Image of James Humphrys courtesy of Sonic PR
Interview with James Humphry


What got you into writing and creating music?

I’ve always loved music and creating and making things as a kid. I started learning guitar around 8 and always used to make up my own songs and guitar parts instead of actually practicing what I was meant to be playing. My secondary school was a specialist music school, so performing and all things music were heavily encouraged. I was in a few different bands during this time, the first was a folk band called Skylarks and then the other was a math-pop band called Wolf Choir. When everyone started to head off to their respective Universities, I really missed the music-making so started to record on my own and released a small EP under the name Pharaoh Colour. I guess that was the real start to this solo project. I think it’s still on Bandcamp if you fancy checking it out.

What was it like releasing an EP in these ‘unprecedented times’?

It’s been a strange one you know… in some ways, I’ve very much appreciated the time and the enforced restrictions because it has allowed me to have a strong focus and it has definitely helped me stay on top of things leading up to the release. On the other hand, it has also been very absorbing and slightly anxiety-inducing. Being this close and wrapped up in a project, even on the day of release when you’re stuck at home, has been quite intense. Normally you can celebrate out with mates or have a tangible reaction towards the songs at a show, but when you just have the number of streams or likes on Instagram it can drive you a bit mad. But generally, it has been a very positive experience and I’m super chuffed with the response and how it has all turned out. 

Do you have any favourite songs and lyrical highlights in ‘Memory Palace’?

My favourite track from the EP is constantly changing and would change every day even when I was recording it. At the moment my favourite is the second track, ‘Better Now’. I really like the attention to detail in the arrangement and the individual parts. A lyrical highlight would be in the chorus of ‘Colour’ – “And when it’s lost on me, diluted in the colour, the colour of the words you speak.”

Image courtesy of Sonic PR

Any overall theme of mood that you’re trying to capture while writing songs?

I wouldn’t say there was a specific theme I aim for when I write songs. I actually rarely go into the writing process already knowing what I’m going to write about. A lot of the process is a sort of stream of consciousness, which keeps things fun and interesting. The actual vibe of the music itself also helps with the mood of the song, and can steer the lyrics towards a certain mood, without there being a certain mood in mind beforehand. I try to keep things as open and organic as I can.

What was it like writing ‘Lost in you’ with your girlfriend? Did you find this easier or harder than writing alone?

It was great and I’m also really happy that it’s the closer to the EP, as I think it nicely sums up the EP and my experience writing it. Beth and I have been playing music together in a number of different projects since we met 5 years ago. She also plays synth and sings in my band so it’s something we’re very used to doing but this is the first time we’ve officially released a song together. Normally I do find writing collaboratively more challenging than writing alone, but we started the song when we were out on the ship together working as musicians around Alaska. We started out with the chorus and then arranged the song together in no time at all and that’s how it should be.

How do you think your music has changed since ‘Sun Mantra’ or ‘The River’ a few years ago?

I think it has changed in many ways, especially when I compare it to my first EP ‘Sun Mantra’ which was pretty much an introduction for me as a solo artist. I think first of all my songwriting has developed and matured a lot since the first EP, but also my voice and production skills. I’ve found that gaining confidence and an understanding of the music I want to make has helped with my songwriting and I’ve enjoyed the process. I guess the foundations of what I like about making music are still there, in regards to rhythm and layering etc., but I think a greater understanding of my sound has surfaced hopefully, which is half the battle I think. 

Lockdown is almost completely alien to the coast of Alaska (where you wrote this EP) but has it inspired you in anyway?

Yeah, I would say in some ways lockdown has inspired me. But like I said earlier I have appreciated the time to slow down and think about things, the time to spend developing my craft but also to re-connect with my family in a strange but kinda old fashioned way. I’ve spent a lot of time outside and gardening when I’m not music-making, which has been nice. Spending time in the garden on physical projects and challenges has been inspiring for sure. 

You wrote this EP while working on a cruise ship. Do you have a favourite memory from your time on the cruise?

Ahh, I have a lot of favourite memories from when we were out there. I am a big wildlife / general nature fan and have always wanted to see whales and orcas in the wild, so being able to catch these guys breaching and doing their thing pretty much every week for 4 months was amazing and never got old. We also managed to see the Northern Lights twice whilst we were out there which was incredible and actually, words can’t quite describe the feeling of witnessing that. I’ll try and attach a photo that was taken from the ship.

How have you spent your time in Lockdown? Any zoom quizzes?

My lockdown has been spent back at my parent’s house in Guildford, which has been lovely and nostalgic in some ways. I’ve got my own space where I can make music, so I’ve spent a lot of time down there recording and also getting all the different bits together ready for the EP. I’ve been getting more into gardening and also made a raised vegetable garden which kept me busy for a couple of days. Yes, I have also done my fair share of zoom quizzes and this might unpopular opinion, but I’m glad they’re over.

What music have you been listening to recently?

I have been listening to an artist called Max Pope who has just released an EP called ‘Limbo’, which I really love. I have also recently discovered an artist called Remi Wolf who seems wild and has an amazing voice. I’ve got the classic lockdown playlist over on Spotify if you guys would like to hear what I’ve been jammin’ to. It’s called ‘Cabin Fever Part 2’.

Any plans for when the music industry gets back to normal?

IF the music industry ever returns to normal, I have plans to hold a big ol’ belated release show and party for the release of ‘Memory Palace’ but until then, our next show is supporting VC Pines at The Crofters Rights in Bristol on the 7th September. Other than that, keep your eyes peeled for a music video coming soon and obviously more new music from me.

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