Gavin James is having a ball. The 27-year-old Dublin native, who will launch his second album, ‘Only Ticket Home’ at the official re-opening of Waterford’s Electric Avenue this Saturday night (in association with Beat), is embracing his promotional obligations, but not without some assistance. “Coffee is an amazing thing,” he jokes with The Munster Express during a wall to wall day of interviews. “It’s going down grand here, I can tell you!” Launching ‘Only Ticket Home’ in front of smaller domestic audiences, in contrast to the 30,000-plus punters he played to at the Electric Picnic, is something James is clearly looking forward to. “Ah sure it’s going to be deadly,” he replied. “You can have so much more banter in between songs when you’re doing intimate gigs.
Like I could go off on a 40-minute rant about sausage rolls at Electric Avenue – you never know – but you could never really do that kind of personal stuff at something like the Picnic, sure the crowd just wouldn’t hear you if you went on like that. The bigger gigs, between songs, leave you with time for stuff like ‘how’s everybody doing?’ so that’s about it, but there’s no telling what I might end up talking about on Saturday night! It’s going to be a great night and I’m really looking forward to it. Every room you play in is different, no two crowds are ever the same and that’s part of the fun of gigging.” The past three years, since the release of his debut album, ‘Bitter Pill’, have, by Gavin James’s own admission, proven a fantastic blur.
“Yeah, it’s all been a bit mad! Pretty much from the day I finished my Leaving Cert, I just went straight into signing into pubs in Temple Bar, I was doing 12 gigs a week at one point, and I did that for four years – it was my job. But when I got to about 20 or 21, I decided I wanted to do my own thing, writing my own songs and when people started singing them back to me in the pubs, it felt like something was happening – people in the pub were really starting to listen to me, which was mad! So I really felt I needed to give it a serious go. It’s taken me six years to get to this point, I’m just into second album territory and while it’s been an absolute blast, there’s a been a good bit of grind along the way. But going international has been huge, Europe and America and so on, and it’s been going great in certain territories. I guess there’ll always be a certain amount of grind in a career like this and we’ll just have to see how things go with this album now.”
So why ‘Only Ticket Home’ as a title? “Well, I’ve been travelling around for the last four to five years so I haven’t really been home too much. Last Christmas and on into January and February, I took time off for the first time in five years and I wrote the album – I hadn’t been writing too much while I’d been on the road – so I got it all written and recorded while I was at home, and that’s where the name for the album came from. And there’s a song on the album called ‘Only Ticket Home’ too and that’s the whole story of the album really: it’s where your family is, it’s where your buddies are, the people and all the things you know best are at home and it’s always great to back there when you can.” Conceding that inspiration for a tune can strike “at 3am a lot of the time or on the way back from the jacks”, Gavin says he generally doesn’t finish a new song while touring. “I’ll have it on my phone and then get back to the song once I get back home, rummage through the dozens of ideas I’m after having and then pick out the best ones to finish a song, and all of that really fed into the name of the album and the direction I took with it. Writing is much easier to do when you have time off, definitely.”
Conceding that ‘Only Ticket Home’ will be “a bit of a shock for some people,” he explained: “I’ve gone with something different (from ‘Bitter Pill’). The first track is fairly stadium-esque but the whole album is more stripped back – you can hear all the instruments, you can hear everything. I learned a lot from the first album and realised this time around that I didn’t need quite as much production on some of the songs. ‘Always’ was the reference point for the whole record because there’s not a whole lot in that, there’s just piano, vocal bass and drums; there’s not much in it in terms of making a big wall of sound so I’ve followed in the footsteps of that song in terms of the production of the rest of the album. But I feel there are more stompers, more festival sounding songs and less melancholy on this album and I’m really happy with it.” One suspects Saturday’s audience at Electric Avenue will be just as pleased.