When Jon started Two Story Melody and dragged me along with him, our goal was, originally, pretty selfish: we wanted to talk to songwriters we loved about the songs they write, and gain insight into how the best songs are made so that we could become better songwriters ourselves. Please forgive us.
Since then, we’ve talked to artists across the genre spectrum, and learned a lot. Songwriting is an enigmatic thing, and it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones who think so (even if we were the only ones cool enough to start a blog about it).
Still, some people just seem to have it down, and, perhaps more impressively, can consistently write songs that everyone likes (that’s what makes pop music pop music).
So we were pumped about interviewing James TW.
James made an iron-giant-sized splash in every sad-song playlist on Spotify (including mine) when he released “When You Love Someone” – a heart-wrenching, beautifully tragic story about parents explaining their divorce to their child – in 2016.
There are few songs that hit as hard. Just listen, and try not to cry.
Few writers (and, to clarify, he was just 18 when he wrote that) can write on such a heavy subject from a perspective of wisdom, all while making it 3:30 and singable.
Since then, he’s released a handful of singles, and has established himself as one of the most impressive forces in the pop love song field, right up there with Shawn Mendes and the ginger genius himself. His melodies are masterful, and his acoustic-pop production is tasteful.
We talked to him about his most recent release, “You & Me“. Listen, then check out the story behind the song, as well as James’s thoughts on songwriting.
Last thing: you should follow him on
to make sure you don’t miss anything. And here’s his website.
How did you start making music?
My dad always encouraged me to pick up instruments and play them as a kid. He plays guitar, and when I was twelve, he taught me some basic chords and we wrote a song together.
Who are your influences?
I’m influenced by a bunch of different artists from James Taylor and Ed Sheeran to James Blake and Bon Iver to Bill Withers and Otis Redding. Whenever I hear something musically that feels fresh and fascinates me, it’ll end up influencing me in some way.
Do you carve out time to write songs, or do you wait for inspiration to strike?
Most of the time I will sit down with my guitar or at the piano to try and start a new song. However, I tend to get my best ideas spontaneously during a conversation or whilst I’m falling asleep.
Your songs are often about falling in love, and the consequences, good or bad, of love itself. Is there a reason you gravitate toward the subject?
I think the reason is because it fascinates me and has been something I’ve experienced in my own way for years.
How do you write melodies?
Usually I’ll find a bunch of chords I like and start playing them round and round singing various melodies. The end goal is to have a group of different melodies that are interesting on their own but also flow into each other.
How do you write lyrics?
Lyrics start once the melodies have been established. I’ll have a handful of concepts for songs in my phone notes, an example being for my song “When You Love Someone” – I had written “Parents explaining to child they’re getting divorced.” Having a concept from the get-go gives me a sense of direction, which is very helpful.
What is your goal when you write a song?
My main goal is to write the best song I can, and, in the process, try to and do something I’ve never done before.
What advice would you give to other songwriters?
Firstly, know that if you continue to write frequently, you’ll look back on the songs you’re writing now in a couple years and see a dramatic growth. Songs aren’t quantifiable things so it makes it difficult to say whether one is better than another – however, I do believe songwriting is a muscle that you can grow and develop over time. Also I’d encourage writers to work with other writers as there is so much you can pick up and learn from them.
How’d “You & Me” start?
“You & Me” started off with me on the piano with singing the first two lines of the chorus in my flat. I then took that initial idea into a writing session and we wrote the rest of the song together.
Can you explain the idea behind the lyrics?
The song is about having that rock in your life who you couldn’t imagine being without.
What’s your favorite line from the song?
I always forget that you can’t read my mind.
What was the production process like?
Once the song had been written, we put together a demo to send to my label and so we can listen to the song ourselves. I usually end up re-recording all of the parts later in the production process – however, there were a handful of great parts that ended up getting used in the final version. I recorded the full song in LA with Nick Ruth who I love and I’ve recorded most of my work with.
When can fans expect a full-length album?
The fans can continue to expect a song every month!
Are there any touring plans we should know about?
Yes! In April I will be doing a European Tour where I’ll be playing all the new songs and also ones I haven’t released yet. The tickets are on sale now at www.jamestw.com/tour.
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