By BRUCE DENNILL
James Deacon released his single Reason, through Bad Future Records, early in 2020. His first single of a brand new decade was perhaps his most tender to date. “Reason is the first song I’ve written that details romantic love. It’s my thank you note to a very important person who was the catalyst for my decision to quit my job and become a full-time musician. The chorus is a thank you to her and the verses are about how we met and how she’s helped shape the man I am today,” says Deacon.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Easy! Jimi Hendrix! I have his signature tattooed on my left forearm because when I was about nine or 10 years old I – completely by mistake – got my hands on an unmarked and badly scratched copy of The Jimi Hendrix Experience Greatest Hits. I was instantly hooked and decided I wanted to learn guitar and write music.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I wouldn’t say it’s changed, because the tracks on that album will forever be ingrained in my DNA as a musician – I taught myself how to play guitar by listening to it on repeat on my Discman. But my music taste and list of influences is constantly growing and stretches from hip-hop to blues to grunge to more electronic stuff. I’ve always been a bit schizophrenic when it comes to the genre of my own music because I don’t ever want to be restricted to only making one kind of music.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
New Shoes by Paulo Nutini – I was given a full music scholarship to St Stithians College after I performed it in my audition, and I subsequently used it as my go-to song for any competition or audition all through school and I literally won every time I sang it.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
Every track is different, so some songs rely more heavily on my guitar playing or my violin playing and some focus more on my vocals. My only priority when writing music is to make real music and to not settle for anything less the my absolute best when it comes to recording takes and laying down parts on my instruments. I try to be as organic and natural as possible in my writing and I always write my lyrics based off of my personal life experience or from a place of real emotion.
The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.
I have an incredible team at Bad Future Records, who make sure that my music gets out to the world and let me focus on what I do, which is write, record and perform music! My live set-up is currently a two-piece band featuring my best friend Daniel Pawson, who plays bass, guitar and co-produces our back tracks, as well as singing back-up vocals. We recently opened for A-ha on the SA section of their world tour! We also played Smoking Dragon Festival on the main stage on New Year’s Eve and at Park Acoustics early in 2020 to a sold out audience.
In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?
No, because I try to set realistic goals within the framework of an unrealistic dream. That way I get to reach for the stars but I’m still super-stoked whenever I get to board the space ship.
What is the story behind Reason – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
It’s my first take on a love song. I wrote it about my girlfriend, who helped me through some difficult times in my life and ultimately pushed me to quit my job and pursue a career in music. So this song is a thank you to the person who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.