In the Newcastle music scene in the ‘70s we used to go to The Gosforth Hotel and watch Last Exit with Sting before he went off to London. A great musician Dave Black, had a band called Kestrel, was also in the Spiders from Mars, and had a big chart hit with Goldie, I knew him well, he used to call me ‘cop oot’ because I spent more time on my day job than music.
(Ed’s day job was C.E.O of a global construction company, he stepped down to run his own business which is now in the safe hands of his son Chris).
Sadly, Dave died a few year ago so that’s when I retired the ‘suit’ and went full time in music and producing a podcast with my writing partner, Ed Thompson.
I’ve always played over the years, I was very shy when I first started playing I played with my back to the audience. But being on stage and playing live you push it and tend to play a bit faster. It’s all about rehearsing and when you arrive on stage you are very comfortable with the rest of the band.
In the ‘90s I was working in Denmark where I got a regular gig in one of the bars, they called me the ‘Singing Suit’ owing to my daytime job. It was all Irish songs, stuff like ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ you know.
Around 2004 I was playing guitar and harmonies in an original folk rock band, Morgan La Fey, we went on a small European tour. I was too busy working to follow it through full time but I was still writing songs and have a book full of lyrics.
I wrote a song called ‘Love Will See Us Through’ for the diabetic research charity because my Grandson is a Type 1 diabetic and it’s a serious disease, no child should have to deal with that.
A few of my songs have been picked up by charities, Cancer research took up ‘This Sweet Life of Mine’. I wrote it for a friend of mine who died of cancer a few years ago.
When he was told he had terminal cancer he said he was going to carry on working. But he said when you see people and they know you are ill they have that look in their eyes which says they are seeing a pitiful person. He said I will not let that define me. I thought that was a brave sentiment.
Currently I’m putting together a number of songs called ‘Together Alone’ about lockdown and the sentiments around it, it’s on a personal level but will appeal to people because of what we have all been through. That will be out in the next month or so.
For recording I was after an analogue type sound and we worked hard at that. I like Irish music with my Irish roots but I also like to change things around and get different sounds.
Earlier albums I played lots of different instruments, some influences were flamenco and then I’d play the Irish bouzouki. It can have a middle eastern sound, almost world music.
I record with Tony Davis at Newcastle’s Cluny Studio. We brought in a few session musicians when we needed them. I had everything written and ready to go when entering the studio.
I ultra-rehearse a song, you’ve got to put the time in. We recorded one or two songs per day then you have mixing and mastering.
I love the recording process it’s almost as good as playing live when you hear the whole song coming together after laying down a guide vocal or guitar and adding the layers. Although there comes a time when you stop adding sounds or harmonies because you can make a bit of a mess.
Tony is an excellent engineer he can cut it and fix the piece that sometimes you just can’t get right – in the end he used to say ‘Fuck it, we’re there!’
HEAR & NOW
For live gigs I’m making contact to 300 community concerts where venues are out in the sticks and can hold from 50-150 people, it can be big back gardens or community fields. They come out of their houses to really listen to you, they love it.
I have three different sets I’ll be playing. Ed James Sings will be covering a number of Car Stevens songs, Ed James in Concert where I will be playing my original songs and Jammin’ with James where I put on shows with guests and we all take to the stage for the finale.
Next year I will be looking to add UK festivals to that list. I’m a planner for these things and have a few friends around the country so will be able to stay overnight at someone’s house near the venue.
HOWAY THE LADS
After seeing Ed Waugh’s show The Geordie Songbook about Ned Corvan and Geordie Ridley, my writing partner, Ed Thompson sent me a few poems and one of them was ‘Howay woman, man Howay’ about his Dad going to working men’s clubs. I put a bit of piano to it and it worked well.
We also done a song about the three Cullercoats brothers who went off to World War One and never came back. That worked well so we decided to make an album of Geordie songs.
Some have serious subjects, some recount events that have happened on Tyneside while others are reflections of Geordie life. There are some great stories out there. The album should be out next year.
I have a radio plugger who gets me on local BBC radio around the country so that opens up our music to a new audience which is great – although I doubt I’ll get 2 million streams on Spotify to make a hundred quid (laughs).
For more info/pics/gigs/discography check the official website: https://edjamesmusic.co.uk/
Interview by Gary Alikivi July 2021.