Hearing about a band or artist's influences and inspirations are all well and good, but sometimes, you just want to get to the nitty-gritty in an interview - like, 'what's your favourite takeaway dish'?
Our new Q&A series sees us throwing rapidfire questions at musicians to get their most instinctive answers. There's no beating around the bush here - just honest, straightforward insights into their creative minds.
Multi-instrumentalist performer and songwriter James Cramer has been co-writing with some of Ireland’s chart toppers for many years, including Hermitage Green, Luan Parle and Eleanor McEvoy. James also fronts the alt-folk band Tupelo and will release his debut solo album later this year.
He recently released his debut single 'Simple Man' – so we caught up with him to chat influences and more.
1. What’s the music that you listened to growing up, that you still listen to today?
I discovered blues, soul, gospel and old rhythm and blues as a young kid browsing the aisles of the record shops. I would find a cover I liked, buy the record and read up on the artist. Then I'd namecheck their influences and I would go back and seek them out. When I was a teenager in Dublin, nobody I knew was listening to the music I liked - it was all dance music or hip-hop and rap - so I felt like an alien. I still listen to my old CD collection - the likes of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Eddie Floyd, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, The Staple Singers, Howlin' Wolf. As I went back I found out these were the artists who influenced everything else that I began to love.
2. In three words, describe the minute before you walk on stage.
Hyper, calm, rumble.
3. How do you wind down after a gig?
After doing the merch and getting rid of the gear, we usually grab a beer and some food and chill - depending on how early we have to be up the next morning. It’s funny how many times I’ve had 6am radio or TV slots the morning after a show! I find it to just switch off after a show, so you need a few hours to unwind with your people.
4. What’s the one song you wish you’d written or recorded first?
Man, that’s a hard one isn’t it?! So, so many. I have to go with my initial feeling, so ‘In the Garden’ by Van Morrison. As an 11-year-old hearing him sing ‘No guru, no method, no teacher’; that hit me right to the core. It still actually does.
5. You can only have three albums on your phone/in your house at any one time - what three would you pick for today?
‘Into the Music’ by Van Morrison as I always go back to it; it’s pure joy.
'A Deeper Understanding’ by The War on Drugs. I was on tour in America when it was released and it was the perfect colour in my ears.
'The Best of Eddie Floyd at Stax Records'. One of the most underrated singer-songwriters of all time, in any genre.
6. Name one record, one book and one film that everyone should hear/read/see.
Record: Roy Orbison ‘In Dreams’
Book: ‘Shantaram’ by Gregory David Roberts
Movie: ‘On The Waterfront’ written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Elia Kazan.
Three gifts from the gods!
7. Pick the director and lead actor(s) for a biopic about your life.
I’d let Scorsese direct it with Larry David playing me! Give him a wig and I think he could pull it off - particularly with all the CGI they used for The Irishman!
8. You’re ordering take-away, what do you get?
Easy. Indian cuisine – a chicken saag!
9. Describe your perfect day off.
Wake at 10am have some poached eggs and coffee. It’s sunny out and the streets are quiet so I can go for a stroll, go check out a nice art exhibition, come home for lunch and write some songs. I think if I don’t create somethingm it’s a waste of a day for me; if I do, that's a good day for me. Pretty simple, I am!
10. Tell us, in one sentence, why we should listen to your music.
Because I mean it. I sing with all I’ve got like it’s the last time, every time. If that’s your thing I’ll see you at the next gig.
BONUS QUESTION: Recommend a podcast and tell us why we should subscribe to it.
I discovered a good one the other day called Broken Record with Rick Rubin.
'Simple Man' is out now. Visit jamescramer.eu for more.