Festival Q&A: James Hunter

The singer with the James Hunter Six talks ahead of playing the North Wales Blues & Soul Festival

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What inspired you to make a life in soul music?
I’m from Colchester and started out working on the railways. I was looking to do something other than that and was just inspired by the old records I heard from my brother and mates. Made my own attempt to come up with something like that and tried to find my own voice.

What do you have planned for the North Wales Blues & Soul Festival crowd?
The performance will be a reaction to the audience. You can’t predict it. We like to think on our feet and keep on our toes. A mixture of current album Whatever It Takes and the previous one, Hold On. We are looking for the possibility of excitement. It would be very rare to road test a song before we go into the studio to record it. So sometimes out on the road little bits creep in. Somebody will make a mistake and we decide to keep it in. I like to throw in a vocal inflection, do something different. People who have been listening to the record and know the material get a kick out of it.

Do you review your own live performance?
We used to record all the shows but I ended up with so many tapes I didn’t know what to do with them. Recordings taken from the desk can be a bit dry.

What’s the one song you wish you’d written?
What’s So Good About Goodbye? Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

What’s your funniest festival memory?
Played a hot air balloon festival outside London and our double bass was broken. I had to play the bass notes on the guitar to cover our bassist and he mimed the whole gig.

How do you look after your voice?
I drink gallons of water and do a warm-up when nobody’s listening. You’ve got to find a bit of privacy because it can sound a bit stupid.

What are your festival essentials?
It used to be root beer but I found out how bad it was for my teeth. The wife and I have gone vegan recently. I feel a lot better for it. No more processed grub. So I make sure there is something healthy.

How does playing a festival differ from playing your own gig?
The acoustics are more vulnerable to the conditions – usually need a good crew. But it’s a more rounded audience – younger people who don’t necessarily go to the clubs we play.

What’s your writing process?
I’ve never had a writing partnership. Only with the arrangement – sometimes I’ll get a little help there. For the most part it’s just me and I’ll make up my mind what the subject matter is.

Have you ever gigged in North Wales?
I’m not sure we’ve played there before – done more in South Wales. We used to perform at the Kings Hotel in Newport, a famous music venue back in the day.

How’s the tour going?
Well. Been playing in the States for three weeks, then back to Europe. The goal is some recognition for the new album.

What’s your weapon of choice?
A Gibson Les Paul. People think it’s vintage but it was made in 1999.

The North Wales Blues and Soul Festival takes place in Mold, 3-5 August

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