Interview: UK indie artist James White chats to indieBerlin ahead of his Hangar 49 Gig 29.9

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James White is a UK indie artist who’s also a bit of an activist.

His debut EP, The Lost & Forgotten, extraordinarily sold out of the first run of physical copies on the day before its official release. Donating all royalties made from his music to mental health (MIND) and refugee related causes (War Child, Help Refugees as well as personally delivering supplies and helping out around refugee camps), James is currently working on new ways of raising awareness and funds for causes close to his heart through his musical escapades.

His work has seen him interviewed and playing live on the BBC, as well as various interviews on national, regional and community radio stations as well as in newspapers and online articles before making the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent long list for 2017.

indieberlin: Tell us a little bit about your musical background

James White: I spent nine years playing comedy acoustic music under the alias Rage Against Genital Herpes before sacking that in to take up “serious music”. My debut EP, the Lost & Forgotten came out three years ago this month and I have played over two hundred shows since! My first two EPs gave every penny made to refugee related charities and this upcoming third one will give every penny to the mental health charity MIND. I’ve been lucky enough to play across Europe and in 2017 I was listed as an Emerging Talent by Glastonbury Festival.

indieberlin: How does the songwriting process work for you?

James White: Very messily! Sometimes I just get lyrics pop in to my head and I will scramble for either my phone or a piece of paper and make notes, then try and build on from there. Usually, I just say something and think “that is a great idea for a song” and try and build the music around the lyrics. Although 90% of what I write gets binned, so I would say not many of my songs that I write actually make it to being performed live, let alone recorded!

indieberlin: If you had to describe your music to a deaf person, what would you say?

James White: Firstly, that in this ONE instance they are lucky to be deaf! It ranges, I sometimes have a slight country vibe, sometimes rock, sometimes something a bit Americana or psychedelic. It really does vary!

indieberlin: If your music was a movie, which genre would it be in?

James White: I’d love to be able to say a Western or Sci-Fi or Fantasy, but the reality is some dystopian world where the main character goes through endless heartbreaks and frustration with the ruling class…. So whatever genre that is!

indieberlin: Where do you get your inspiration from?

James White: A lot of my music is born from frustration with clear inequalities within society, on going mental health issues that I suffer from or aspects of my personal life. But mainly, my deep love of music is rooted in the fact that music was a sanctuary during a troubled youth where I struggled day-to-day to accept who I was, integrate with my peers and the issues I had with my own mental health.

indieberlin: What was the last concert you went to?

James White: I was so, so lucky. I saw Tyler Childers twice in a week including a stripped back set in a record store where I met him three times in one day! The man is a songwriting GOD.

indieberlin: What was your biggest stage fuck-up?

James White: Just after my grandma died I put on a charity show for refugees. The show was just after the funeral and I was a mess. I got totally wasted and couldn’t play. It was beyond embarrassing. It will never happen again – I drink shandy before shows now!

The UK music scene alone is a mess. Destroyed by the X Factor generation that has championed glorified karaoke.

indieberlin: How do you feel about covering a song?

James White: This is a great question! Having covers in a set of original songs of about a 1/5 ratio is fine I feel. But the UK music scene alone is a mess. Destroyed by the X Factor generation that has championed glorified karaoke. I feel cover bands have their place but they also cripple the progress of original artists. They should be saved for weddings and slots limited. I’m genuinely sick of hearing Valerie or Sex On Fire. Just support original music, for fuck sake!

indieberlin: How do you think the audience in Berlin is different to the audience in ________?

James White: I’ve never played Berlin, let alone been to Germany before, so I am really excited to be playing here. I then come back to Koln in October where I finish the tour. So hopefully you can show the UK how it is done!

indieberlin: Do you prefer to play big festivals / stages or smaller club gigs?

James White: I was so lucky to play Camp Bestival this year but ultimately, I don’t care if they are bit or small so long as the atmosphere is electric!

indieberlin: With whom would you never share the stage with?

James White: Anyone who is racist or sexist, fuck the narrow minded people of this world!

James White is live at Hangar 49 with Banglist and AZZURRA on Sept. 29th! Tickets 5€ on the door!

Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a 'recovering musician', he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.

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