Firmly sitting in the upper echelon of songwriters James Bourne is a mastermind in the field of songwriting. He is one of the most successful songwriters of his generation and his ingenious musical repertoire spans over 20 years. Notable for his multi-Platinum success with Busted he’s also renowned for writing songs for McFly, McBusted and the Jonas Brothers.
Brimming with brilliant ideas the seasoned musician is currently gearing up to release his new solo album ‘Sugar Beach’, scheduled to release on July 1st. Following his debut album ‘Safe Journey Home’, released back in 2020 his latest album ‘Sugar Beach’ addresses his time whilst isolated in the Caribbean due to the pandemic. As listeners, we can dive further into his creative mind as James opens more layers to his artistry. In the run-up to the release, we had a chance to speak with James Bourne as we explore his album, and discuss his recent tour and his expansive career.
With the world slowly opening up and a sense of normality being felt across the globe it has meant musicians are now allowed to step away from the virtual space of online performances and they can finally perform on stage in front of a live audience.
We begin the interview by speaking about his headline tour, which took him around the UK. ‘It was so good to get back on the road again, it’s like being alive again, you know, being able to breathe again and blood circulate for the first time in three years.’
After the pandemic it must have been surreal to perform in front of crowds, reminiscing on his experience he couldn’t have summed it up better and he said: ‘Yeah, it was like coming up for air actually.’
In the build up to the release of his album he has so far shared official videos for singles ‘Sugar Beach’, ‘Mosquito’, ‘Alone in Paradise’, ‘Samo’, and most recently ‘X-Man’, all of which will feature on the album.
Discussing the single ‘Alone in Paradise’ James explains: ‘Alone in Paradise’ is on my up-and-coming album ‘Sugar Beach‘, which was an album I made in quarantine in the Caribbean. I had to go there because my purpose was to get back to my house in the States, in Los Angeles, and I was there for quite some time. Especially when you are alone sometimes the time passes more slowly, so sixteen days felt like maybe a month and it was the best part of a month it felt like. When you’re in a place like that, you can FaceTime people, but it’s not the same.’
Speaking on the inspiration behind the song he continues: ‘That song is actually about wishing that I had my girlfriend with me and being able to experience it together. Sometimes you can find yourself in a place when you’re not with people who you want to share it with and that’s what that song is about.’
Providing a snapshot of his time whilst isolating the lyrics come alive through the music video. Beautifully filmed, his ‘Alone in Paradise’ music video shows the stark contrast between the thriving natural beauty of the island to the surroundings scarce of other people.
‘All the songs are shot on location, I wanted to recreate the exact environment, which inspired the songs.’
Filmed in St Lucia, there is something quite serene about isolating in the paradise of the Caribbean. I joked that there could have been worse places to isolate. In response he said:
‘It could’ve been worse, believe it or not, my only choices were St Lucia or Mexico, because I was doing an onward journey to Los Angeles my choices were really limited and I just had felt like it was best. To be honest, it was because of Dua Lipa, I saw she had used Sugar Beach as a way to get back to America so I did the same thing that she did.’
Moving the conversation onto the album he says: ‘My whole ‘Sugar Beach‘ album is named after the resort I stayed at and it was all the songs that came to me while I was in that place, it’s a real moment in time, captured as an album.’
Giving an insight into what fans can expect from the album, he explains: ‘The album has a lightness to it and happiness to it that early Busted albums have. But it’s sort of after 20 years of writing songs so my songwriting, I think, has got a little bit more refined, it’s got a little bit better, but it still has, it feels like, in a way, it has that freshness that a debut album has. It has a style that I haven’t done before and it’s just an uplifting record with a lot of different tones on it: ballads, upbeat, happy, soulful, island feel.’
Following his career from its infancy during his Busted years to hearing his previous solo material and new song ‘Alone In Paradise’, I mentioned the growth that I could hear within his music and his experimentation of sounds within his music. ‘Yeah, it really felt like just of the moment, it was not too planned, really spontaneous and real. The record is just a really great snapshot of that time in my life and it’s cool that I learned a lot doing this album, from the last album, got a lot more visual content to go with the songs, which helps paint the picture, which is nice. I feel like I’m sort of telling the story, I’m telling the story of my experience quarantining to get back home by a way of an album, a concept album.’
Whilst on tour he gave fans a preview of the album and he said it has had an ‘Unbelievable reaction’.
‘I played songs that have not been released yet, I only played five songs because I don’t wanna play too much because no one has the album, so I played the songs that have been released already and I played a couple of songs that haven’t and those songs went down the best out of the songs. I went into a ‘Safe Journey Home’ and everyone was singing all the words.’
It also looks like he will back on tour soon: ‘I’m planning on doing some more, I’ve got a meeting about it this week, some more live dates. I am just really stoked really, about it all, I am so excited for the whole thing to come out.’
He continues: ‘Both albums really, I think they’re going to be there to be discovered by a lot of Busted fans that don’t even know about my solo journey yet.’
On the topic of his solo music he mentions how his Spotify page was empty for quite some while: ‘It was crazy because before I did my solo stuff, the biggest thing was that my Spotify was just empty and it didn’t make sense to me. I post on Instagram but I am a songwriter who doesn’t post on Spotify. Spotify is like a musical Instagram and I was like I would be really annoyed if I got hit by a bus and I had no songs on my Spotify.’
Whilst on the video Zoom call you could really see his passion for his new material. He says: ‘It’s been really enjoyable doing it, I’ve had more fun than I ever thought that I would, just the process of writing music, releasing music and playing it live is really all I ever really wanted when I was a teenager, before the band. I have really just found a lot of enjoyment, it’s one of the most life-affirming things ever to be doing my own music.
He also discusses what fulfilment means to him: ‘I’ve said it in other interviews, I think for me is the secret to my own fulfilment as an artist is that I just want to continue on doing what I love, because it was not really for any other reason. I am in this really privileged position that I get to carry on the way I do, so I’m really grateful for the band and biggest cheerleader for the band and doing my own stuff. I don’t feel like I have to belittle my band to get ahead with my solo stuff. They are one of the same, it’s like the Batmobile and the Batbike. I’m a Batbike when I’m solo but the Batbike is always part of the Batmobile.’
Ending in full circle we touch on his memories of the recent tour and his excitement for his forthcoming album: ’In London when I was singing songs, I couldn’t believe the energy coming back at me. It was really kind of amazing, it made the whole thing so enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to doing it again, getting my whole second album out there and just continuing on this kind of adventure.’