James May - A Thousand Shining Pieces
- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST:-
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 PiecesĒ is a world class musical production from start to finish. Thereís 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 ďA Thousand Shining PiecesĒ to see what I am talking about. It's amazing!
IMD I really enjoyed your latest CD ďA Thousand Shining PiecesĒ Congratulations on the Nomination of CD of the year from IMD?
JAMES MAY Thank you, itís an honor to be recognized, it always feels good to find an appreciative ear, or should I say appreciative heart, or perhaps soul? Iím glad youíre 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 ďa thousand shining piecesĒ is culled from the lyric to ďFalling IntoĒ, the third cut on the album. The first verse says: ďfalling into a place where I can see a thousand shining faces of my ownĒ and the last verse is: ďfalling into a place where I can free a thousand shining pieces of my heartĒ. The song is about emerging, coming into the world anew after a period of darkness or contraction. Itís 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?
"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."
JAMES MAY Good question Cyrus, I was hoping someone would ask about that. I took that shot, it is in the lightkeeperís house next to the Point Reyes lighthouse. Itís 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 onÖ
IMD Who gets to be your favorite band or artist overall?
JAMES MAY At the risk of sounding me-too-ish, but Iíd 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 Iíve been told I sound like James Taylor and Paul McCartney many times. I donít know whether people are hearing little bits of that in my voice, or whether itís more my writing style. I do love melody so I write melodically, since thatís what floats my boat. Both those guys are in the melodic camp so it makes sense. Joni is one comparison I havenít heard, but Iíll 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. Iíve 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 youíve 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 sheís 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 Iím 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 ďOn the LineĒ?
JAMES MAY That is my metaphysical train song. Every artist needs one, donít you think? I donít 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 donít 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, itís 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 ďLoving ArmsĒ my personal favorite?
JAMES MAY ďLoving ArmsĒ 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 ďOn The LineĒ, 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 Whatís next for James May?
JAMES MAY Iím in process of recording several more songs now, this time in my home studio, rather than out in professional studios. Iím wearing the producer, engineer, and artist hat all at the same time which is challenging. But itís working out. I may be offering some singles on my website. Iím working to get the word out about this album, and to expand my audience and do as many live shows as I can. And Iím still writing.
interview conducted by Cyrus Rhodes. Property of Indie Music Media LLC.
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