | WRITER