Maiden Voyage

18 March 2012 | 3:40 pm | Ben Preece

James Walsh might not be a name synonymous with Australian audiences but you’re bound to be familiar with his work as frontman of British band Starsailor. Now he's out on his own and on his way down under.

Having fronted English rockers Starsailor for the last 12 years or so, singer, songwriter, guitarist, pianist and frontman James Walsh began working on a solo project at the end of 2009 with an announcement that the band was on hiatus. He immediately began working on material for an album and lyrics with American songwriter Suzanne Vega. So far, the solo life seems to be agreeing with Walsh – he's released a solo EP called Live At The Top Of The World, feuded with Noel Gallagher, supported Simple Minds on their Greatest Hits Tour and written for soundtracks and other singers. All in all, he's happy.

“It's all coming together very nicely,” he enthuses, well, as much as one can after three hours of interviews at 1am. “I've got many writing projects on the go – I worked on, wrote and produced three tracks on Matt Cardle's album, he won the X Factor in the UK and that charted at number two and went platinum. That was quite a big milestone for me, stepping out of the band and validation that I can make a success of the songwriting.

“Then there's a film called Powder which I am very proud of,” he continues. “It's on iTunes and you can order the DVD and that now – it came to cinemas in the UK in the autumn time. It's a rock'n'roll movie and all song-based, so basically the voice of the lead singer in the band when he opens his mouth to sing is me. That was quite exciting. There's nothing quite like hearing your music that you've worked on and drafted in your bedroom blasting out of these great surround speakers in a cinema.”

In Australia, Walsh is arguably moist known for Four To The Floor, the song he originally recorded with Starsailor but experienced more success with the Thin White Duke Remix created by uber-dance producer Stuart Price.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“It was our first foray into dance music,” Walsh explains. “When we first wrote it, we heard that northern soul music in mind so it seemed like quite a nice thing to do and the natural thing was to remix it. We could never have envisioned just how big it was going to be. It's definitely the way forward – dance in an age that sees music decline, dance is still alive. I'm lucky in a way that my talent lies in the top line lyric and melody area which can be applied to all kinds of genres of music, so I think another dance music collaboration would be very exciting.”

Funnily enough in 2012, it still the collaboration that gets Walsh most excited – he reveals that working alongside the likes of Matt Cardle, as opposed to simply writing a song for him, secured the work.

“It was different with Matt as he's always been a musician and written songs himself so it was much more of a collaboration. I tend to find there's a much chance of people placing the songs and using them when you've sat in the room with them and wrote with them. That way, there's a bit of ownership from their side. I'm enjoying that side of things and writing for films as well. It's very inspiring because if you've got a great script and great visual, half the job is done as the lyrical inspiration is there.”

And looking forward, it seems more collaborations are on the cards. Or so Walsh would like to think anyway.

“One of my big inspirations is Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, he seems to manage to write with all these amazing people and keep his band going, touring and making records as well,” he tells. “That's something I'd really like to do – I am quite enjoying surprising people by working with people like Eliza Doolittle, Matt Cardle and so on. It'd be great to do collaboration with someone from a totally different background. I'm totally into Robyn, she's such a singer and so direct with top lines and melodies – she'd be a fantastic person to work with.

“There's a band called The Staves, an all-female harmony thing who are really incredible,” he continues name checking his current favourites. “I've just started listening to that rapper called Azealia. On the dancefloor, Swedish House Mafia and I've worked with their producer too and today, I've been listening to that guy Skrillex, so much hype about him – it's pretty good but you have to be in the mood for that kind of music, it's quite full on. There's a lot of great music out there. Frank Ocean is really great too. That guy Gotye is getting big over here too – I do really love that song.”

Looking back to Starsailor – the band Walsh has fronted since 2000 – a hiatus was announced in 2009 and now, three years later, it still doesn't seem like a definite plan to reunite the band is at the forefront. Walsh reveals little on the subject, isn't necessarily negative about a reunion but is thoroughly loving the solo life.

“It obviously has its advantages and its disadvantages,” he concedes. “The band was a huge part of my life and I'm sure we'll get back together at some point. But for now, the good thing about being solo is that I can be involved in a lot of different things all at once. Stuff like the film soundtracks and the writing with various people, so there isn't that huge pressure on one thing to be that success, so there's a lot of freedom – it's good.”

Only one release has eventuated since 2009, the Live At The Top Of The World EP from 2010. Impressively, it was recorded in Tromso, Norway with a local chamber orchestra and released at the end of 2010.

“I released it a year ago and it but I've been working on these songs and there will be a new EP coming out as well,” he explains. “I will be playing some new tracks on the tour and the EP I recorded last year will be available. It was just me and an orchestra – it was pretty amazing. It was 16-piece chamber orchestra. I think I wanted to come back with something that was a departure from melodic sensibility – I've always been inspired by orchestral pop like Rufus Wainwright, Randy Newman, people like that.”

Clearly thriving on doing whatever he wants, Walsh reveals that his next recorded EP will be quite different to anything he's ever done. So far the response has been positive.

“It's been great, I've been posting new songs on YouTube and keeping busy, speaking to people on Twitter and stuff like that and everyone has been very enthusiastic. It's kind of like starting again in a lot of ways. The next EP is another departure again, the songs people are excited about at the moment are quite upbeat and dance-mutated – I'm quite excited for people to hear them.”