After spending much of the last year delivering a wealth of tantalising singles in preparation for his eagerly-awaited sophomore album 'Lucky Man', Devon-based singer-songwriter James Spencer is back once again to unveil his vibrant new effort 'Black Dog'.
Channelling another bold and infectious slice of folk and country-inspired aesthetics for his latest outing, 'Black Dog' makes for an incredibly fun and lively listen. With its bold and shimmering textures, pulsing atmosphere, and dynamic vocals layered throughout, we can't wait to hear what this new full-length has in store for us as well.
So with the new single available to stream now, we sat down with him to find out more about his background and what has been inspiring him recently.
What was the first instrument you fell in love with?
It’s cliched but it’s the guitar. The first instrument I learnt was the piano but I’ve not played it since I was a teenager. I picked up a guitar when I was about 12. I’ve actually still got that guitar. It’s a heap of junk but it was my first so I’ll never throw it out.
What kind of music did you love when you were younger?
When I was at school I loved punk rock. Green Day were the first band I really got into. When I moved on to my late teens I really got into metal and fell in love with Iron Maiden and Metallica.
What was the first album you remember owning?
It’s Madness - The Best Of Madness.
What is the one song you wished you could have written yourself?
Blackbird by Alterbridge. It’s a very sad song but it’s a masterpiece.
Do you have any habits or rituals you go through when trying to write new music?
I’m often triggered into writing when something has affected or bothered me in someway. I don’t often go out of my way to write something specific unless I’m setting out to write an actual folk song about a place, person or event. Most of the time life will happen and a song will appear as my way of dealing with it. It was definitely the case with Black Dog. That was my response to lockdown and being grounded. I wasn’t the happiest then and that song appeared as a response. It’s kind of a cathartic process.
Who are your favourite artists you have found yourself listening to at the moment?
In terms of more famous acts I’ve been listening to Nightwish - I still haven’t let go of my metal roots so symphonic metal with a bit of folk thrown in really appeals to me. I also love a bit of Frank Turner. He’s quite an inspiration, especially his work ethic. The guy never stops and it’s quite incredible really. I also listen to quite a lot of the smaller grass roots bands I play with often. I’ve got a playlist of all my favourite songs from people I’ve been fortunate enough to gig with in the past.
If you could open a show for anyone in the world, who would it be?
In my genre it would be the Levellers. I’ve played with Mark Chadwick individually and I’m set to do a gig with Dan Donnelly and Jon Sevink - so I’ve opened for parts of the Levellers but I’d love to show up with ‘The Wreckers’ and open with a full band set for the Levellers as the whole band.
Outside of my genre I’d love to open for Green Day. I’ve seen tons of music at various festivals over the years. They were the first band I ever got into, yet they have eluded me in terms of seeing them live. I don’t know if my music would fit but I love to do it just to see them!
What do you find is the most rewarding part about being a musician?
When you’ve written a song, especially one that is personal it’s almost like you’ve bared your soul for all to see. When you play a show and everyone there is singing your words at you because it means a lot to them too - that is a very special feeling.
And what is the most frustrating part?
Coordinating 5 busy people to be in the same place at the same time can sometimes feel like herding cats! I also seem to always be the driver haha.
And what is the best piece of advice you have received as a musician?
For years I thought I couldn’t write a song. Turns out I was just a perfectionist and I just wasn’t allowing myself the freedom to write without being hypercritical of it and wanting to instantly throw it in the bin. The truth is you need to write those throw away songs to get better. Like anything in life the more you do something the better you get at it. It’s the same with writing music. So the best piece of advice I ever had is that ‘something is better than nothing’. Even if you don’t like what you wrote, you did it and you can improve on it next time.
James Spencer's new single 'Black Dog' is available to stream now. Check it out in the player below.