The more we shake up the road, the further we go. If we twist the status quo just enough, we advance. For as much as James Bay upholds traditions of timeless songcraft, the profound and progressive singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer also confidently challenges himself and popular music. Bay’s heart-adorned sleeves, clever lyricism and instrumental ingenuity have quickly propelled him from bedroom to stadium stages making the chart-topping, double BRIT Award winner and three-times GRAMMY Award-nominee a bona fide inspiration to a generation of popstars in the process.
‘Chew On My Heart’ is the first single to be released from Bay’s forthcoming album. It starts with an airy electric guitar on verses that barely register above a whisper, “I know no one could ever love me better” sings James. Then, like an excitable pulse beginning to race, an insistent bass drum pounds like an ardent heartbeat, punctuated by shimmering synths and set ablaze by James’ fiery falsetto, culminating on the hypnotic hook, “What would it feel like if you tore me apart. Come on, chew on my heart.”
“It’s sort of unexpected,” Bay smiles “Chew On My Heart stuck out as a lyric. It’s a metaphor for wanting and craving more than the norm. It’s not your typical relationship tune in terms of content or delivery. We can have more. Let’s not just go through the motions. The verses are a devotion. The chorus is a question. A relationship can’t be all give and take; there has to be compromise, conversation, and ideas to move life along.”
The searing honesty and intimacy that permeates ‘Chew On My Heart’ is quintessentially James Bay, and a testament to the unique talent that sets him apart, “My music is one of the only places where I can really be very vulnerable,” he explains, “and offer a side of myself that I find hard to open up to just in the everyday interactions, in conversations, in going out and living.”
Celebrated by so many musicians, last year Ed Sheeran invited Bay to rock full stadiums playing to over a whopping 1.4million as main support on his record-breaking 2019 European tour. He also notably duetted with several big names including Lewis Capaldi who joined him at his sold-out Palladium show, with Alicia Keys on The Voice and Mick Jagger whilst supporting The Rolling Stones at Twickenham Stadium. In addition to selling out shows on four continents, Epiphone honoured him with his own Limited-Edition James Bay Signature “1966” guitar. The ‘Oh My Messy Mind’ EP was released last summer with the Julia Michaels-featuring lead track ‘Peer Pressure’ becoming Bay’s most listened to track on Spotify – racking up 215 million streams worldwide; And his subtle style continues to win him fans across the fashion world, having previously fronted campaigns for Burberry, Balmain and Topman, he’s the current face of Tommy Hilfiger.
My music is one of the only places where I can really be very vulnerable,” he explains, “and offer a side of myself that I find hard to open up to just in the everyday interactions, in conversations, in going out and living.”
Most recently, James’ insight and expertise were evident in his weekly free live guitar tutorials on Instagram, which became a lockdown highlight for so many – teaching fans how to play his hits with nuance and unparalleled attention-to-detail, his song breakdowns reinforcing his own reverence to the power of music in the process.
Bay has sold over 5 million albums and accumulated over 6 billion streams worldwide. His 2015 triple-platinum selling debut album, ‘Chaos And The Calm’, was the first introduction to the expressive repertoire of an artist so tangibly steeped in the classics; its standout moments exposed a vulnerability that was underpinned by an eternal hope. Lead singles ‘Hold Back The River’ and ‘Let It Go’ exemplified Bay’s emotive duality, both going triple platinum in the UK – their combined streams exceeding a whopping 3 billion. Nominated for dozens of awards, he took home two BRIT Awards, two Q Awards, and top honors at the Ivor Novello Awards and ECHO Award. In 2018 James released his glistening second album, ‘Electric Light’. Inspired by a raft of contemporary influences including Frank Ocean and Chance The Rapper, it sounded sleek and ultramodern, yet still exhibited an intimacy that is redolent throughout – most notably in sensuous first single ‘Wild Love’, and the captivating ‘Pink Lemonade’.
Looking ahead to an exciting new chapter, James is poised to navigate this brave new world with the same indomitable and instinctive determination to continue to take creative risks that’s fuelled his drive this far – sharing with the musical greats a need to keep things fresh and his audience guessing.
“My greatest responsibility,” he surmises, “is to continue to embrace the mindset that I’ve held this far, which is to recognise what people like about what I do and always push that a bit at the same time – to never give them exactly the same thing again. Whether it makes you happy, sad, strong, fragile, or want to dance, I want my music to open-up something inside of you. That’s what music has always done for me”