NOBODY likes making comparisons but with Gavin James, it’s just too easy to call him Ireland’s Ed Sheeran. They’re both amazingly talented singer song-writers, which is a testament in itself to the weakness that Irish people have to a fella with a guitar. Like Ed, Gavin is extremely down to earth, which plays very well in Ireland because the number one question we always ask is “would he be a sound fella to have a pint with?” And the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Aside from that, Gavin’s tracks have been listened to over 300 million times on Spotify, he has supported Ed Sheeran on tour, sold out the Three Arena and this Saturday, October 27, he comes back to Waterford to launch his new album and simultaneously welcome the triumphant return of Electric Avenue. Gavin spoke to the Waterford News & Star this week to talk about his many nights out on John Street, his upcoming album and the golden era of buying music.
“My first gig in Waterford was in the Forum and there was like ten or eleven people there,” he said. “It was grand like, we went to Shortts afterwards and that went absolutely mad. I ended up in Hillbillies at like 3’o clock in the morning or something.”
This was seven years ago, when a 20 year old Gavin was trying to churn out a career for himself as a musician.
“It was really fun,” he remembers. “That strip there…John Street is it…it’s really nice.”
Gavin has subsequently played in Waterford five or six times, including headline shots in Electric Avenue and Shortts.
“I have done about five or six gigs in Waterford, including in Daytripper with the lads from the Coronas and Keywest, they’re the official gigs,” Gavin said. “I’ve also ended up on stage in Shortts many times after a few pints as well…it’s deadly craic, I love it down in Waterford.”
An important quality about Gavin James is that regardless of whether he’s performing in front of 10 people or 50,000 people, he still gives it his all, because as he says himself, he’s “honoured to be able to play music for anyone”.
“I love being busy all the time so I really don’t mind what venues I’m playing as long as I’m gigging,” he said. “If I sit still for even a minute, I’ll probably fall asleep. I love doings gigs like in Waterford. I treat every gig as if it’s a stadium gig to be honest.”
Gavin’s latest album – the follow up to 2016’s Bitter Pill – “Only Ticket Home” is released this Friday, October 26, an album which he says has been a “learning experience”.
“I learned a lot about production when I did the first album – I kind of threw everything into it,” he said. “I held back a bit with this one, I didn’t want to overdo it with the production so it’s a bit stripped back allowing you to hear all the instruments instead of it just being a wall of sound. I was trying to make a mixture between Bitter Pill and the live albums to keep that ‘live’ feel. It’s a lot more fun too – it was just me and my buddy Ollie Green in London and Dublin chilling out making music.”
There was a question that I always wanted to ask a musician who has over 300 million listens on Spotify: would you prefer to be making music now, when it’s so accessible on platforms like Spotify, You Tube and Apple Music, or would you have preferred to be around when people were queueing up outside record shops or humming tracks to frustrated shop assistants hoping they’d recognise the track and order the album for you.
“I know what ya mean…the thing is, if I was around aback in those days, there’s every chance that I wouldn’t have made it…stuff wouldn’t have happened for me,” Gavin said. “Spotify is definitely a huge benchmark for how things are going for me and to be fair, it’s always been really good for me. CD sales are still massive but I know what you mean…I used to be in the car when I was like ten or 11, listening to songs on the radio and recording them whenever a song I liked came on so I’d at least be able to hear it on my own little tape deck. There’s obviously a lot more platforms our there now where people can make music and that’s obviously a good thing. There are no rules anymore, you don’t have to do things a certain way. If you want to release 15 singles a month, you can do that. Back in the day, you’d release one single every few months and that’s just the way it was supposed to be. It’s a free for all now, which I like.”
Finally, because Gavin is the type of guy you’d have a drink with and never know that he has played to hundreds of thousands of people, we had to ask him how come he’s never “lost the run of himself”.
“Ah no, sure my ma would kill me,” he said. “If I ever came home acting the dickhead my ma would absolutely destroy me. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career like everyone else. I’ve grinded my way around Ireland, Europe and America doing gigs in front of 10 people and then in front of 500 people, driving down the road for a half hour and playing for 20 people again. It’s always been up and down, which has made the appearances at Electric Picnic or the Three Arena more special and I’m able to appreciate them so much more because it’s taken so much work to get there. I don’t think I’ll be losing the run of myself anytime soon anyway…I’ll be grand.”
We parted company on the promise of a pint and a carton of Hillbillies gravy this weekend.
Gavin’s album “Only Ticket Home” is released this Friday, October 26 and he plays Electric Avenue on John Street on Saturday, October 27.