Touring in support of his second EP, Broken Lines, Patrick James performs this Saturday, September 6, at the Fly By Night. AUGUSTUS WELBY reports.
Keen followers of the Australian indie-folk scene have probably caught Patrick James live at some point in the last two years.
Over a busy 18-month period, the Sydney based singer-songwriter toured with the likes of Boy & Bear, The Paper Kites, Josh Pyke and Tim Hart.
Last month James released his second EP, Broken Lines.The five-track set follows on from last year’s relatively sparse debut, All About To Change. The majority of James’ recent touring has been conducted with a trio of backing musicians and the new EP shows he’s comfortably transitioned into playing with a full band.
“Touring with those guys so much definitely had an influence on the next batch of songs,” he says. “Onstage there’s more harmonies going on and a little bit more in-depth instrumentation to what my first EP portrays. That opened up the writing for my second EP.”
Broken Lines was recorded with esteemed Australian producer Wayne Connolly. Teaming up with the studio master further enabled James to expand the breadth of his compositions.
“I consciously wanted to make it a lot bigger,” he says. “So Wayne just gave me really good sonic ideas about how to put that all together. His way of working was to almost fiddle for a while; you get the beds of the tracks down and then you just fiddle with random instruments or synths or glockenspiels or something like that. He’s definitely a very talented producer and had some great ideas.”
The resulting EP is replete with choral vocal harmonies, string arrangements and electric instrumentation. Thanks to Connolly’s crafty touch, the added instrumentation doesn’t obscure James’ intimate songwriting voice. While input was welcome from both Connolly and the band, James remained the commander-in-chief.
“It’s a really personal thing for me, writing my music and writing songs. It’s still pretty much a solo project. I’ll take the songs to those guys and I’ll have a basic idea of what I want them to do and they’ll go from there. Wayne was really good with fleshing that out as well.”
As for specific songwriting instruction, he refers to some infallible sources of wisdom.
“Over the last six months I’ve had an imprint of James Taylor’s face in my mind, just being like, ‘What would he do in this situation?’ I think the main artist that I was listening to on the road, which influenced a few of the more acoustic-based songs, is Ryan Adams. There’s a song called Fight With Me,which is the only track on the EP that was consciously alternative-country-sounding. I was just so in that headspace of listening to Ryan Adams, so that came out.”
Either way, Broken Lines is evidence that James’ artistry is developing. So what comes next?
“After this cycle I’ll think about an album,” he says. “I don’t know if the sound of the EP will be the exact sound I go with for the album to come, but for this EP that collection of songs just really stuck together.”