Digital Editor Alex McDonald sits down with James Walsh of legendary band Starsailor, to discuss the band’s past, the band’s future and Liverpool FC’s prospects for this year’s Premier League season
When Starsailor first formed, you were forged out of the Britpop explosion of the 90s. Have your musical influences changed over the years?
Yeah I think it’s evolved quite a lot; constantly discovering new artists and new appreciation for music, especially pop music, and the intricacies and the work that goes into a great pop song. I think when you’re younger, you’re kind of stuck in your ways and only listen to guitar bands. So in that respect it’s definitely evolved and grown over the years.
Speaking of your younger days, since the release of your first album, Love is Here, in 2001, you have been praised for the maturity and emotional depth in your songs. But how has sixteen years of increasing maturity affected the band’s music?
I think it’s had a positive effect. And I think taking a break from the band has been good for us as well. We’ve come back stronger and with more musical and life experience to pour into the band. Touring is amazing but you end up in a bubble where all you see is a venue, a tour bus, a hotel and not a lot else. And obviously for a short period of time that’s fantastic, but after a while you need to get out and experience other things, meet new people and that’s what we did for a while. It did us good.
So you feel like the eight year hiatus you took was very much a necessary move for Starsailor?
Yeah, definitely. For me personally as well, I’ve got my creative side back and I’m much more consistent as well because I’m writing for different projects outside of the band. Writing every day has been more of a fluid thing instead of having to work to get twelve songs out every couple of years for an album.
You mentioned working with other talents, both established artists like Eliza Doolittle and Professor Green as well as up-and-coming artists like Tom Speight. Has that influenced your songwriting style at all or has it simply got those creative juices flowing?
Yeah a little bit, I think I’m probably more direct now. It’s quite a high pressure situation when you work with a new artist or established artists unless you’re immensely successful like Fraser T Smith or Eg White or one of these hugely successful writers. The rest of us are kind of scrambling around for a couple of days; you get two days with Eliza Doolittle or Professor Green to prove your worth so you have to be on the ball and you have to be direct with the songs instead of having the time to craft and develop them as a slow burner.
What was it like to work with Rick McNamara (Embrace) as a producer on this album? What did he bring to this album?
I think he had a big influence; it’s great working with a fellow musician. We’ve worked with producers in the past who have very much taken on a boss role and been quite dictatorial. Whereas Rick felt like a fifth member of the band.
Before this latest album, you released Good Souls: Greatest Hits and went on a tour. Was that a move to signal that you might be winding down as a band or was it simply to gauge the fan base at that time?
Primarily it was to get out on the road again. To be honest, with Spotify and iTunes, everyone’s greatest hits are all available to put together in their own playlist anyway, whereas before when you’re copying CDs, it took a bit of work to do that. So the album was more a thing to hang a tour on and get back on the road. But yeah to gauge the fan base for putting out a new record as well, to see who was out there that still wanted to see us, because prior to that we’d only done the tour with James. So the Greatest Hits tour was the first that we’d done on our own, and because we didn’t have a new album, we had to think of another way to get out there.
You mentioned Spotify and iTunes, how do you think that has influenced not only you as a band, but music in general?
I think it’s had both a positive and a negative effect. Music lovers’ appetite is more veracious than ever and more easily satisfied as well. I love sending people, if I discover a new artist or some obscure old song, a Spotify link or a YouTube video, whereas before as I’ve said, you’d have to put a compilation CD together. But obviously the downside to that is there are less people actually buying albums. Downloading songs and streaming just isn’t quite gathering the revenue. It’s great for huge artists, but for the middle and certainly up-and-coming ones, there’s nothing in it really.
Your new album is called All This Life, can you talk me through why you settled on that as the title track?
It sounds pretty obvious but it is ‘all this life’, all the aspects of life are contained within the album. I’d been going through a whole relationship break up, all the travails that go along with that, the ups and downs. So all of life is in there.
What do you hope that listeners will take away from the album?
Hopefully empathy; I hope they find some relation to their own life or whatever they’re going through. Because that’s what I get from the music that I love, like Jackson Brown is someone I’m listening to all the time at the moment, there’s just some nuggets of wisdom and I’m like, ‘I know exactly where you’re coming from there.’ So I think if people can get a little bit of that from our music, that’s what I’m aiming for, especially as the person writing the words, I hope they get the message as well as enjoy the music.
What’s next for Starsailor: is there another album or another break on the horizon?
It’s very much wait and see. We’ve got this tour, it’s been really enjoyable and really great so far. It’s always good to take stock after a tour and see how the tickets sold and how did the new songs go down and then decide whether we can move to bigger venues or whether we need to take a break or record a new album; especially with the tour going into Europe as well, it’ll be a big test, but we’ve just got to enjoy it.
And last but not least, like all the greatest minds in the world, you are a big Liverpool fan. Where do you see the Reds finishing this season?
That’s a tough one. To be honest, I think we’ll struggle in the league. I’ve got faith in [Jurgen] Klopp, I think it will come good eventually, but Man City and even Man United have just got that little bit of a head start. I can see us drawing a few more games before it finally clicks, which by that point we’ll be too far behind to have any impact this season. So it’s all about the Champions League. So I’m saying we’re going to finish nowhere, like sixth, but we’re going to win the Champions League! [Laughs] You heard it here first!
All This Life is out now via Cooking Vinyl. Tickets for Starsailor’s tour can be found here.