EXCLUSIVE: Gavin James Talks Busking and Performing at Pubs and Inspiration Behind Album “Only Ticket Home”

Irish singer-songwriter Gavin James brought his Only Ticket Home Tour to Boston’s Brighton Music Hall. In October 0f 2018, the singer released his second album, Only Ticket Home, which includes his singles “Hearts On Fire,” “Always,” “Glow” and a special version of his hit song “Tired.” James performed for a good hour plus. James shines both performing solo and with a band backing him, he performed all the songs on his newest album. He played to the packed crowd at Brighton Music Hall, telling the crowd each unique story behind each song, he even jumped unto the crowd to play part of his last song “Only Ticket Home.” Overall the show was amazing and really intimate. ECHO had the chance to chat with James before his show in Boston about his album and his life in Ireland.

Photo Credit: Amelia Cordischi

How has your year been so far?

It’s been grand. It’s only been two months, but it’s been really good. I’m touring over here for the first time in a while; so it’s been good. We did a whole European tour; which was great.

Has there been a favorite memory so far; especially from the European tour?

Amsterdam was the last one we did in the European one. Amsterdam was like an arena show; so it was f*cking crazy. They had fireworks and flames and shit. It was deadly. I nearly got hit by a f*cking firework. They told me to beware of the flames and shit, but I wasn’t really aware of it because it went off in a random spot. It was grand.

Photo Credit: Amelia Cordischi

Your album was released at the end of last year. It’s full of very inspirational, heartfelt songs. What is the overall message of the album?

I wrote the whole album- well, it was last year. No, last year as in the year before the album came out. I recorded it all at Christmas- in January and February. I haven’t really taken any time off at all in that whole 4 years or 5 years. I mean, before that I was doing loads of gigs in Dublin in Temple Bar and all that stuff. It was the first time I had a little time off. I stayed at home a bit and wrote a bit. Things hadn’t really changed at home even though I was away for a long, long time. I’d just been missing people and relationships.Maintaining relationships when your that far away from home [is impossible]. But Facetime is f*cking great; so it’s fine. No, so it’s all about that. The last song I wrote for the album was Only Ticket Home. That was the song that kinda has pretty much has all of the album in one song.

Do you have a favorite song off the album?

My favorite one to do live is “Only Ticket Home.” My favorite song is “Always.” Because “Only Ticket Home” is f*cking fun because at the gig, we just keep playing it for 20 minutes. I get to run around the crowd and just f*cking scream at people. It’s so much fun.

Photo Credit: Amelia Cordischi

Speaking of performing, you’ve opened for Niall Horan and Ed Sheeran, played big arenas, and headlined many of your own shows. What’s the difference between doing those and do you see fans from those show at your own shows?

I see a lot- yeah, a lot of the Niall Horan fans I see coming to shows now. I did the Sam Smith tour over here as well; which always helps. People come to shows- I know a lot of the people from that Sam Smith tour ‘cause that was three years ago-four years ago. A lot of the people that came to shows then have grown up. So everytime I come back, all the lads that were like 15 and really short are now like f*cking monsters that are in college. Time goes by so fast. I even came to Los Angeles. Los Angeles was the first show of the tour at the Roxy. I was with a mate and saw some dude that was coming to the show for four years. And I only really come here every year, but I want to make it more. I want to come back over her again this year.  It’s great that they always come to the shows; which is cool. That’s the whole point of supporting people isn’t it? You steal all [the fans] haha

You grew up in Ireland and you’ve toured through so many countries, how has that shaped you to become the artist you are today?

I grew up in town- in Dublin- in the city center. I finished school at seventeen and I went to college for like a month and just hated it. So I left college and started playing shows in pubs, I was already kinda playing shows in pubs. When I was [taking exams] I was hungover in the morning trying to f*cking wake up and do it. Because I was doing gigs in pubs and getting paid in beers. I mean, I did like 5 years in Temple Bar; which is kinda like pub scene where you do 3 hours set and do fifteen gigs a week. It was f*cking mad, but it’s a great way to learn how to not be shit at playing. And it’s a great way to learn to play in front of people who don’t really want to listen to you ‘cause if you can get them to shut up for one song it’s grand.

You’ve performed at pubs. Did you also busk in the street?

I did when I was younger. I always used to always busk on Wednesdays. I used to get off school early on Wednesdays and if not I just would not go to school. And I used to go straight into town and busk with my little crate amp. I used to do that with me and my two buddies. We used to have a little band. We’d play Jimi Hendrix kinda stuff.

In the pub, were there any ways you would get the crowd to stop speaking for a while?

Yeah, I used to unplug if it was really rowdy. Well, all pubs are rowdy. I’m sure if you go anywhere in Boston it will be rowdy, everywhere is going to be rowdy if you start playing acoustic, sad songs in the corner, people aren’t going to be like, ‘oh we should all shut up.’ It’s not going to happen. The main thing I used to do. I used to stand on the bar. I used to plug out the guitar and run over to the bar, stand on the bar and kinda just get everybody to be quiet. And once you start playing the guitar really quietly and start singing really loud, the people just realize, ‘oh, shit. Something’s happening here.’ And then you run back over to the mic and you’re attention is drawn. The hardest part was doing your own song in them gigs . Trying to get them to listen like-  ‘here’s me own song’ Their like ‘f*ck off! Go away!’

Is being Irish very important to you as well?

Yeah. Where I’m from – Dublin- me and everybody I know find everyone is quite nice. I’ve been around the world a couple of times -in different parts of the world. I lived in London; which is not to say I don’t- I love London. But sometimes the niceties of Dublin whereas you hold the door open for somebody in Dublin their gonna be like ‘thanks very much’ or if you bump into someone they’ll be like ‘oh i’m sorry’. Just the like things – that people are just genuinely really friendly in Dublin. And in Ireland it’s kind of just brought up in the culture. We curse a lot. The same in Boston. There’s loads of Irish people in Boston. It’s crazy. Everybody is really f*cking nice here. Everyone is really nice here. Everybody we’ve met. Every Uber driver is lovely. Everybody’s just themselves. It doesn’t seem like they’re trying to be anybody else. Same in Dublin everybody is just kind of like if you don’t like them then get the f*ck out. Whereas like some places I’ve been to- not everybody but- you might get a bit of fakeness.   That’s whyI love Dublin. I’ve been brought up in a really nice be nice to people. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.

How did you get your start in music?

I just did the gigs in the pubs. It’s one of them things – I quit. I stopped doing the gigs when I was 20- 21. Cause some old lad came up to me – like he’s setting up for the show and he’s 80- 75 or something. He was probably only 68. He said I’m going to set up after you. I told me he used to be able to do the high kinda notes like yourself. I asked him, ‘how long have you been doing this in the pubs?’ and he was like, ‘since about your age.’ I was like ‘f*ck’ Fair play but still like f*ck. I just quit then. I gave them my two weeks notice. I did up and down Ireland. Open mic nights and stuff. I used to get every gig I could possibly to and just like broke as fuck for like two years or like a year. Then I met my manager, Edison and we went over to Los Angeles. Flew over there and then tried to get a record deal. Didn’t get a record deal. Flew back to Ireland. We were like f*ck. Then signed to a small independent record deal in Ireland with a record label called believe in France. All kicked off then. Released one song in Ireland. Did really well in Ireland. Did a tour around Ireland. And just kept doing that and built up from the ground up. Giged a lot. Just did a lot of gigs. Old school f*cking grind.

How did the song, “Tired” come to be?

I wrote it with my friend, Ollie Green . We wrote it together. It was just a piano and vocal and a little bit of guitar. It was really stripped back and I thought the song was great, but I had nowhere to put it. I didn’t want to do it because I had a lot of ballads at that time and I was trying to go down more the lines of little be more- not rocky, but faster pace. I had a song out called “Hearts On Fire” that was just out.  I didn’t know what to do with [Tired]. Then Kygo had a go of it and so did Adam Walker and I was like, f*cking sick. Adam Walker pretty much produced the f*ck out of it and smashed it. He made it sound like a big dance anthem kinda thing. I was like that’s deadly. Kygo released it after him as well. Yeah, it was cool. It was one of them things where I didn’t know what to do with it and then it fell into the right hands and they did a great job with it. It’s like the saddest dance song.

You did make a wish for a kid named Leo. How does that feel knowing that your music helps heal people?

Yeah, I always bump into him and his mom and his family in Dublin and stuff. Everytime I have time off- it takes two seconds.It’s like a little thing. I’ve seen this Ryan Gosling  video of him – have you ever seen the video, Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal? It’s fucking incredible. The funniest shit ever. That guys sadly passed away, but Ryan Gosling just did a video of him pouring cereal and eating it. It was like a little simple 10 second video. It probably took him a minute to do . But little things like that are so simple and it doesn’t take any time . Instead of watching Netflix for 5 hours, just go down the road and do something nice. I work with a lot of Down Syndrome charities in Ireland and stuff. I kinda do a lot of that. It’s very simple to do a gig meet all the lads. My nephew has Down Syndrome. He’s the coolest dude ever. But it’s just a very easy thing to do. It takes thoughts away from yourself and you give them to somebody else. That Leo guy is gas. He’s cool.

As 2019 continues, what  are your goals?

I haven’t a clue. I got  to do this tour. Finish off- we still have Asia and Australia and Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Ireland to do.  That finishes the end April. A lot of gigs. There’s going to be a lot of gigs and then I’m going to go back I’m going to record a bit more and do all the festivals in the summer which is great cause you do the festivals and then you’re off for 5 days and you can drink at the festivals where this tour is super dry  and we’re not even having any alcohol ; which is so f*cking horrible. Every time I’ve been in Boston. I love Boston. To go out and have a drink. I lost my voice at Christmas so I kinda had to save it. So I’m going to do that and then I’m going to get in the studio for a bit and then try to do this whole run again before the end of the year. But I don’t really have any immediate goals/ I just have plans and we’ll just see what happens.

Make sure you catch Gavin James at one of his shows while he’s on tour in America! You can get tickets by clicking here!

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