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POSTCARD FROM COACHELLA: JAMES BAY

Republic’s James Bay won the 2015 BRITs Critics Choice Award, as well as British Male Solo Artist at the 2016 show, and was nominated for three Grammys this year, including Best New Artist. That being said, how our Coachella correspondent, Samantha Hissong, tricked him into sitting for an interview for HITS is beyond us. He's either extremely kind, or her chutzpah has reached a new level; probably both.


How is your weekend going so far and how was your performance?Performance was amazing…surprising. I didn’t know there would be so many people. They were all spillin’ out all sides of the tent. Weekend’s going good. We got here [Friday night]. We missed LCD Soundsystem, which isn’t so great. I really wanted to see them. But, you know, it’s great; it’s beautiful weather. It’s nothing like England. It’s nice to be here.

How would you describe playing to that kind of crowd.
Well, I didn’t realize they’d be so receptive. It was one thing to see so many people waiting for us to come on, and it’s another thing when they’re singing all the words. It was wonderful to play to them. They looked pretty weather-beaten by the sun, though [laughs]. So, I hope they’re alright, because they were great for us.

How important is playing festivals to you. What benefit do they provide?
It’s very important to me, because, often, the benefit now—like with Coachella—is that these festivals get streamed online. If you’re lucky enough to be streamed online, then not only are you turning up at the festival and there’s loads of music and people, who don’t know your stuff, who might come and discover you, but it can happen online through the Internet and, therefore, around the world as well, more so than usual in this day and age. It’s great; it’s very important, particularly because I’m not from this part of the world.

If you could share the stage with any act for one fantastical fest moment, who would it be and why?
You know what? I’ve recently, in the last couple of years, become a big fan of LCD Soundsystem. There’s a tune of theirs called “I’m Losing My Edge” that I love. It’s got a great riff and drum beat; I’d love to be up there just playing that with those guys. You know, he probably had that an incredible festival moment last night, just with himself and the crowd, but if I was to dream, I would love to get up there and do it with him.

Any highlights from previous festivals you’ve played?
Good question… probably [laughs]. Florence + the Machine actually; that was a highlight. I saw her at Glastonbury last year. Here’s a funny story. She headlined the Saturday night.

Was her foot broken at that point?
No, her foot wasn’t broken, but Dave Grohl’s leg was broken. This was before the throne; he’d done it like three days before. The Foo Fighters were supposed to headline that festival, and she was on like three people before them. And then he broke his leg, and it was really sad, because they’re such a great band, but they had to cancel Glastonbury… headlining! So, they asked Florence if she would headline, and she came on. She did the most gorgeous cover of “Best of You,” and it was just her, I think a guitar and like four horns—like, gorgeous horns—and maybe the backing singers, and it was just stunning. I mean, I hadn’t seen her live before, and I’m a fan. So, her set was great, but that was a real highlight… good moment.

What’s your favorite song to perform live?
My favorite song to perform live… it changes all the time. Lately, at my own shows, I’ve really enjoyed playing “Move Together,” which is a real kind of ballad tune. Hmmm, “Craving”; I really like playing that song. We’ve had a good time playing “Best Fake Smile,” because we’ve got that big rock n’ roll intro.

That’s my favorite… and “When We Were on Fire.”
Aw, thank you! I always like playing that song as well. To keep it interesting for myself, we mess around with different intros and create new musical segues, and stuff like that. “Best Fake Smile” has been really fun for that recently.

What are you doing in your downtime? Are you going to see any acts while you’re here?
I’m gonna try. I’m gonna try and catch The Arcs, which is Dan Auerbauch’s band; I’ve been listening to their record. When I was 13 and had my first decent bit of pocket money, I went and bought Appetite for Destruction by Guns ‘N Roses, so I’d love to see those guys.

Do you have any festivals coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
Yes, we do. I can’t remember what they all are, because this is quite an early festival, by European and U.K. standards, so we do this, and then we don’t have any for a while, and they kick off in sort of the beginning of June over on that side of the Atlantic.

Where’s your favorite place you’ve visited so far, city wise?
There’s a load of those. I always love going back to New York. We were in Europe recently. Berlin’s great. I liked Oslo in Norway; that was a beautiful place. Very clean air, no dust [laughs].

Anything you’d like your fans to know in regard to what they can expect from you in the near future?
I will be playing more shows in the future. Please come to them.    

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