The Music Fix meets James Apollo
With his smokey dark voice and stark image-filled songs American troubadour James Apollo is set to bring his original brand of countrified indie folk to the UK. On the eve of the release of his album Born Lucky and a UK tour James takes a moment out for a quiet chat.
You hail originally from Arkansas but seemed to have spent a lot of time roaming around the U.S. Was that a conscious decision on your part, or were you just searching for a home?
Youth wandering the countryside, searching for a future just seems like a natural part of America to me. There's a lot of nowhere places. I come from a nowhere town. I wanted more. I wanted to make my mistakes while I was still young enough to avoid prison. My friends and I played in bands. We toured. We might have started a little younger but we were doing our best to copy the big boys.
How would you describe your sound?
It's a bit western, a bit lonesome, a bit traditional, a bit rock ’n’ roll. It's water falling on the cracked ground of the high plains.
You have a new album coming out, Born Lucky. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Born Lucky is sort of an old line. I'd rather be born lucky than not be born at all. The record is a collection of tunes from the last few years. It's not a concept record like Til Your Feet Bleed. It's a lot closer to what my band and I do live every night. A lot louder. A lot more rock’n’roll. Jack Endino produced it, and he's probably known more for his work with Nirvana than Neil Young, so we definitely turned it up a notch, while still sneaking in a few of the old soul favourites.
What inspires your songwriting?
Faulkner. Hemmingway. Chandler. Fitgerald. Noir. Pulp. Some high brow stuff and some real low down stuff. I generally dig a lot of pop culture from the 20s to the 60s. My knowledge of everything generally cuts off somewhere in the mid 70s. Even my maps are outdated.
Who are your musical heroes?
Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, Willie Nelson, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello Etta James, Sam Cooke, Roy Orbison Nino Rota Ennio Morricone It goes in a thousand different directions and for a long time.
What contemporary artists are you currently listening to?
Duke Spirit, Phosphorescent, CW Stoneking, Pete Molinari, Fleet Foxes. All the new records by the above artists (that ain't dead)
You’re touring the UK in February, what can folks expect from the show?
I've got a really great band with me on this run. Jack Chandelier on the percussion, Ben Obee on the bass, a renegade Welshman named Josh Caole on piano, and a few wildcard pedal steel players and tambourine shakers in their respective towns. It makes every night a little different. Every room's a little different. Every crowd is a little different. Basically I want to sing to individuals, not to blank space, so I try to mix 'show' with 'conversation'. Y'know, give ‘em a sweet song and tickle ‘em behind the ear. Take that, WC Handy.
Finally what are your plans for the future?
Future? Honey, I haven't even thought about dinner yet. It's way to early to start planning our future.
Born Lucky will be released 11 April on Marterry Music.