Unchained Melodies

24 March 2012 | 12:23 pm | Staff Writer

James Walsh is a man who can write and sing a great tune. With Starsailor, he's been a darling of the international record industry for over a decade, least of all as many still keep Four To The Floor as a defining soundtrack to youthful escapades. But since then he's continued to make music and perform with a generous mixture of professional skill and a music fan's excitement. The latest is what he calls the 1000 club, where he posts acoustic covers of songs he digs on YouTube. It's called 1000 because when the views hit that magic number, he takes that as a cue to record another. Just over a month into it and Lennon's Real Love and Dylan's I'll Remember You have gotten a go – filmed just with a webcam in a bedroom so it seems. The recordings look and sound rough and ready, but they also have a warmth, skill and clear love that is infectious. Real Love, as it were.

“I think it's important and it's a great opportunity to link to the fan base with YouTube and Twitter and all these things. It's particularly important in the current climate, I think connections are very important,” Walsh explains of the idea initially. “And I think with the YouTube videos and things like that, I think people are a lot of more forgiving of little technical mistakes and things like that, as long as you've got a strong core. I do work on the craft when it comes to recording, but the great thing is when you send out a really unrehearsed and raw version of the song that gets a good reaction, then it makes me really excited that the things will go well when the all singing, all dancing version of the song is finalised and released.”

The new songs in question include Walsh's latest solo efforts, the latest being EP Live At The Top Of The World. It's got his trademark smooth, almost soul folkie vocals, but also a slightly more direct approach than with Starsailor. It's not that the band is over or that he doesn't like that vibe, but rather than he's just enjoying the slight freefall, including exploring the pop path less often trodden. “One of the advantages of playing on my own is, when you play with a band you rehearse a set and when you sort of go away from the set and play a song that's unrehearsed, everyone gets a bit nervous and it can be quite exhausting. But I've often found on my own I can let the audience draw it, I can go with the audience. If it's a Sunday night and everyone's chilled after a big weekend and they want some gentle acoustic stuff, then I've got plenty of that in my armour. But equally if it's a Saturday night and everyone's up for it, I've got Four To The Floor and Soul On Trail [from the new EP] and plenty of big covers in my book as well. So it's going to be good fun.”

This tour marks the first significant one here for Walsh, although it's not his first time to Australia. Believe it or not, he and Starsailor actually toured here as a support for Alex Lloyd in another lifetime. Speaking from home on the other side of the world after a relatively calm day (“I had a meeting in the morning and then quite an easy day, to be honest, which is good because I was quite hungover. I'm quite good at planning a day that's not too busy when I'm hungover…”), he talks matter of factly but sweetly about getting over here to show off his solo wares. “[I've come back to Australia] for a few reasons, really,” Walsh continues. “I guess one of the few reasons was that we met a very lovely, charming Australian promoter in Dubai, who made it his mission to get me back out there, so yeah, that was a big part of it. But I've always made it clear to my own agent that I'd love to go back to Australia. It's always a shame when you've only been somewhere once. We were novices then – quite inexperienced – and since we've done a lot of shows in Europe and shows in America and got better and better with each time. So it's always a shame that we've not come to Australia and show off a more experienced version of Starsailor, so I'm making up for it now.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

“It's a very different show now that I'm on my own, there's a bit more pressure on me to regale the audience with all different tales, but it will be good fun. All the Australians I know have great personalities and a good sense of humour so it should be good.”

While you've got to love Walsh's want to connect with this fans (and clear enthusiasm about being a music fan himself), does he ever get a little concerned that audiences will get a little too close, trying to run the show as it were? “I've learnt to kind of deal with it now, laugh it off. I've had experiences in the past where I've let a bit of rowdiness get to me a bit too much,” Walsh laughs, clear up for the interaction, but also confident enough to politely tell those who may overstep the mark to cool their heels. “I'm not worried about hecklers at all!” Given recent moves into other types of music making beyond band and solo stuff, to a recent stint with film music on Powder, it sounds like while Walsh will be in charge, there will still be plenty of wiggle room on the night.