James Deane, Ronnie Scott's Bar

Last night I had the pleasure to attend a gig at Ronnie Scott's that was hosted by Circa 45 and guest starred James Deane. James Deane is an incredibly talented singer-songwriter from Guildford in Surrey and this was one of his rare gigs in London. Circa 45 opened the show and then James took the stage about half way through. He was given a comparatively long set which was nice to see him have the time to really explore his music. James used the opportunity to showcase his new music from his upcoming debut album "Diamonds & Hearts" and played a few old favourites from his EPs.

James seemed incredibly comfortable during the night and you could tell that he was really enjoying himself playing for such a gloriously intimate venue. There was a lot of laughs and jokes from everyone involved last night and it was a brilliant opportunity for James to be able to get his name and his music out there more to the masses last night. In my opinion he definitely rose to the challenge that the night presented.

Having listened to James' music before I couldn't conceal my surprise when he started "Nobody Knows You (Like I Do)" to find that it was very much a southern blues number. I was however pleasantly happy to find that it is a very strong song and very different for James! James has enough different types of songs in his album to keep the listener interested and he also manages to successfully show off what he can do in terms of his musical ability and the range of his singing.

One thing I did notice last night was that James' music on his new album has a wide range of country music influences, definitely more so than his EPs and there were a few songs in the set - "Seventeen" for instance - where James showed off his mouth organ skills to much applause from the assembled audience. His album shows a James that is still recognisable from his EPs but it also shows how much he has developed as an artist since those EPs were released. There's not a weak track on the album and it's nice to see that the album isn't just full of fillers like so many other albums are recently.

James has often worked closely with Mim Grey during the past and frequently plays as part of her band at any gigs that she has. His album is graced by her soulful backing vocals which just serves to add to it's appeal. Having listened to his album, James' voice fits beautifully with Mim's and they work off each other well and from what James has said you can tell there is a real friendship there which is lovely to see.

It is definitely hard to pick a favourite song out of James' new album but there is something about both the title track "Diamonds & Hearts" and the song "Unwritten Song" that draws me in. James has an amazing range as well. He can sing low songs such as "Seventeen" and then go higher for songs such as "Unwritten Song" and not sound like he's struggling at all through any of the songs. As an artist you really follow James through the journey of the songs in his album and his songwriting ability ensures that people from all walks of life will find that they can relate to them well.

After accompanying him on the album it was a shame that Mim Grey couldn't be there last night but her shoes were filled by James' friend Anna Burton for the night. Anna is a singer in her own right and performs both as a solo artist and with her band "Bridge Street" and she was a wonderful and competent partner for James for a few songs during the evening.

I was lucky enough to be able to speak to James before he went on last night and he graciously allowed me to interview him.

1) When did you first become interested in music?
Probably {thinks} I think I always have actually, since I can remember, probably about 8 or 9. I think when I was that young I used to make guitars out of bits of old wood and I had a meccano set, that, you know, you're supposed to build diggers and cars out of it and I used to make guitars, life size guitars to kind of strum along on. Yeah so I think I've always wanted to play guitar and yeah, always have, always have. There was not a turning point, I just naturally wanted to play it, it seemed like the cool thing to do. But throughout the years it kind of changes what kind of stuff you want to do. I'd be like this guitar player in Poison right now if musical tastes hadn't changed. I was well into my kind of hair metal and rock and stuff.

2) How did your musical tastes change?
I don't know. I went from sort of heavy metal to grunge to, you know with Nirvana and all that, to kind of nerd rock like Weezer and stuff, Green Day, and then moved on from them to Ryan Adams and then to the Jayhawks and then I gradually kind of discovered countryish. So I've got a big repertoire of....I like the fact that I know about heavy music. You know, I could play guitar in like Metallica right now and could be quite comfortable.

3) When did you write your first song? And can you remember what it was?
I remember when I was about twelve, when I first got my first guitar, and it probably was rubbish but I remember at the time coming up with something and feeling really sort of emotional about it. It was like I'd written the best song ever you know, I was like wow, and I remember that feeling, writing something and being really happy that I'd done it. At the time I didn't have a Dictaphone or any means to record it, I don't remember it now but I remember the feeling of putting something together and thinking wow that's quite cool, that's like my own song. So yeah probably about twelve. It's been a sort of slow process from there.

4) Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Mim Grey yeah, she's great. My favourite are things I listen to at the moment. I love Ryan Adams, I love Wilko. I'd love to do something with Jeff Tweedy, the lead singer of Wilko because I think he is, he kind of does what I do, but he's kind of quite experimental, it would be quite interesting to see how he led me. It would be really weird but it would, I find his stuff really inspirational so that might be quite interesting.

5) Who are your main influences?
I'd go with, well it's weird, musical or sort of influence to actually do it I'd say sort of Kurt Cobain and....but then now Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy, the Jayhawks. Who else....a lot of soul, I'm listening to a lot of soul at the moment. I can't name anything in particular but sort of 60s era soul music with a lot of string quartets on there and uh, yeah that sort of stuff.

6) What is your favourite venue?
My favourite.....um....there's lots of places I've seen on the Internet that I haven't been to yet that I would love to play. There's a place called Red....I think it's called Red Rock or something, in America, it's a natural amphitheatre actually hewn from the rock, but I don't know where that is, but I'd like to play there. The best place I've played so far is probably the Shepherd's Bush Empire. My band supported Catatonia in 1998 when I was eighteen and so we actually did the whole tour with them, so that was good. We supported Green Day at the London Historia, now it's been knocked down and it's going to be part of Tottenham Court Road tube station but that was a cool venue. I think I'd say the London Historia if it was still around because I saw so many gigs there. I saw Tower of Power there. Tower of Power are the funk band. {gestures to music playing in the background} They're funkier than this, they're this times ten. I saw loads of people, Radiohead, all the people when I was younger growing up that I really admired, I saw at the Historia. So I think that.

7) How do you deal with nerves before a performance? Or do you not get nervous?
I don't really. I get kind of, not bored, but I can't wait to go on so the hours between sound check and going on aren't as sort of.....you know you're just sitting around so it's not really nerves, it's more....yeah restlessness. But I don't really get nervous, I'm a showoff so I don't mind. I really am, I always have been, like you see me on stage with Mim {Grey} going mental and doing cartwheels....yeah holding a guitar and doing cartwheels at the same time....but yeah I don't get nervous.

8) What do you enjoy doing most when you're not performing or working on your music?
Cooking. I love cooking. If I wasn't doing music I probably would....although I don't know about the intensity of doing cooking and being a chef, it's a bit manic. I love cooking in my spare time. I love....I really like guitars in terms of not making music but taking them apart and I'd like to do a course in making them and things like that. I like woodwork and electronics and all that sort or stuff. So yeah, those two, those two sort of things really.

9) How do you prefer to unwind after a show?
By drinking a load of beer. Although it tends to mean that I'm not unwinding because the more beer I drink at gigs, the longer I go on for. I think I'm amazing and I carry on playing till about three in the morning. I'm professional in that I won't get drunk before a performance but during it I will drink. That's how I unwind.

10) How do you balance music and home life?
I don't know, it's just something I've done for so long I don't really know the difference. I'm lucky enough that in my house we have a basement and I kind of took that as my music room so I've got a bit of studio, it's small, but it's got everything I need down there so I keep stuff out the way, so I guess everything to do with music is down there. So if I'm watching telly, or cooking, or anything else I'm doing at home, there's nothing to do with music visible and then I go out and do it sort of four nights a week.

11) What are your goals as far as your music career?
I don't know, I still actually feel some people feel uncomfortable with doing really well or they just want to have a cult fan base and be playing small places but to an appreciative audience. But I feel that what I do could be quite commercially quite big and I feel quite comfortable with that because I actually enjoy gigs more the more people that are enjoying it the way I enjoy it. I don't know why that is but I feel like I'm an entertainer in a way so I want it to be really big basically. I know that I do. Some people say that and they don't really think about what they're saying. When it happens to them you see people, it happens to them and they don't know what to do with it. I'd really enjoy playing to massive packed out places. You get to play fewer gigs but to more appreciative audiences and I'd also appreciate the money thanks! I'd like a few million just to sort my studio out.

12) Would you like to perform in a band again or are you happy as a solo artist?
Definitely a group. I'm getting to the edge of wanting to do it by myself. I enjoy it but tonight I'm playing with a girl called Anna {Burton} who is going to join me for four songs but it's finding people who share your passion for your songs because they're all busy and they've got their own things to do but I'm gradually finding people who really want to play my songs so yeah I really want to get a band together. Luckily, with playing with Mim's band, that's the first band that I've played with for about eight years and I love it. So I'm looking to replicate that.

13) What's the best part of being a musician?
Recording I'd say. Apart from, until I get to play massive places and play for thousands of people....Because the gigs tick away nicely and some are great and some are quiet but the thing I enjoy most is the process of recording an album. The process of going in there and spending two months....or if you have the luxury of two months, I had two weeks to do mine. Managed it, I would have liked to have spent two months on it but you have these limitations so yeah I think recording, you start seeing things instead of it all being in one blast of half an hour or an hour of playing, you get to see something turn from minimalist to a full blown sound.

14) How about the worst part?
Playing gigs to no-one. Which I have done on a couple of occasions. Where you turn up in a strange place, like a gig you haven't done before and you end up playing to the bartender, something like that. That's a bit depressing. But it's not happened as much recently because obviously things are getting better. I nearly gave up actually, I nearly gave up doing music full stop a year ago. It was only because I met a guitar dealer. At the time I wasn't feeling like I really enjoyed it and he took one listen to my songs and immediately emailed me and said this is amazing and he gave me the inspiration to carry on. That's why I did the album. So it's all because of him. It was really nice to hear because I hadn't heard anyone say anything positive. Now, from doing something proper like a proper album instead of releasing my home demos, hopefully for some people to latch on to and enjoy.

15) Are you enjoying the experience with Mim {Grey}?
With Mim's stuff? Love it. I wouldn't be playing guitar for her, because it's time out of doing what I do so I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think she was brilliant. When I first heard her stuff I really wanted to support her and play guitar for her. As long as I'm free to do it I'll do it, whatever she wants to do, I'll be there. She's brilliant and her new album is going to be brilliant.

16) If you had to chose a quote that motivates you what would it be and why?
As a songwriter I don't really read much. I think I should read more because I think that's a good way of writing songs, to be inspired by works of different writers. So I don't really have one. I live each day to it's fullest. In a way I think it's quite helpful as a writer to not read a lot of poetry and things like that, you tend to rip a lot of it off. Whereas I write my own way, the way I think it should be. So I'm not really inspired by anyone poetic. I'm more inspired by music and then I write what I think fits.

17) What would you say to anyone wanting to make it in music?
Don't. Don't even try, it's terrible. {laughs} No, I'd say don't listen to what anyone else says or thinks about what you do, do what you think is right. A lot of times, I've thought I'm going to do this and people have persuaded me not to and it turns out it's the right thing to do. You basically won't get anywhere if you're not doing what you love, if you're doing it because it's what successful at the moment then don't bother. Do what you believe in.

James is a very sweet person and I wish him all the luck with his music. Definite five stars from me, I can't wait to see what the future brings for him! James' album is out in the summer this year and is called "Diamonds & Hearts" I encourage everyone to buy it!