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Interview: Musician James de Las Casas

This whole process of writing songs – it’s a, it’s a mystery, but it is utterly exciting and magic. But I think that you came with an idea and some lyrics and maybe some of the melody, and um – it’s so hard to describe, it seems like you have, often you only have a short period of time to grab, actually grab the song and put it down into a form. Um, it’s a moment of inspiration. I feel that it is a moment of inspiration. And you had an idea, or you had an emotion that was present for what you felt was going on with your mother which brought – it brought back – it was to do with memories.

And um, as for the way the music comes, I think you must have had an idea for a melody, and then, it starts with the first chord and then – I just, I, funnily enough I was thinking maybe of more music that I’d heard in the past, and the type of Gaelic songs, the way that they, the chord sequences often run. And um, it’s often a major chord, major minor progression. Um, and that seems to catch those moods really well. Um, so it was, er, it’s a natural process, but it’s something that you have to feel as well, but I feel that’s how it works for me, I think.

Um, I think, I can’t – in the same way that you can’t really deny where you come from in terms of your roots, my musical roots are that I was, I think, more involved with R&B and rock’n’roll as a kind of, as a style. But then I also played in an Irish cèilidh band for about ten years. We used to go off and play, um, lots of dances and weddings and stuff like that, and um playing tunes as well, playing reels and jigs and, um, so that my style, I think, is between the two, and I like to move between the two of them. Um, I think that, erm, and that’s what I, sometimes, I can add to it, um, add to the musical direction by injecting a little bit of the energy of that into, into the kind of, the Gaelic traditional thing. But I don’t actually feel that confident yet with the Gaelic music yet. I’m still learning. I have still a huge amount to learn with it.

And when you sing about somehting that is to do with, as you describe, the memories, the influences, and the history, I think that you – it’s not just singing about it because you, in a way when you sing about it, you call all of that back into the present. I think that is the process. I think that is the most, um, exciting part of it all – is that by singing about it you bring it back into the present.

I find it, though, particularly interesting that we’re working together. I really, I think that that’s um – you enter into a process when you write, as a co-writing – a partnership – um, where you share ideas. I think it’s, I think it’s not just what one person, or two individuals put into the pot. I think the two, the two influences of a writing team create something which is bigger than we can do individually. I think that’s, that’s something that is always, um, astonishing. Yeah.

I was working in London, recording in a, my studio, which was, I think, a professional studio, and also producing music for, erm, CDs and stuff like that. Um, that was something I did for many years. But what happened, in the whole, in the whole of that period was that I never used to write so much. I used to write sometimes, but more the point was I didn’t play, and coming here has given me the space to start playing music again, which, um, has been absolutely – it’s been wonderful, really enjoyable. To play again, and actually to start – because we’ve gone off and done some playing to audiences and, um, live situations, um, you have to work in a different way. Recording is a very, um, I wouldn’t say it’s a – it’s a very cosseted environment. It’s a very – you’re looking at a certain degree of perfection. And, um, I think that to go and play live, and actually to bring the music out, in a way that people can enjoy it, I think that’s a fantastic challenge, so that side of it I’ve really enjoyed. I want to do more of that too.

I actually want to, I want to play and sing and be involved with writing in that way. But in terms of the music that we’re working on now, I think the time will come when we’ll, we will record it. And we’ll, we’ll build up a body of work which we’ve played at bit live, and working in a live way you actually work out the problems of a piece of music. Sometimes it’s to do with the fact that you’ve pitched it too low, and you’re not lifting your voice up sufficiently. So, by going out and playing live, you actually test it. That testing process is really important, and, and then I think we’ll, we will record this material – I think it’s going to be really exciting to do that. I’d really enjoy that. So that’s one of the things I look forward to, recordingwise.

Clilstore Island VoicesBi BeòJames MacLetchie

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