James Morrison: 8 Questions With The “Up” Singer

By: Robbie Daw / December 9, 2011

Following the release of his third album The Awakening, and ahead of his spring tour here in the States, British singer-songwriter James Morrison is feeling quite feisty. Regarding his collaboration with Jessie J, the emotional, string-laden “Up”, Morrison tells us this: “I asked if she wanted to do it with me. But she said, ‘I’ll only record a song with you’.”

The past few years have seen professional and personal highs for the soulful 27-year-old artist, as well as some lows. Around the time he was writing material for his third LP, James’ father passed away. “It was very hard to get through most writing days without shedding a tear,” he says.

Still, he persevered, and the result was his second chart-topping album in the UK, The Awakening, which has sold over half-a-million copies worldwide since its release in September. Head below for our chat with the award-winning Brit!

Before you made it big, you’d take part in local open-mic nights in Derby. Describe the importance of the bar Ryan’s early in your career.
JAMES MORRISON: That place helped me get comfortable playing live. Most of the time, the songs I would play were spontaneous and so it helped me feel comfortable ad-libbing.

You gave a beautiful performance of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” last year at London’s Tower Bridge, which was broadcast live here on CBS’ Early Show. What influence has Jackson had on you, personally, and your songwriting?
JM: Michael Jackson is just pure energy, fun, rhythm and funk! Passion for what you’re singing about is the main thing I’ve learned from MJ — not to underestimate dance moves! [The Awakening single] “Slave To The Music” was inspired by MJ.

James Morrison covers Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”

Did you find it difficult to write new material for The Awakening after your father passed away?
JM: Of course it was difficult, but I had no choice but to write about something that’s on my mind. I did find it therapeutic. Still, it was very hard to get through most writing days without shedding a tear.

How did you come to collaborate with Jessie J on “Up”?
JM: I asked if she wanted to do it with me. But she said, ‘I’ll only record a song with you’. So we did “Up”.

Well, that’s a nice consolation prize. Will you be coming over to the States to play some gigs in support of The Awakening?
JM: You know that — ‘course I can’t wait. I’m coming over to the States for a week in January, but then again for three weeks in April for a small tour.

James Morrison — “I Won’t Let You Go”

So, is your three-year-old daughter a fan of your music?
JM: Yes, now she is. But she has said that she likes Jessie J more. She’s her favorite.

Ouch! Speaking of which, you’ve collaborated with Jessie J, obviously, and other artists such as Girls Aloud and Nelly Furtado. Who else is on your wish list to work with?
JM: No one — they are all a nightmare! Only joking. I enjoy collaborating, but for now I’m good with working just with Jessie J.

Last question: you cite Stevie Wonder as a big influence. What’s your favorite Stevie album, and why does it resonate so well with you?
JM: My favorite Stevie Wonder album — hmmm. It’s hard to choose, but if I had to it would be Songs In The Key Of Life. It’s got everything you want from an album.

The Awakening, which contains the singles “Up” and “I Won’t Let You Go”, is available now.