James Bay Opens His Sketchbook

Rising songwriter reveals his artistic side...

It's trite observation but largely correct: James Bay believes that songwriting is a craft.

Something which requires practise, which requires great care and dedication. Something which is deeply personal, which is derived from observation of the world around us.

New EP 'Let It Go' drops on May 13th, perhaps the songwriter's most distinct, accomplished document to date. It's packed with moments of precocious artistry, of a musician truly finding his feet.

As it turns out, James Bay also has another creative outlet. With a keen interest in visual arts, Bay enjoys sitting alone, sketching out observations of the world around him.

Handing a number of sketches to Clash, the results are an intriguing insight into the way James Bay approach any creative endeavour.

Check them out now, with more information from Bay below.

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1. 'Old Man'
I sat down on a pretty deserted ferry on my first ever trip over to Ireland for a few tour dates. The deck and the water were very quiet and this old man came and sat down a few seats over from me. He spent the whole journey just pouring himself glasses of wine and staring out across the water. So, for no other reason than to pass the time, I drew him.

2 'Wild Feathers'
I toured with The Wild Feathers on my first ever tour of the United States. Every day we'd have to make really long drives to the next state, city, venue. This sketch is unfinished, but I did it in the car on one of the longest drives. It's drawn from a photo my tour manager took of us all drinking and singing together backstage, as we did most nights.

3. 'Train Man'
Over the past three years I've travelled all over. It started mainly on trains and I sketched this while sat in Brighton station. This man – a member of staff at the station – sat down next to me. He had a particularly long, craning neck, so I drew him. This sketch will always remind me of all those trains and buses and writing my first EP.

4. 'Springsteen'
I find myself drawing the most when I'm in transit, waiting to arrive somewhere, time on my hands and a bit of a restless mind. This is a sketch of Bruce Springsteen from his coolest era – somewhere amongst his first three albums in the 1970s – that I drew on the plane to San Francisco. Loved the big, baggy beanie he wore, so this one's covering half his face.

5. 'Peezay'
Tom Peel is my bass player, and also my oldest friend. I drew this whilst we were travelling – he was listening to music. It was my first full band tour and our first time on the road together, something we've dreamed about since we were 13.

6. 'Idea'
I did this self portrait in Nashville – where I've been recording my album. It's just a quick shaded sketch based on a photo taken in Charlotte, NC.

7. 'Hold Back The River'
I did this sketch in the studio whilst recording my song 'Hold Back The River'. It happened in a moment while the engineer was wiring stuff into the board.

8. 'Demos'
This is the drawing I used for the cover of a few demos I shared on SoundCloud recently. I coloured in the final version, but this is the original sketch.

9 'Tom Waits'
I'm still a brand-new Tom Waits fan. Still learning. I drew this whilst we were driving into San Francisco in autumn 2013. I picked up a few of his better-known records to get myself started and we must have been listening to 'Rain Dogs' at the time, because this sketch is from the picture of him crouching in the street on the inside sleeve of the CD case.

10. 'Eli Beaird'
Eli played bass on my debut album. He's awesome. I sketched him as he was sat listening, eyes closed, studying his part, seeing if anything could be done different or better. So I thought I'd capture it like this, on paper.

11. 'Sketchy Sketchy'
Another from the studio. I don't remember even remember doing it (I was probably listening back to something). It's my hand, drawing my hand, drawing my hand, drawing my…

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'Let It Go' is set to be released on May 13th. Find James Bay online here.


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