Not many emerging artists can say they have performed with the one and only P!NK. It’s a matter of talent, and the real talent never goes unnoticed. An English-born and Scottish-raised singer/songwriter James Gillespie is one of the lucky ones Besides a successful cover of P!NK’s ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me,’ his single ‘What You Do‘ is reaching over 11 million streams on Spotify. Fast forward to a year later, Gillespie presents a new track ‘Dead In The Water’ and chats to Trouge Magazine about his musical beginnings, a studio session with Mike Spencer and performing in front of 20,000 people.
It is no surprise that Gillespie is pursuing his singing career. Ever since he was a child, growing up in Scotland, with an Irish father and an English mother, he was always singing. His dad was never a huge music fan, but his mother influenced him with her favourites like The Beatles. At the age of only 13, Gillespie started a band, and it has not stopped since:
“I sang in the choir at school, believe it or not. I started understanding harmonies etc. Because I was already writing loads (poetry, stories) it just naturally turned into songwriting. I played a bit of piano which turned into the guitar. Then you couldn’t see me without headphones on for the rest of my life.”
When compared to writing, producing has been a new thing for Gillespie. It started off by wanting to record his ideas at home, and the more he learned about tools like Logic Pro, the more he was putting together actual tracks. He explains: “My rough acoustic demos turned into electric guitar songs, which ended up having a little synth in them, which turned into beats, which turned into full tracks. Now I’m lucky enough to be able to sit with some incredible producers and voice my opinions properly. I think its so important to be able to get inside a song in every way. The other parts are just as important as the words.”
Gillespie is an ‘all hands on deck’ type of an artist. He has his fingers dipped in every single aspect of songwriting. Personal experience inspires the ideas behind the messages of his songs: “Sometimes I write about a situation that hasn’t happened, and I imagine what it would be like but mainly it’s about things that have happened to me. I don’t think I could write about stuff I haven’t experienced”, Gillespie admits.
Speaking of experience, listening to ‘Dead In The Water,’ the newest Gillespie’s creation, it seems like he’s another one marked with the curse of forbidden love: “It’s about knowing you’ve fallen before you do, the feeling that you will carry on floating aimlessly without that love. In this case, it’s a forbidden one – that you both want but can’t have”, he reveals.
In ‘Dead In the Water,’ there is a combination of a hypnotic, stripped-back piano melody that sets the tone and compliments well with Gillespie’s slow-burning emotion in his vocals. Behind-the-scenes of producing a hit song always has a story to it, and ‘Dead In The Water’ is no exception. Gillespie worked with Mike Spencer who brought out the magic in his studio in the middle of woods.
“Mike Spencer is a legend. The way he works and gets the best out of you without you even realising is magic. I remember doing the vocals for DITW, and when we were done, he was like – OK. I have what I need. Now I’m going to turn the lights off and leave the room. I’m going to leave it on repeat and just sing what you want – when you want. This was awesome. It got me completely in the mood. The light from outside filling the room. Just me and the track. I think he ended up using a take from that moment for this track. Really special moment”, Gillespie paints the picture for our readers.
Gillespie’s many talents also bless the artwork for ‘Dead In The Water’. He uses it as another platform to show people his thoughts and feelings on the track.
Part of Gillespie’s repertoire is his acoustic performance of ‘What You Do’ and ‘Dead In The Water’ on platforms like Mahogany Sessions and 7 Layers Sessions. He says: “Getting to do these types of things is what it’s all about. It shows people the most honest and raw interpretation of the songs. There is no hiding it. People can see and hear everything,” and that is what Gillespie is best at.
The intimate environment with a guitar in his hands may seem like a comfort zone for Gillespie. Don’t get fooled. When the world superstar P!NK demanded Gillespie perform her hit song with her, there was no evidence of overshadowing his virtuosity. Gillespie shares the story behind this collaboration:
“It was totally random. I was having a conversation with someone in the crowd before one of my shows, and they asked if I’m going to do a cover. I said maybe, and they told me that they were bored of guys covering songs by other guys. That they prefer to hear guys covering tracks by women. The conversation turned to classic tracks from when we were younger – Pink came up – and I blagged my way through a version 30 minutes later. Pretty sure I only got about 20% of the lyrics right but was fun”, Gillespie explains how he covered P!NK’s ‘Don’t Let Me Get Me.’
He then continues by describing their first performance at the V Festival and in Berlin: “It was incredible. The best part about our duets was before we did our first one. I asked her how she wanted to do it and she just told me to wing it. WING IT. In front of about 20,000 people a night. In all fairness, this is very ME as well – but it did make me nervous as f*ck. She was amazing and more talented than I could have ever imagined. I still look back at the videos sometimes. Crazy.”
The future is more than bright for James Gillespie. He tells Trouge Magazine about an upcoming release of a new song ‘Good Life’ that is ‘like a waltz in a club’ that will move your body.
You can see James Gillespie live in London on June 25, buy tickets here.