Jarryd James Talks “Do You Remember,” His Debut EP & Working With Joel Little: Idolator Interview

Mike Wass | September 23, 2015 8:45 am
New Find: Jarryd James' "Do You Remember"
Produced by Joel Little, Jarryd Jame's moody "Do You Remember" is an absolute gem.

Jarryd James established himself as one of Australia’s most exciting new artists with gloomy debut single “Do You Remember.” Co-written and produced by Joel Little (the Kiwi that brought us Lorde and Broods), the break-up anthem was a smash hit at home — peaking at number two on the ARIA Singles Chart and selling double platinum. The 30-year-old’s striking blend of R&B and eerie electronica is now making waves around the globe.

I spoke with the singer/songwriter ahead of his support slot on Meg Myers’ North American tour, which kicks off September 30 in Tucson, Arizona. Jarryd revealed that he met Joel after performing at an awards show and gave some insight into their creative process. He also opened up about his slinky Julia Stone duet and explained the powerful meaning behind his Australian album title. (We got a self-titled EP in the States). Find out more about the buzz artist below.

How did you connect with Joel Little? He’s on such a roll with Lorde and Broods.
My manager also manages Broods. I met my manager and Joel at the same time — at the APRA awards last year, in Brisbane. I was performing at the awards, and they were both there. They saw me play and then we just had a good chat afterwards. They asked what I was up to and I told them “not much.” And it just kind of went from there.

I’m really happy that it all sprung from an honest place, which was just they saw me singing. It just went from there. Joel and I thought it would be cool to see how it went if we wrote. So I went over to Auckland, where he was living at the time, and we had a crack. We just thought we’d see if we could write something together and we came up with something pretty cool. Then he moved to LA, and I went over there a few times earlier this year to write.

What were you performing at APRA? I’m curious what you were doing pre-“Do You Remember”. Was it under a different name?
I wasn’t doing music. I was in a band for a long time, but I’d stopped making music altogether. Then I got back into writing. My plan was… well, I didn’t really have a solid plan, but in my head I was just going to write because I love making music. I signed a publishing deal actually with Sony and through some people that I knew, they invited me to come and perform an interpretation of one of the Song Of The Year nominations, which was my good friend Matt Corby’s “Resolution.”

I mean I really shouldn’t have been doing it because they normally get artists to do the interpretations, that’s the whole point. They get other artists to cover the five finalists, the five nominees. The other artists were people like Colin Hayes, Megan Washington. And then I was just this random frigging dude that jumped up and had a sing. But I think that’s what was cool about it, that no one knew who I was.

Which band were you in?
I was in a band with my friends called Holland. We only had a single, and an EP I think.

Was “Do You Remember” one of the first songs you wrote with Joel?
Yeah, that was the second thing we ever wrote together. We’d written one other thing in New Zealand that made us realize it was something we should try again. The next stab we had was “Do You Remember.” It came out real easy, too.

Did you know you had something special on your hands?
Yes and no. We recorded it as we were writing, which is how I always do my stuff, and there were definitely points along the way where I got excited and Joel got excited. Which is kind of the whole point. I hang on to those points where you get excited, because it’s not always easy. You come up against a wall sometimes. But when it was done, all I knew was that we had a song that I was really proud of and that I wanted to listen to myself, which is important.

It exploded in Australia. What has the response been like internationally?
It’s only just begun in America. I just played a Triple A conference out in Boulder, Colorado about a month ago. I’m not exactly sure how it’s been going, but Zane Lowe has been spinning it, which has been amazing. It’s still early days internationally, apart from that there’s a bunch of radio stations in places like Germany and France who have been playing it for months.

Why did you decide to release an EP in America instead of the full album.
The timeline is very different. In Australia it all started building really quickly, from January it just progressed so fast that by the time we started doing stuff in America it didn’t really make sense to be on the same timeline. So an EP seemed to make sense. We were originally just going to do the album at a later date, but because there was a bit of interest, we put the EP out.

How did you choose which tracks to put on the EP?
It was tough, I think we definitely went with the two or three songs that have gone to radio in Australia so far, and then it was just a matter of going through and trying to preempt what people might connect with the most. That’s an impossible thing to really do, but we had a go at it.

Out of interest, why did you call the album Thirty One?
It’s two things. I’m 30 years old right now, so I’ll be turning 31 this year. Also because of my father. He was quite musical, but got into drugs and alcohol and he passed away when I was young. He was 30 years old when he died, so I guess the fact that I’m going to be turning 31 and outliving my father is pretty monumental to me. I feel like I’m kind of continuing on with what he couldn’t finish doing.

That’s really powerful. Does that personal history inspire a song like “This Time (Serious Symptoms, Simple Solutions)”?
Not really. When I write, lyrics especially, it all sort of springs from the music. I’ll just switch my brain off. There’s a lot of stuff back there in our subconscious mind and I’ve figured out ways to access. Music brings it all out in a really beautiful way. A lot of the stuff that comes out, at the start of the process, I don’t really know what’s going on yet — but I figure it out about halfway through and it’s this cool moment.

I love “Regardless,” your duet with Julia Stone. Did that come about when you were touring together?
Angus & Julia Stone were good enough to have me on their tour earlier this year. We became friends pretty quickly and we were trying to get a chance to write on tour, but we just missed any days that we had off. Which was good, it’s kind of crazy when you’re doing that. But we figured out that we both had one day in Sydney that we could do it. We didn’t even have the whole day, we had about half a day. Once again it was just an experiment like with Joel, I don’t think Julia had written with anyone but Angus before that, so it was a very new experience for her, and I think we captured something pretty special.

When are you do more shows in the States?
As soon as we’re finished touring in Europe, we’re heading over and touring with Meg Myers all throughout the US. She’s awesome. So we’re not too far from that, a couple of weeks and I’ll be playing heaps of places. (See all the dates here).

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