Artist of the Month: James Walker

The artist of the month is James Walker, a UK-born pop artist/singer-songwriter with an impressive touring record, and one of Low-Fi's All-Star artists.
Artist of the Month: James Walker

Present and tell about yourself and your act. Who are you?

I’m James Walker, a pop artist/singer-songwriter/session musician and collaborator from the UK. For the past ten years, I’ve been living as a touring professional, performing at hundreds of shows per year and living in a lot of different cities all around the world. I’ve performed everywhere from living rooms to festival main stages, from the rural Croatian countryside to New York City, and have made countless memories along the way.

I use music to communicate my experiences in love, queerness, trauma, dating, introspection, and everything in between. I’ve lived an incredibly colourful and complex life, from two heart surgeries in my teenage years and early twenties, to having never having lived in one place for more than 6 months. My music is a sonic representation of all of the lessons I’ve learned; sometimes heavy, sometimes fun, always thoughtful and hopefully evocative and enjoyable.

To date, I have performed in over 1,000 shows in 11 countries, received around 15 million streams on my tunes, and collaborated with some incredible artists such as Judy Blank, Nathan Nicholson, and Richard Walters. I’m currently signed to the Dutch indie label Revanche Records, as well as featuring on songs with Armada.

Briefly describe your journey as an act

I started performing as a session musician with Adam Barnes, touring Europe with Matt Simons and Chris Ayer. It was such a wonderful time, and I fell in love with touring immediately. It was all I wanted to do. Adam and I took on some mammoth tours in those days – months at a time with 5-6 shows every week – and I couldn’t get enough. I remember coming home with the feeling that I could last another three months on the road, when everyone else just wanted to sleep. It was all I wanted to do.

I decided to start working on my own material when I had my second open heart surgery at the age of 21. Before the procedure I was given a 2-year life expectancy without treatment. If all went well, and the operation was a success, then my life expectancy would be normal. There were some risks of course. I decided to go with the operation, duh, and everything was fixed. Clot-free. Nailed it. Honestly, I’m so grateful. Unfortunately, the op ended up affecting my short term memory and emotional regulation as a consequence, but hey, that’s so much better than not being here. This motivated me even more to tour as much as possible. So I started working on my first material, performing in friend’s homes and small venues all around the world, trying out songs and writing with anyone who would let me. It was a great time, even though I was living on couches and barely scraping by, I still managed to write and create and travel. This carried on for years, with stints living in Austria, The Netherlands, USA and of course in the UK. All the while creating, learning, growing.

As of today, I have released two albums and am currently deep at work on a third which has been funded by Arts Council England. In the coming two years, I will tour the U.K. and Ireland twice, as well as two extensive EU tours and a US run in summer 2023. Low-Fi will be a big part of my Scandinavian dates, and I can’t wait to share my songs with you.

Who are you inspired by?

Great question that I never know how to answer. Musically Pinegrove, City & Colour, Kevin Garrett, Dr. Dog, JP Saxe, Bright Eyes, Bon Iver, Beau Nox, Alice Boman, Aquilo. Endless. Non-musical include J. Krishnamurti, Vonnegut, Sadhguru.

What is your career setup? Do you have a manager, a booker, a mentor or do you do everything yourself?

For years, it was only me running not only the songwriting and performing but also the booking, recording, artistic direction, merch design, videos, socials, pitching, playlisting, radio plugging, etc etc.

But thankfully as the project has grown so has the team.

I am now signed to the Dutch indie label Revanche who take a little of the work from my hands, they are in charge of editorial pitching across all DSPs, as well as distribution and radio plugging.

95% of the booking is done by me personally. I send out literally thousands of emails per tour to make sure that this is organised, and often am booking around 7-9 months ahead of schedule. It’s a never-ending admin job but it has to be done. This is my job after all! Occasionally, I outsource the booking work to some independent bookers in the territories I intend to play, but still mostly it is me.

Merchandise design is done by my fantastic sister Emily Walker @emilywalkerprint

TV/Film Sync is ran by Mallory Zumbach at Maximal Music Sync in Portland, OR

South Korean distro/physicals are handled by Miae Kwon at Music Table

Some co-writes are out with Armada, some with Round Hill. More to come for Armada later this year.

I’m also currently negotiating some publishing deals with some bigger companies and am very excited to see where they’ll take me!

I have co-written with Richard Walters (Grey’s Anatomy; Alison Moyet, Joe Henry) who also has been a fantastic mentor for me. He introduced me to another collaborator Nathan Nicholson (1m monthly listeners; singer of Boxer Rebellion, in-demand topline artist and co-writer for many). Alongside this I have co-written with breakout Dutch artist Judy Blank, as well as Cooza, Adam Barnes, Josephine Zwaan, Youri Lentjes, and many more.

You have gone abroad with Low-Fi to Denmark and Sweden. How was that experience?

Fantastic! The concerts feel like the first shows I used to do when I was starting out. Stress-free, no pressure, and an intimate way to be introduced to a new audience all while making a good income and sustaining my craft. They were great opportunities to learn more about myself, those countries, the families who hosted me, and to try out new songs and asses their impact and whether they’re worth recording. A great opportunity all around.

You are releasing new music soon, tell us a bit about that

I’m working on two records at the moment, as well as some features for Armada. The two albums are totally different to each other. The first of which is a pop record, hyper polished and produced, and a really nice way for me to lean into those kind of influences in my personality. A lot of my music has been quiet and introspective, and writing with Nathan Nicholson helped my challenge that. Expectations was the first single from this album, and it’s a tongue-in-cheek look at dating culture, an electropop song that asks “am I in love with you, or my expectations?” It’s the first single of the record, which will be completed by the end of the year.

The second record is a collaborative effort with Ashley Wilkie who will be releasing this under a yet-undecided alias. He was the singer of MMX, Francesqa and is a fantastic writer. We collaborated on a song recently, and it just felt so perfect, that we decided to work on a record together. I aim to finish this by summer 23. Alongside this I’m teaming up with Armada and DJ San for another topline that should be out late summer/early Autumn. A dreamy trance tune.

Lots to come.

Why did you choose to become an artist on Low-Fi?

I missed home shows, small concerts, and unique experiences. They were the type of shows that I started off doing, and they’re always the most special. The intimacy of performing right up close to the audience, the pressure-free environment of being in someone’s home. Everything feels like a safe space. I can be creative, and express myself truly, without needing to worry about a big audience, without the complexities of venues, and also while allowing myself to secure a decent income and sustain the project.

What I found particularly appealing about Low-Fi is how simple it is to get in touch with hosts. I’ve messaged hundreds of hosts on Low-Fi now, and managed to organise dozens of concerts.

Do you have any tips and advice for other Low-Fi artists?

Just do it. Write the songs. Book the shows. Tell your stories. Use your voice. Work your ass off. See the world.

It’s so worth it, all of this. The connectivity these type of shows brings is unlike any type of relationship you will experience outside of tour.

The magic of being a special part of somebody’s evening is touching, and such a privilege.

I can’t wait to be back in Scandinavia again in May.

You can find James Walker’s music and upcoming Low-Fi concerts on his Low-Fi artist profile. James is also a Low-Fi All-Star artist, which you can read more about here.

by Laura Nyhus Kaae
June 14, 2022