James Bay: Music's new sensitive Brit

The singer-songwriter talks about feeling the pressure to become the next Sam Smith and becoming an accidental sex symbol.
James Bay

"YouTube is just as good as myspace for the time Myspace existed. If you have a goProvided/MWN

James Bay, the fedora-wearing troubadour with enviable cheekbones, life is changing as he knows it before his very eyes. The 24-year-old Brit won Critics’ Choice at the 2015 Brit Awards – an accolade previously bestowed on Sam Smith, Jessie J and Adele and his debut album “Chaos and the Calm,” which dropped in March, went straight to number one in the UK and he’s now soulfully seducing the world on a sell-out tour. If you need any other assurances of success, the Brit is Taylor Swift-endorsed, too. We chat with him about how he's taking it all in.


You’re a Critics’ Choice winner, just like Sam Smith. Do you feel any pressure to emulate his success?
If I can achieve half the amount of what Sam Smith has achieved, I would be over the moon. I’m very much having my moment and I’m going to make it last as long as I can. I’m trying to do this all as James Bay and not be the next anything, without meaning to sound like a big diva d-bag by saying my own name in the third person, which I just did.


It sounds like you’re enjoying the pressure that comes with that accolade…
I kind of love [it]. I know that sounds a bit weird but it creates such a buzzy energy around everything I’m doing and now there’s a bigger platform.


Why is there such a thirst for male singer-songwriters at the moment?
People want to hear a genuine chorus and lyric – something gimmick-free. In pop music there are styles and genres that suit, for want of a better term, more gimmicky approaches. The thing that I’m trying to do, along with George Ezra and Hozier, is just move people and make people feel something.


You’re becoming a bit of a sex symbol. What are your thoughts on getting some attention for your looks rather than just your lyrics?
I don’t know. it’s all good. The first thing that ever came about attached to my name was my music and that’s still the reason I’m here. I do gigs where I sing songs and play guitar and I feel like that’s the main reason that people buy the tickets and I feel pretty confident in that.

Have you had any marriage proposals over Twitter?
There’s been some. I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t any but I’ve got nothing to do with them. Twitter’s a big wide ocean of stuff.

Speaking about exposure, YouTube, in part, launched your career. Do you think the platform has democratized the industry?
YouTube is just as good as Myspace was for the time that Myspace existed. And there are things like SoundCloud but at the end of the day, if you’ve got a good song, people will hear and recognize that eventually. That’s kind of how I feel about it.

If you go:

New York City
April 29, 7 p.m.
Irving Plaza
17 Irving Pl., 212-777-6800

April 30, 8 p.m.
Paradise Rock Club
967 Commonwealth Ave., 617-562-8800

May 3, 8 p.m.
Trocadero Theatre, 215-922-6888
1003 Arch Street

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