Starsailor’s James Walsh Sinks Our Ship

Named by NME as the Best New Band in Britain, Capitol’s Starsailor is poised for its American invasion. The initial charge is led by the joyously emotive track "Good Souls" from the band’s debut LP, "Love Is Here, " streeting stateside Jan. 8. Made up of lead singer James Walsh, bassist James Stelfox, drummer Ben Byrne and keyboardist Barry Westhead, the band hails from England’s Northwest and shows the influences of Neil Young, Tim Buckley, Bob Dylan and the Beatles, beneath Walsh’s delicate, heartfelt vocals. Too bad Walsh, Britian’s newest rocker hearthrob, was stuck with HITS’ soulless reporter, Kenya "Do Me a Favor?" M. Yarbrough.

Tell us about the single "Good Souls."
It’s about a time when I was getting increasingly frustrated that we weren’t getting anywhere as a band and we weren’t getting much respect from anybody. When we started out, people thought of us as a bit of a joke. Like most young bands, it’s like, "Don’t you think you should get another job?" And "Good Souls" is just about the people that stood by us and supported us, getting us through those times. It’s generally about how there are people who stand by you when the world is against you.

And the video?
The video was shot in black & white at Pinewood Studios in England. We just wanted to get across the nature of the band, like the humorous and dark sides, and the emotion as well.

Why black & white?
We were thinking of things like "Let It Be" by the Beatles, and aiming for a video that really gets inside a band and shows us interacting and rehearsing, rather than a really glossy, big performance with big lights. It’s a bit more direct.

What will fans of the single appreciate about the full-length?
It’s really a sort of quite eclectic sound. Lyrically, it’s about the transition of being a confused teenager and trying to work out who you are and where you fit in society—just learning not to be too uptight and finding you own personality. For me, it’s about trying to stop being like everybody else, and using my own individuality to my advantage.

How long has the band been together?
For the past five years, I’ve been playing with the bass player and the drummer. And it’s over the last year and a half that we’ve been playing with the keyboard player. When we started out, we were like little Oasis clones. But we’ve grown out of that now. We started listening to Jeff Buckley and Free—more interesting music. We’re really kind of piano-driven and quite folky, though I always write the songs on acoustic guitar—I think that has a more striking affect. The simpler the instrument, I think, the better the songs have to be. If it’s just an acoustic guitar, it’s so stripped-down that the song has to be stronger because you can’t hide behind a wall of sound. That way, I have to push myself a bit harder.

Is that one of the secrets of the band’s success?
A little bit, yes. We’ve always had to work that bit harder because you couldn’t just stand in a rehearsal room and jam and write songs like that. Because my voice is so prominent, the lyrics had to be more prominent as well. That’s always been our formula for writing.

What do you find most exciting as a hot rock band.
Touring is very exciting—seeing new countries. Helsinki was amazing. They don’t get as many bands as, say, Paris, New York and London, and they were really happy that we’d gone over and done a gig. Normally, in the smaller places, where they don’t have bands every week, they really appreciate you. And there was a little festival in Germany that we did that was pretty amazing as well. We played above Neil Finn and below Travis, so we were on about 10:30 at night. It was amazing playing in front of 10,000 people, at night, on a big floodlit stage. That’s what you always dream of from being in a band—especially to do that so early in our careers.

What’s been the downside of being a rock star?
It can get quite hectic with all the people you have to meet and speak to, and things like that can get pretty bad. Just when there’s a lot to do in the day and the music side—like having time to write songs—gets sort of pushed to the back of your mind a little bit; it get frustrating. It’s like you’ve got photos for three hours, then you’ve got 10 interviews, and oh, you’re going to be playing for half an hour, and it’s like, "Wait, I thought we were musicians."

You’ve been named best new British band. How has that affected the band?
It’s been a bit of pressure for us, really. But we always feed off the pressure and try to get better from it. We’ve always been quite stern critics of our own performances. I think, because we come from a musical school and a musical background, our own aspirations and our own ambitions are a little bit higher. Quite often we’ve come offstage really disappointed in ourselves, and people will still have enjoyed the show. But you’ve always got to keep pushing yourself and never be too satisfied. That, I think is the key—so long as you don’t let it consume you. Our own standards are getting higher and higher.

What’s next?
We’re right in the middle of a European tour, and then we’re coming over to America. The first fortnight of December we’ll be in America doing radio shows.

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