In Conversation with…MARTIN AND JAMES

Martin and James are Glaswegian singer-songwriters, who are now based in Berlin. They have this effortlessly beautiful way of telling stories through music, they are truly great musicians and songwriters. Their newest single, Matilda, off their upcoming second album, Life’s A Show, out 30th August, sparks something of a departure from their previous material. Matilda having a more pop edge to it, than their previous songs, Matilda being a loving ode to James’ daughter, Matilda. It’s a very upbeat track that’s very catchy and joyful.

I caught up with Martin to discuss everything from the making of the new album to what it was like uprooting their lives to Germany to pursue their music career.

Can you give us a brief history of how you came together?

James and I met when we were about 15/16 years old through mutual friends at school. We were both in separate bands and my band wanted to steal James from his band because he could sing. We started hanging out in the same crowd, doing what young lads do like playing football and underage drinking. Eventually the music started to become a really serious thing for both of us and we’d spend whole weekends recording demos and learning to write songs instead of trying to get into nightclubs.   

You recently journeyed back to Glasgow to film your music video for your new single, Matilda. How did that go and do you enjoy filming music videos?

We filmed for two days in Glasgow and they were the sunniest days of the year so far. It was very lucky. We had warned all the German crew that the weather would be terrible so they just thought we were exaggerating about our famous Scottish rain. We had invited a lot of friends and family to come along and be part of the video so it was just a really fun day and it was great to have people close to us be part of it. 

What was it like to go back to Glasgow, after being away for so long?

We go back to Glasgow quite regularly actually, but the city changes a lot. Bars we used to go to are no longer there, some of the independent music stores have had to close down too. I think it’s the same everywhere at the moment. It’s a tough time financially and you can see it when you walk down the street. For us, Glasgow is more about the people we have there and it’s always great to get back to our friends and families.

You’ve made quite a name for yourselves out in Germany. What was it like to uproot your lives there and are the audiences different in Germany to UK audiences?

It was a huge decision to come to Germany. We had no idea what to expect and we had no idea that anything good would come from it. We had a manager in Berlin who convinced us to come and we just made a decision to follow where the music would take us. We fell in love with Berlin as soon as we arrived and started playing little shows in cafes and bars. We were immediately shocked by how respectful German audiences can be. We couldn’t believe that people came and really listened to the musicians. We’d grown up playing in rowdy Glasgow pubs and it was a strange thing to be playing to a silent room. In the beginning it was actually a bit intimidating but we’ve grown to really appreciate that.  

Is Matilda a good example of what we can be expecting from your new record, Life’s A Show?

I think the new record will surprise some people. It’s definitely got a sharper sound than our first album. Matilda is a very upbeat and driven song for us and there is a lot of different dynamics on this album. The overall production of the record is more engaging and there are some really big moments. However, there are also a few songs where we both recorded live in the room, singing together and purely rely on our voices to get the emotion across. There’s a bit of Jekyll and Hyde going on!

How many tracks are on the new record and what your favourite tracks?

There are 12 tracks on there. Our favourites at the moment are ‘You’ll Be Gone’, ‘My Last Prayer’ and of course ‘Matilda’.

How long did the whole writing and recording process take for the new record?

We started really focusing on writing for it about 18 months ago. We recorded half on the record in Berlin and the other half we recorded in LA. We spent three weeks in LA in November last year. It was a great experience and I think it really affected the outcome of the album. 

Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process? Where do you start and how do you put a song together?

This time was a little different than the last. We worked very closely with our producer Tobias Kuhn. We got a whole bunch of ideas together and we sent them off to Tobi. We always start off with far too many ideas but eventually we would decide on which ideas had potential. Some ideas were very developed and some were very basic ideas. We would sit in a little room in his studio and work away until we felt we had the strongest song we could get from that original idea. 

You recorded the new album partly in Berlin and partly in Los Angeles. How was that experience for you?

These were two very different locations. Berlin was very creative and we had a lot of free time in between sessions where we could work on lyrics and change things around. LA was a very intensive period. We were in the studio for three weeks straight with hardly any days off. Everyone was very focused and it was a really insular period. Our poor Scottish skin hardly caught any sun out there! It was a great experience to make a record in LA though. It definitely ticks off a box on the to do list 🙂

You’ve toured with big names such as Taylor Swift, The Stereophonics and Jake Bugg. What was it like being a part of a touring show of that size and did you ever get the chance to sit down with any of the bands or artists to talk to them?

We’ve been lucky to have supported some huge names and almost all of them have taken the time to talk with us. It’s great to experience these size of shows and learn from people who are really at the top of their game. We see everyone of those big support shows as a chance to get better at what we do, so that one day we can step up to that level. 

Do you plan on touring outside of Germany for the promotion of this new record?

We would love to take this album everywhere we possibly could. We have tour dates booked in Germany for October and some in February. We would love to add some dates in other countries if the opportunity is there. We really love playing live and we would happily jump in a camper van and go wherever we are welcome. Bring it on!

And finally, do you have a message for your fans that you’d like to share with them?

As always: Thank you for your support! We love you! We hope you love the record! See you soon! Vielen Dank! Xx


A special thanks to Martin and James for this interview and for more info on them, check out the following links below.

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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