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INTERVIEW: James May - A Thousand Shining Pieces
By
Cyrus Rhodes

 

 

"Amazing..."

- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST:-

 

 

 

www.thatjamesmay.com

 

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I first had the privilege or hearing James May last weekend. After spending 57 minutes alone with his latest CD "A Thousand Shining Pieces" I abandoned any hope of finding any weaknesses. Instead as the CD progressed I became more & more impressed. What I like most about James May is there is no attempt to sugar coat the truth anywhere on any of his songs. I really admire artists out there who are themselves & just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to artists that can show us something genuine beneath their veil of vanity - James May is one of these artists. "A Thousand Shining Pieces” is a world class musical production from start to finish. There’s not a weak song on the entire catalogue period! The musicianship is first rate, the songs are short and sweet musical experiences. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the playing, writing, and singing abilities of James May & his band are amazing. James May is an artist worthy of attention, spotlight, and praise, & everything about him screams professionalism. I guess could go on and on all night about James May you simply have got to get your hands on “A Thousand Shining Pieces” to see what I am talking about. It's amazing! 

 

 

 

Read the "A Thousand Shining Pieces" Review

 

 

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IMD I really enjoyed your latest CD “A Thousand Shining Pieces” Congratulations on the Nomination of CD of the year from IMD?

JAMES MAY Thank you, it’s an honor to be recognized, it always feels good to find an appreciative ear, or should I say appreciative heart, or perhaps soul? I’m glad you’re finding something in my music that touches or pleases you. This idea of putting out records is like a game of connecting the dots, the dots of course being people. If I succeed, it can be a heart to heart or soul to soul connection.

IMD  Could you share with us the inspiration for the album title?

JAMES MAY Well, the phrase “a thousand shining pieces” is culled from the lyric to “Falling Into”, the third cut on the album. The first verse says: “falling into a place where I can see a thousand shining faces of my own” and the last verse is: “falling into a place where I can free a thousand shining pieces of my heart”. The song is about emerging, coming into the world anew after a period of darkness or contraction. It’s also about wanting more connection. I wrote that song in early 2007. It echoes my own journey after grieving the loss of my daughter Cassandra, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2004. I still grieve, but after what seemed like an endlessly dark time, there came a period of profound lightening-up which resulted in me writing that song.

IMD  What is the significance of the chair shown in the inner sleeve?

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"This idea of putting out records is like a game of connecting the dots,

the dots of course being people. If I succeed, it can be a heart to heart or

soul  to soul connection."

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JAMES MAY Good question Cyrus, I was hoping someone would ask about that. I took that shot, it is in the lightkeeper’s house next to the Point Reyes lighthouse. It’s more a feeling than anything, but for me it invokes the Buddhist concept of taking the one seat. It also speaks to me the reminder that we are all in decay, nothing is permanent. And it invokes the mystery of a life once lived but now gone.

IMD  Who are some of you top musical influences, both artists, bands, singers?

JAMES MAY The Beatles were the first artists to get me all fired up, and I continue to appreciate them in new ways as time goes on, as writers, singers, performers, social phenomena, all of it. There are so many great writers and singers from my formative years like James Taylor, Neil Young, John Fogerty. The big one though was Paul Simon. Later, I was extremely influenced by Ferron, for her ability to make me feel human and her incredible style. Still am. Dee Carstensen is a great writer and singer and under-appreciated in my view. I could go on and on…

IMD  Who gets to be your favorite band or artist overall?

JAMES MAY At the risk of sounding me-too-ish, but I’d have to say Beatles, even though I really like a lot more than just pop.

IMD  I hear a little James Taylor & Paul McCartney, & musical touches of Joni Mitchell in your music, am I off the mark there?

JAMES MAY I’ve been told I sound like James Taylor and Paul McCartney many times. I don’t know whether people are hearing little bits of that in my voice, or whether it’s more my writing style. I do love melody so I write melodically, since that’s what floats my boat. Both those guys are in the melodic camp so it makes sense. Joni is one comparison I haven’t heard, but I’ll take it. She is one of the great lyricists of our time in my view. Yes, I would like my lyrics to be that powerful someday.

IMD  Powerful music & songs come from powerful journeys & periods? Could you share with us what inspired you to start writing songs for this CD?

JAMES MAY The writing started before I knew I wanted to record and put the music out there. It started as something that just felt good, born out of the many events in my life. I mentioned losing my daughter, that was a big part of it. Some of the songs are directly about her or my relationship with her, the grief, and my healing journey. It really helped me to give my experience a voice and singing always makes me feel better. Others songs are just about life, and changing perspective. I’ve lived a number of decades and changes come in spurts, it seems. A lot of the material has a base in my own personal experience, yet the details and such are freely associated.

IMD  What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?

JAMES MAY The best concerts were the ones where I was the most moved emotionally. Ferron, in a small venue. Very intimate, and she’s so funny. I saw Harry Chapin live a long time ago, he was a powerful performer.

IMD  What do you like most about performing live?

JAMES MAY Lots of driving, low pay, uncertain audience size, crappy road food. Err, uh, just kidding. Actually, it is simply connecting with the audience, having the feeling that I’m communicating something about being human to others. If it goes well, an exchange of truth and beauty, going in both directions.

IMD  What inspired the song “On the Line”?

JAMES MAY That is my metaphysical train song. Every artist needs one, don’t you think? I don’t know what inspired it, it sort of just happened. Often when I write, short phrases and bits of melody emerge. I write down the ones that somehow move me, but I don’t think too much in that stage of the writing process. At some point I found myself with quite a few lines that I liked. So, like a puzzle, I figured out how to put them together in some fashion that made sense to me. And so it came to be. In retrospect, it’s an existential song about our human life, and what we choose to make of it. I like it a lot now.

IMD  Tell us a bit about “Loving Arms” my personal favorite?  

JAMES MAY “Loving Arms” is about my daughter, and the cycle of birth and death. She was quite a magnificent soul. Unlike the process I just described with writing “On The Line”, I deliberately wanted to write about losing her. I had written the melody several years before she died, with no lyric, just a feeling of longing. In fact, she had heard the melody and liked it. It seemed perfect to use it for a song about her.

IMD What’s next for James May?

JAMES MAY I’m in process of recording several more songs now, this time in my home studio, rather than out in professional studios. I’m wearing the producer, engineer, and artist hat all at the same time which is challenging. But it’s working out. I may be offering some singles on my website. I’m working to get the word out about this album, and to expand my audience and do as many live shows as I can. And I’m still writing.

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interview conducted by Cyrus Rhodes. Property of Indie Music Media LLC.

Copyright © 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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