I’m James and I guess I’m the face of A Choir of Ghosts. The band changes now and then depending on where we’re going or what we’re doing, but I’m always here. I play guitar and sing and write the music.
I’m based in northern Sweden about a 5 hour drive south of the Arctic Circle. The music that comes out of Sweden is great but I think the music scene has a lot to learn from the rest of the world. I grew up in England and a lot of people would go out and see bands they’ve never heard of just because they like music, it doesn’t quite feel the same here. It’s hard for small and unknown acts to get a look in. I’ve been really lucky finding a great fan base in Östersund, and we’ve been given kind of a home in that town at a venue called jazzköket.
My first experience of playing music was when I was about 12 and me and some guys from school started a band called Docile Delinquents and played stuff like The Offspring, Incubus, AC/DC etc. I loved that time of my life, figuring out my love for music and my need to know more and play more.
For me personally not so much, I haven’t been on tour since last May, I’m actually starting to get tour withdrawals. I was supposed to start my album tour next week (April 3rd) but that all got cancelled, I’m still supposed to go to Germany in May but I’m not sure if that’s gonna happen either.
Mainly I’ve been writing music for the next album, working out ways round the corona crisis and spending time with the family.
What influenced the sound and songwriting for your new album ‘An Ounce Of Gold’?
Some of the songs on the album were written over 10 years ago. The whole album is a story of my last 10 years and how I’ve grown. Like Sinner in Rapture is the oldest song on the album and is about teenage years and feeling like you’ve been given this promise that the world is at your feet but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The Water is about my son and how it felt when he was born. I was in the room when he was born and I remember this huge feeling of surfing and getting to that point where the wave takes you out. Everything I knew had changed and for the first 10 seconds I thought I was drowning. And then the last song The Taste or Smoke is about touring and me developing asthma and spending 2 years without medicine. I guess it’s like The Best of my Diary kinda thing with this album. It’s so personal and means a huge deal to me.
How has your life in the woods of Northern Sweeden affected your musicWell, I don’t think I would play folk music if I lived in a city, if you look at my Spotify it’s a lot of punk and black metal, so I think if I was to live in Stockholm I’d probably play something like that.
But I live in a village with 20 people, 20km to the next village, and 180km to a city. So it’s not the easiest finding a band, the band I play with now live 2 hours down a gravel track in the other direction! The woods has definitely calmed me, inspired me to love the planet more. A Choir of Ghosts is definitely a product of the wilderness, it would have never happened without it.
How did you go about writing the music?
Each song was different, sometimes I have a hook and build from that, or I have some lyrics and figure out the music around that, or I’ll have some music start humming a melody and then write music to that. I’ve started experimenting more with different things now, I feel like An Ounce of Gold was my safe card, I didn’t wanna get too weird on my first album. But now I’m writing new stuff that’s still on the folk lines but pushing the boundaries a bit.
Where and when did you record/produce and who with?
So we recorded in a hippie commune in a house we borrowed during forest fire season 2018. The producer I work with is Terry Ben and he flew in from Canada to record the album with me. It was pretty magical, we just lived there for 2 weeks, had some friends over, drank too much and just enjoyed our time together. I was actually going through a really low point and I have to give it to Terry, he managed to pick me up everyday and help me through it.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’m listening to a lot of Black Metal for some reason, but I’ve refound my love for Tallest Man on Earth, Charlie Simpson, GOAT and Swedish band Euskefeurat.
What do you like to do away from music?
I’m in a bit of a slump when it comes to hobbies right now. I work quite a lot and I’m pretty stressed about the album. But generally I love to DIY and to read. Hopefully soon I’ll find the calm in my life to able to enjoy hobbies, every day off is filled with things I need to do so alone time or time to do things I want to do has been kinda forgotten about.
What’s planned for 2020?
I think with COVID-19 there won’t be that much to do, I don’t think this will be over soon. I’m gonna use this time for self growth, writing, reading, being with my family and hopefully finding that tranquility that allows me to take up my other hobbies again.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
I love this bar in Östersund called Jazzköket och Lagerbaren, the food is to die for, they have the best selection of beer and ale, and the people working there are the best!
Vinyl and CD available at: https://smarturl.it/aooglbm