Music Q&A:
James Fredholm

The Texas-born musician releases a poetry collection alongside single Oars later this month. He plays Gullivers, Manchester, 16 Oct, Greystones, Sheffield, 22 Oct and the Packhorse, Leeds, 25 Oct

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What informs your music and songwriting?
From a lyrical point of view, I go by feel. The things that stir me, like nature, humanity, love, injustice, get my creative juices flowing. From there I try to find those emotions in words and stories, keeping it simple, pure, true. Musically, I think all my influences have created a sound that I hear when I write. Often I find it in the balance between tension and relief.

Tell us a bit about your sound and your influences?
My influences span five decades. To mention a few: The Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan, Neil Young, James Taylor, through REM, Nirvana, U2, Oasis, Kings of Leon, Radiohead, to Ed Sheeran, the Lumineers and Bon Iver. Poetically I was influenced by Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Rumi, Robert Frost, DylanThomas, Seamus Heaney and Philip Larkin. My sound is kind of edgy and a little melancholy. I like the analogue sound – real instruments with warmth and emotion. Simplicity and understatement.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
It is a very slow process, a journey for me. It took me years to find my voice. I was kind of acting my way through life and, through trial and error, I finally starting taking shape. I find being true to myself has helped me to really break through as an artist. I have experimented a lot and tried to keep up with the sound fashions. But in the end I came back to my roots, which is acoustic based, harmonic, understated melodies, tension and relief.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
Having become a full time artist at the beginning of 2017, I am relearning my daily routines. Long walks, reading and free time have opened up my eyes and heart. Poetry and music are my tools. I exercise them every day, and wait for the magic to happen.

What’s on your rider?
Nothing at the moment – just humility and gratitude. I love what I do now and don’t really expect much in return, maybe just respect and appreciation. I want to enjoy every step in the journey.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
When I was young and very self-conscious, my mother was a source of constant embarrassment – she was so open and I was so closed. But to answer the question, I once went to a costume party dressed up as an African tribal dancer. I was almost naked in the company of conservative, repressed adults. That was very embarrassing (until I had enough to drink ☺).

What song do you wish you’d written?
There are many, but if I have to narrow it down to one, well, maybe Imagine. I identified so strongly with John Lennon, and he sort of found himself when he wrote that song.

What’s your worst lyric?
Do you mean today? I throw bad lyrics away every day. They are piled up everywhere. I can’t say which one was the worst, but to find the nuggets you have to dig. It’s part of the process.

What’s it like to operate in the music industry today?
Somewhere between confusing and disappointing. A few years ago I founded a record label and did my best to break through, focusing on new, high potential indie artists. Through that experience I saw the music business as very hard and frustrating. I like it a lot more now as an independent artist. I am more tolerant and open minded about it. So far so good.

How do you stand out from the crowd in a saturated industry?
I guess I am an old, precious rose in what is now an overgrown garden. I am not an attention seeker, but my roots are deep and my art blooms in a way that only comes with time. I think people notice that.

Tell us about your worst live show.
For some years I played with some great friends in a cover band. We called ourselves Eargasm. We got a gig with a hedge fund in an exclusive hotel in Switzerland. They paid us tons of money. At first we thought it was great. By the end of the evening they thought they owned us – we were just puppets on a string. They even tried to buy our PA off us so they could keep the party going.

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James Fredholm

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