Interview: Jarryd James on P.M., New York City and sunburns

Jarryd James. Credit- Mitch Lowe

Jarryd James hit international recognition with his debut album Thirty One back in 2015. His lead single “Do You Remember” has been streamed over 111 million times since its January 2015 release and picked up Best Pop Release at that year’s ARIAs, alongside four other nominations for Jarryd.

To say his debut was successful is a major understatement. It turned this Brisbane singer-songwriter’s life around, from working as a social worker to touring the globe and collaborating with some of the most exciting producers and artists in the industry (more of that below!).

His second studio album, P.M., took Jarryd to New York, Auckland, Nicaragua, Los Angeles and Brisbane, and boasts new collaborators such as Clams Casino (A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, Lana Del Rey), Cautious Clay (KYLE, Logic), and Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow); as well as returning Thirty One collaborators Malay Ho and Joel Little.

With Jarryd as the creative director of the visuals, playing every instrument on the album, bringing on board a stellar team of producers and really spending the time honing in his craft, P.M. is an incredibly strong collection to follow Thirty One.

We caught up with Jarryd ahead of its release to hear about the album’s international creation, reflect on his debut and to check in on Jarryd’s sunburn.

How are you doing, Jarryd?

I’m good. I’m just a little bit sunburnt, so I’m just sitting on the couch in pain. I fell asleep on the beach yesterday and I’m f**king roasted.

It happens to the best of us! What’s the first thing you do when you normally go back to Queensland?

I mean I’ve only been living down the Gold Coast for the last year, February, last year. So when I get back here, which has only happened twice so far because I’ve been away twice, I normally hit up the pool, which is across the road from where I live, and I just play pool for about an hour straight and drink beer. Just kind of go to my favourite restaurants.

Okay, what are we eating?

Just depending on where I’ve been travelling sometimes, like if you’re in America the food’s weird and when you get back to Australia you just want a big schnitzel or something.

It sounds like over the creation of P.M., you were living a life, drinking a lot of piña coladas, eating some pretty damn good food. When you listen back to the album, is it almost like a travel diary to you? It seems like quite a luxury now to have created it all across the world.

Yeah, a hundred per cent. Like I was actually just talking about that yesterday. I wish I’d known at the time that it was going to be such a strange thing to look back on. Just being able to freely travel everywhere without any kind of hesitation. It’s so strange to look on it. I look back through photos and stuff from my trips and it’s a bit surreal, it’s weird. I feel lucky I was able to do it.

Was there one definitive experience over the recording that you sat back and thought, “Wow, like this is my day job. This is insane.” If you had to pick one?

Yeah, there’s a lot. But I think probably I really, really have grown to love New York City a lot. It’s a combination of just the city itself and the people there, and the studio that I’m working in there, the people I work with. It really helped me break through the barrier of writer’s block. Just feel really creative again.

Would you ever move there?

I think so. Yeah, it’s crazy expensive! I really love that city. It’s the kind of place where you don’t feel like… It’s like the opposite of Tall Poppy Syndrome is the best way to explain it. Like you can do whatever you want there and no one really bats an eyelid at you.

That’s true. It’s such a fast-paced city, compared to you falling asleep on a beach in the Gold Coast.

I mean, I’m would agree in some way but when you look at it at face value… When you spend a solid chunk of time there you kind of start to realise, like if you find some little pockets that you enjoy, it’s actually really chill. Like if you find a little underground bar or something, you go there every day for like a couple of weeks. You know, it felt like a knock off drink or whatever, you start to realise it’s actually pretty calm, in a weird way.

I guess as a tourist you’re busy running around, fitting everything you can in a short amount of time. Obviously, if you’re there with the luxury of time, you’d find your niche.

I think that’s exactly right. Like if you’re there trying to do as much stuff as you can in a limited amount of time, I would agree, but when you’re there kind of living almost, it’s really, really cool. To kind of take a new perspective on it.

 

Who’d you team up with over there? What songs off the new album were created in New York?

The last track on the album, I did that there, I started that there with Malay. We did a bunch of sessions at a studio called Germano, which is a pretty nostalgic place for me now. I worked with Clams Casino there as well. And we did “I Do” at another studio. I did some stuff with Andrew Wyatt on a track on an album called “Don’t Forget”. So like a good chunk of the album was done in New York.

Speaking of “Overdue”, your final album track with Malay, how did you find Trapo? Because he’s only a young rapper, isn’t he?

He’s super young. Actually, he’s got a lot of cool stuff under his belt. Going off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure it was a guy that used to work at… Do you know Pigeons & Planes? There’s a dude there which we reached out to, me and my previous manager, just because we made “Overdue” a thing. And then the label sent the track off to this beat maker in Toronto, they were friends or something. Kind of flipped the beat up at the end, and the plan was to get a feature on it.

So we had it kind of ready to go. And this guy, I can’t recall his name, it’s really bugging me, but he sent through a bunch of potential people we could hit up. And one of them on the list was Trapo. I literally was just trying to delve through all of the suggested artists catalogues. I hit play on the album he made called Oil Change and I was just kind of sold immediately. And I was like, if we could get this dude, especially because he’s young and relatively unknown. I kind of liked the idea of that. So we sent him the beat and literally I think it was like the day after or a couple of days, he sent back that whole thing and it’s kind of blown my mind. But yeah, he’s a legend.

I read that “Do You Remember” was the fourth most Shazamed single of the decade and you had a great debut success. It’s a classic question, but did you find you put a lot of pressure on yourself?
What were the general feelings leading up to a big writing trip where you’re literally travelling overseas to create this album? A lot of things on the line, what’s going on?

I think I do put a lot of pressure on myself. But when I was in a lot of the sessions, I didn’t go there thinking I’m making an album. I was lucky in the sense that I just had the luxury of time to just start making music and really hone in exactly the kind of music that I really wanted to make for the second album. Obviously, a lot of people with a second album see it as the chance to refine their first album. And that’s kind of what I did. I feel very fortunate that I had the time to just do that. And so so lucky that I got to work with the people that I got to work with. I think after a little while I kind of forgot I was even making an album and I was just trying to one-up myself every time I got into the studio and try to make something kind of cohesive before I had to tie it up.

There’s nothing like a little bit of friendly competition with yourself. I think that’s a good thing.

 

You said just before that you got to collaborate with some insane people. You brought a lot of people along from your last album, but you also collaborated with some new producers. Do you have a general ice breaker that you like to do when you meet a new producer?

I think what normally happens is we’ll rock up to a studio and just start playing… Like normally if it’s someone I haven’t worked with before, it’s just us to hear what I’ve been working on. So we just do a little listening party vibe. That kind of kicks it off normally, normally get some beers.

Play a bit of pool.

Honestly like, yeah any chance I get! But normally it’s just trying to figure out what direction to take.

I want to ask you about Nicaragua and that chapter of your writing trip. Because that’s where you met up with Joel Little and Broods, along with some other people, right?

So, that trip was curated by Joel. So there’s a record label based in New York called Neon Gold and they asked Joel to curate the trip. So, basically choose the artists and writers and the producers that were going to come and I’m quite close to Joel and those kids. So, that was a nice little core to the group. And then there was a bunch of other people that Joel had invited as well.

What are the realities of it? Are you guys all put up in a hotel together or is it ‘make your own way over’ separately or is there a big tour bus sort of deal going on? Paint me a picture.

Yeah, that’s a good question. So that one, obviously because it was in a little country in Central America and most of the people that come up are based in LA so a bunch of us trekked over. You had to fly to Miami and then you get on a small boat down to all the way down to Nicaragua.

At the time they had this kind of precinct set up in Managua, I think is the name of the town, and it’s right up in the jungle and they kind of built it for this kind of thing. So it’s literally, it’s bungalows in a central area that has the kitchen, the bar, and they have staff there that cook for you and make you cocktails and all this shit. Quite amazing. It’s like you’re on holiday but then you also get to make dope music with dope people. So that’s yeah, that’s kind of what it was like, and it was a good one because a lot of us knew each other already. So it honestly one of the best times of my life. So much cool music came out of it as well.

God damn, you need to find some way that you can translate that back into Australia. Go to like the Sunshine Coast hinterlands or something.

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s going to be something that’s going to happen a lot more now that international travel’s quite limited. I think it’s going to be like that for a while. I know a few people who are keen to do something similar here, so I think that will happen.

I‘m keen to see. You let me know if that does happen and I’ll come along just for the ride, give you a third ear.

 

Before I let you go, you’re about to start a new chapter with P.M., So I want to look back retrospectively to Thirty One. In the past, you’ve said that you want to create music that’s not just a flash in the pan. How do you feel nowadays listening back to your debut album?

I’m still pretty solid on it, like I’m proud of it, but if I’m being honest with myself like that was…I was trying to catch up with myself at the time. There was a lot of things happening in my life that were quite new to me, and I was trying to process it all, at the same time making an album and constantly being in weird places. It was a foreign experience in so many ways. So I can kind of take it with a grain of salt. I definitely learnt from my mistakes on that first album. Again, this is why it’s so cool to have time to do this second album. I mean, no regrets but always learning.

Always learning, and you’ve been getting into a lot more producing recently as well I’ve heard. So I feel like you would be coming at it with a different ear.

In fact, I just did something similar to the Nicaragua one, but it was in Sydney so it wasn’t as exotic. Like at the Sony studios as a songwriter camp which was really cool. It’s really exciting.

Oh yeah, did Tommy [Jackson] and Jordyn [Gaunt] run that?

Yeah, that’s it.

That’s sick, I saw photos of that and it looked like a riot.

Yeah, it was so fun, and I was kind of thrown in the deep end because I was in there as a producer. I was learning a lot but it was so cool and collaborated with some really, really exciting artists.

Will any of that come to fruition?

I think so, yeah. This year’s going to be pretty busy to be for me working with some really good people.

I hope you teed up Jerome Farah. I really like what he’s doing.

I didn’t only because he was also in there as a producer, so constantly in different sessions. But yeah, I’d love to work with him at some point, which we only kind of met in passing.

True, you guys are both producer/vocalists… Well, I’m excited. I can’t wait for P.M., I can’t wait for all these extra projects on the horizon.

P.M. is OUT NOW. Stream it on your preferred platform here

Keep up with Jarryd James on his Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

Main image credit: Mitch Lowe

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