A testimony to the strength of the songs on James Morrisons debut album Undiscovered is that it yielded no fewer than five singles You Give Me Something, Wonderful World, The Pieces Dont Fit Anymore, Undiscovered and One Last Chance. The songs were simple yet beautifully written, each giving Jamess raw, bluesy voice a platform to work its powerful magic. There was no bullshit, no clichés, no schmaltz. And a lot of people liked that.
Undiscovered went to No 1 in Britain, Top 20 in America and won him the 2007 Brit Award for Best Male (he was also nominated for Best Single and Best Newcomer). Jamess debut sold over two million copies worldwide and he became the biggest selling British male solo artist of 2006. He was just 21 but had already accumulated enough life experience to give his candid folk-soul songs genuine emotional content. By many peoples standards hed had a tough, itinerant childhood, a broken family and endless house moves although hed be the first to shrug and say it was no big deal. But hed also admit that most of the emotion in his singing has come from his upbringing.
Jamess reputation as a must-see live performer soared. Following his jaw dropping, first ever TV performance on Later With Jools Holland he went on to play amazing shows to adoring crowds: including the V festival twice in one day in 2006 so many people came to see him in one of the smaller tents that he was invited to give an impromptu performance on the main stage; last year he played a full set on the main stage. Then there was the Royal Variety Performance, the Concert for Diana and the more traditional 3 sold-out UK tours. He did the Peace One Day concert at the Royal Albert Hall and had one of those moments where he suddenly realized that his life had changed forever. Just before I went on I was watching Yusuf Islam and I thought, Im on after Cat Stevens! I remember being at home with my dad listening to his albums during the darkest times, the best of times James has subsequently provided vocals on Yusufs new album.
He toured Europe, Australia and Japan, did three separate tours of America, gigging coast to coast. He also supported John Mayer on his large outdoor sheds tour in the US. He gave an acoustic rendition of You Give Me Something on national TV on NBC today as well as Jimmy Kimmel and performed on Jay Lenos show twice at the hosts invitation. James loved the musical appreciation in the American South, in particular. People were awesome in Alabama really friendly, loud and lairy. Even if you play a quiet song, afterwards they just go YEAH!!!
It was an amazing time. But sometimes, when he wasnt onstage, or with the band, hed feel an acute sense of being increasingly cut off from the people who mattered: his friends and family back in Cornwall where his mother had finally settled with James, his brother Laurie and sister Hayley when James was 11, and where James had refined his self-taught singing and guitar-playing by busking in Newquay. Most importantly of all, he missed his long-term girlfriend Gill, who had inspired You Give Me Something and, during a rocky patch in their relationship, The Pieces Dont Fit.
The further James Morrison travelled, both physically and career-wise, the more he craved the people he loved. Everything Id felt close to just disappeared, he says. You do lose your mind a bit; you havent got any routines. And sometimes all Id think about on the road would be Gill but wed lose contact. So when I got home itd feel like we were starting again.
He finally stopped in August 2007. For two weeks. And then he sat down to write and record the Notoriously Difficult Second Album. And at first it did prove difficult. He tried to write rockier, harder tunes as glimpsed on Undiscovereds Call The Police, which touched on the subject of domestic violence. I went for something with a bit more electric guitar but in the end it just sounded contrived.
The pressure was on and it was making him try too hard, too self-consciously. As soon as Id get something good Id think about it and screw it up. And then the penny dropped: Just go for what youre feeling at the time. Thats how I worked on the first album, and in a way I think thats some of the reason why people liked it. It wasnt trying too hard.
And so the people who really made him feel, the ones who became the subjects of his songs on Undiscovered his family and friends his relationship with each of them, and the new chapters in all their lives, became central to the new album. James went with whatever and whoever was on his mind, and took it from there. The songs began to flow.
Ive called the album Songs for You, Truths for Me because thats what I feel it is. Its songs for Gill and everyone else. But for me theyre truths. Theyre how I feel. Ive got a song called Love is Hard. In fact, there are three songs with love in the title and I never thought Id do that, but thats the way it went. Love is Hard is about when youre deep in it and it hurts a lot of the time. Youre fighting, or not always agreeing, you might be away from each other and youve still got to be strong. So the albums a collection of truths Id learnt in the previous year. It just turned out that way: I knew I didnt want to write about being on the road. I can only write about what I feel.
In the end, James enlisted many of the same collaborators from Undiscovered to work with him on Songs for You, Truths For Me hooking up once more with co-writers Martin Brammer, Steve Robson and Eg White. He also added a new fan, One Republics Ryan Tedder to that list. The Nashville string quartet feature once again. I know we work well together now itll take a lot for me to work with someone new.
There is also a notable collaboration on this record, one of the only things his debut album didnt have, a fantastic duet with Nelly Furtado on the epic Broken Strings.
Songs for You, Truths For Me is a classic James Morrison record that once again showcases his distinctive, raw, soulful style but takes it to the next level. Its less playful, more to the point, he says. But I havent consciously gone for a different sound. With me, it always comes down to the lyric, the melody, and the rest flows from that. But Ive definitely tapped into my feelings about life more on this album, rather than writing about characters on the bus (Wonderful World), or whatever. I was just letting stuff flow through me.
James Morrisons big, unashamedly romantic heart and generous spirit shines through like a beacon. Songs For You, Truths For Me sees the wide eyed soul-boy become a wiser man. With this he shines once more on a brilliant new collection of songs and cathartic truths.
James Morrison official site:
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