Here’s an article/interview with James Yorkston in the Glasgow Evening Times about his forthcoming concert at FRETS on 21st April in the Strathaven Hotel / tickets: https://www.wegottickets.com/event/572019
SCOTTISH singer-songwriter James Yorkston is heading for Germany, Sweden, Norway, Spain – and Strathaven.
The small Lanarkshire town has made it on to the acclaimed musician’s European tour, and it will be his first solo gig for a while.
“I’m really looking forward to it, not least because it’s so much easier to organise when you can fit everything into one car,” he says, with a grin.
Recently, James – who is appearing as part of the successful Frets Concerts series in the Strathaven Hotel on April 21 – has been performing with Nina Persson, of 90s Swedish pop outfit The Cardigans, and the Second Hand Orchestra, a Swedish collective led by Karl-Jonas Winqvist.
The gigs – and the most recent album The Great White Sea Eagle, which features James, Nina and the orchestra – have received exceptional reviews.
“Karl introduced us – he has known both Nina and I for a long time and thought our voices would work well together,” says James.
“I trusted him, and Nina felt the same, so we decided to try it out.”
Music, says James, has always been part of his life.
“It has been there from as early as I can remember,” he says. “I could never read music though, so I didn’t ever think it was something I’d be able to do for a living.
“I was in a few bands after I left school, but I didn’t do my own stuff until I was about 28 or 29. Then John Peel played my record, and everything changed.”
The session for the legendary DJ led to a record deal with Domino, with whom James is still releasing albums more than 20 years later.
“It was unbelievable,” he admits. “Life has never been the same since. I still value that today, I really do.”
James was an integral original member of the much lauded and hugely influential Fence Collective, an independent record label and musicians’ collective which launched the careers of, among others, KT Tunstall and King Creosote.
He is impossible to pigeonhole – with his Yorkston/Thorne/Khan project, he explores his love of traditional and experimental music, mixing it with Indian classical music; his collaborations involve musicians from across all genres, including pop and jazz. And then, there’s folk…
“It’s funny, because when the first album came out, we couldn’t understand why everyone was calling it folk,” he says. “Traditional folk music does have a huge influence on me, not just Scottish, but Irish, English, Appalachian … it has all been a big part of my musical education.
“But to me, being described as a ‘folk guy’ is as ridiculous as being called a ‘heavy metal guy’. Essentially, I’m a singer-songwriter who writes pop songs that are not popular.”
He acknowledges, with a grin: “But I do understand there is a grey area there.”
In tandem with writing music, James has written three books – his 2011 debut, It’s Lovely to be Here – The Touring Diaries of a Scottish Gent, and his novels, Three Craws and The Book of the Gaels.
“The first one came out of a magazine article I was asked to write, and I got the bug,” he says. “Writing, losing yourself in long form prose, is like a form of mindfulness. I love it. It’s fun, inhabiting a different world for a while.” At Frets, James will be discussing his books and music with BBC Scotland presenter Vic Galloway.
Vic will also be talking about his own books, including Rip It Up: A History of Scottish Pop, and interviewing Craig McAllister and Stephanie Gibson about The Perfect Reminder, their book covering the Trashcan Sinatras’ second album. John Douglas, of the Trashcans, will be supporting.
“Vic and I are best friends, we have known each other since we were three,” laughs James. “I can still remember dancing around on his mother’s lawn, to old rock and roll records. We formed our first band together when we were 14.”
He jokes: “So I know all the skeletons in his closet!”
There is another book, says James, “gnawing around my ear, wanting to be written”.
He adds: “But for now, there are lots of gigs to concentrate on, it’s pretty busy.”
He pauses. “Although, a couple of years ago, I started piano, and I’m still in love with it,” he says. “I like sculpting songs, grabbing inspiration. So while everything is so busy, that’s how I’m rewarding myself at the moment.”