james vincent mcmorrow
After listening to band after band during last year’s SXSW project, it’s easy to get dissuaded when everything starts to sound a little bit the same. The music that interests me normally pushes the limits of the genre or is trying to combine different sounds to make something new. Every once in a while though, something would come along that would just plain move me. James Vincent McMorrow’s music did just that. I got through one track, already in full goose bump mode, and continued on until I finished the whole of his album. At the time, it was only released in Ireland and bits of the UK, but I knew this would be an artist that would be on the tip of more than a few tongues throughout 2011. I think I called this one spot on.
McMorrow has had a really strong six months, building fans through constant touring both in a headlining fashion and on the festival circuit this summer. He’s moved on from solo gigs to full-band performances and has graduated from small rooms to some pretty decent sized rooms that he can fill purely from his own billing. He’s set his sights highest throughout Europe where he has had the opportunity to play some choice venues including Dublin’s Olympia and London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall (which featured support from fellow “12” artist The Civil Wars). In addition to all of his proper live gigs, McMorrow performed countless radio and video sessions ranging in location from castle hallways to Mediterranean beaches. If there’s one strong admiration for James Vincent McMorrow that I take away from this project, it’s his work ethic. He rarely takes time off and when he does it seems he gets right back to recording demos preparing for a sophomore release. This level of push is so important in the current music climate. McMorrow is succeeding on the quality of his music, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s done everything he can to get his sound out to as many ears as possible.
Interestingly, much of his attention has come from some unexpected projects. McMorrow has always shown a keen choice for cover songs, none that caught on more than his version of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”. Originally recorded and released pretty quietly as part of a benefit compilation for Silver Lining. Months later, the track caught steam through the blogosphere eventually netting top billing on The Hype Machine’s daily charts. His reinvention of the classic Eighties track put Winwood’s song in a whole new light and updated for a brand new listener base. McMorrow’s covers of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” and Adele’s “Someone Like You” have also proved to be popular at different times throughout the last half-year. These pieces hold up well on their own, but more importantly they draw listeners in to McMorrow’s original material. The same can be said for other left-field releases like Adventure Club’s “We Don’t Eat” Remix (spun more than 250,000 times on Soundcloud) or Andrew Clancy’s “A Year in New York” piece set to “We Don’t Eat” (an astonishing 400,000 views in the last twenty days!).
None of these successful covers or projects would have worked if it weren’t for McMorrow’s talent both in performance and songwriting. Though his music comes from a different place, McMorrow’s story and heart-wrenching falsetto can draw favorable comparison to a break-out artist of a couple years back: Bon Iver. As much as it must be hard to constantly be compared to another artist, Justin Vernon has set a great example of what can be done by evolving something that is so decidedly stark in new and beautiful directions. Of all the “12” artists, I have probably listened to Early in the Morning more than any other album. There is so much entwined beauty and harmony throughout that it creates one of those full listening experiences so rarely found from a debut artist. Since it is so great on its own, it gives me even more reason to believe that McMorrow will chart some different directions in the future. His voice and songwriting needs to be heard more, so I’ll continue to shout it from virtual rooftops, but I don’t think he’ll really need my help. Great music should and will be celebrated, so McMorrow has nothing to worry about if he continues to trust his musical instincts towards the sublime. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.
YouTuber soulsell recently posted a near-complete recording of James Vincent McMorrow’s homecoming at Dublin’s Olympia. We’ve compiled to list to share twelve full-band tracks recorded in pretty solid audio and video. There are some truly stunning moments throughout from both the stage and from the appreciated hometown crowd.
10/22/11 – Olympia – Dublin, Ireland
Sparrow & the Wolf, Down the Burning Ropes, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree, And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop, We Are Ghosts, Higher Love, Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Low, This Old Dark Machine, We Don’t Eat, If I Had a Boat, Wicked Game, Early in the Morning
10/23/11 – The Grand Opera House – Belfast, Ireland (courtesy of AU Magazine)
In early October, James Vincent McMorrow and his band started the first leg of two months of touring throughout Europe. The band was coming off a successful US tour and built some momentum in the UK specifically with festival gigs throughout the summer. They kicked off the tour in the northern part of Scotland with at gig at Aberdeen’s The Lemon Tree followed by shows in Edinburgh, Leeds, Nottingham and Manchester. These shows saw support from Canadian singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega, a fairly well known artist in her own right. Throughout this whole run, McMorrow got to play some gorgeous venues, from Manchester’s St. Philips Church to the City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds, a show that Leeds Music Scene noted was filled with “genuinely breathtaking moments”. The next weekend was spent in the southern half of the UK including shows at a church in Brighton (a “near perfect show” according to Alexander Nash at LiveMusic.fm) and the Glee Club in Birmingham. In a review from that show, Red Brick Paper called McMorrow nothing short of a “profound and unstoppable talent”. McMorrow has gained some solid footing in the UK throughout the year, to the point where his in-store performance at London’s Rough Trade West was in such demand that one needed to win a contest even to attend.
McMorrow’s shows at Dublin’s Olympia have been on his tour docket since early this year. In fact, he created such demand in Ireland that he had to add a second show that also sold-out. The Olympia shows were a great moment of palpable success for the young singer-songwriter; McMorrow grew up attending shows at the large theater tracing back to his early childhood. Sweetened Voices called one show “absolutely spellbinding”. The band pressed on the following day to complete the Irish portion of the tour with stops at Opera Houses in Belfast and Cork. October rounded out with McMorrow heading to the Mainland for shows in France and Germany, two countries he will continue to play as the tour weaves around Europe through the end of November. It was pretty fitting to have our last Tour Report close out in Ireland, but look for more from McMorrow next year with recording plans set for early 2012.
OEB Video Diary:
Down the Burning Ropes – 10/10/11 – Queens Hall – Edinburgh, Scotland
If I Had a Boat – 10/12/11 – The Glee Club – Nottingham, UK
Hear the Noise that Moves So Soft and Low – 10/15/11 – St. Bartholomews Church – Brighton, UK
I’m not sure if there is some correlation, but it seems like October has been chockfull of pro-shot videos sessions for most of “The 12”. Of all of our artists, James Vincent McMorrow seems to draw more videographers than anyone. This makes sense – soft, acoustic music translates brilliantly in more unique settings compared to something like the electric stylings of The Naked and Famous. This month, we find McMorrow playing a wooded hill in San Franciso, a beach in the Netherlands and a video montage set to scenes from New York City. Add in an official video for “We Don’t Eat” and we have a pretty good collection over three weeks of coverage. Enjoy!
10/4/11 – Into the Open Video Session – “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) – From “the Highest Point in San Francisco”
10/7/11 – RTE 2fm Interview – From Electric Picnic, Ireland
10/11/11 – “We Don’t Eat” Official Video
10/26/11 – A Year in New York by Andrew Clancy – Soundtrack: “We Don’t Eat” (unofficial video, but gorgeous nonetheless!)
9/13/11 – El Mo – Toronto, Canada
From a main stage appearance at Ireland’s Electric Picnic to the final gig of his headlining US tour in Los Angeles, September comprised James Vincent McMorrow’s busiest touring month to date. It started out with a weekend of festival gigs, Into the Great Wide Open from the Netherlands and the annual Electric Picnic held in County Laois. McMorrow’s packed performance was a highlight for many including the State, who used the words “captivating”, “stunning”, “mesmerizing” and “enthralling” to describe his early afternoon set. The meat of September’s touring lies with McMorrow’s first full-band headlining tour throughout the US. Equally covering the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast, the band fit in thirteen shows over the course of three weeks.
They started in Philadelphia before working their way north through New York City and Boston. NYC’s Bowery Ballroom show held an extra little bit of significance. The last time McMorrow played there he did so as a solo opening act for Bell X1, only three months prior. Short and Sweet NYC highlighted the maturation of the full band sound as well, one that shifted “melody into frenzy”. McMorrow also took the opportunity on this tour to premiere his cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” for the first time in a live setting. The momentum continued into Canada, highlighted by an appearance at Toronto’s El Mo. McMorrow has referenced a key moment during the show a couple times in interviews following. During a late-set performance of “We Don’t Eat”, the crowd joined their voices in unison during the chorus that drew a more than appreciative smile and even a little surprise (see a video of the performance below).
The following weekend focused on the Midwest with stops in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, a territory McMorrow covered back in March opening for Rural Alberta Advantage. Consequence of Sound shared a lengthy review of the sold out gig at Chicago’s Hideout: “I’ve seldom seen a singer command a room with such a subtle whisper. McMorrow and his band had all of us hanging on each note and word.” McMorrow’s music may have not broken into the mainstream in the States quite yet, but this tour proved that he has found a dedicated and excited audience that can already fill small to medium sized clubs through the country.
The final leg of the tour covered the West Coast from Vancouver to Los Angeles including another repeat sold out performance at Seattle’s Triple Door (He opened for The Civil Wars back in June). Indie Rock Reviews was moved by the performance, noting “everyone walked out of the venue with hearts feeling light and heavy all at the same time – once again, truly great music proved its power with the help of the Irish singer/songwriter”. The whole tour drew similar reactions of joy and passion and was a big step towards a strong and fruitful career Stateside. McMorrow and his band are currently touring the UK with a hallmark run of shows coming up in Ireland at the end of the month anchored by back-to-back sold out shows at Dublin’s 1,300-seat Olympia Theatre.
OEB Video Diary:
Higher Love (Steve Winwood) - 9/8/11 – Johnny Brenda’s – Philadelphia, PA
We Are Ghosts – 9/10/11 – Brighton Music Hall – Boston, MA
Down the Burning Ropes – 9/11/11 – Sala – Montreal, Canada
We Don’t Eat – 9/13/11 – El Mo – Toronto, Canada
Wicked Games (Chris Isaak) – 9/20/11 – Media Club – Vancouver, Canada
And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop – 9/25/11 – Bootleg – Los Angeles, CA
McMorrow and his band spent most of September traveling across the States on their first proper headlining US tour. Along the way, a few outlets, both national and local, featured video sessions in a variety of venues. We’ve captured some highlights:
“Color us delighted that James Vincent McMorrow stopped by the TONY office en route to his soundcheck. The Irish songsmith plays the Bowery Ballroom with a full band tonight, and this afternoon he performed two songs from his debut album, Early in the Morning, acoustically for us—and you. Enjoy, enjoy.”
We Don’t Eat, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree
“After driving straight into Toronto from the US yesterday, I met James Vincent McMorrow in Kensington market in the early evening. Taking it as a perfect opportunity to get out of the van (finally), we found a nice little spot in the market to film one of his more mellow songs, “Hear The Noise That Moves So Soft and Low”. Enjoy.”
“Last week, Ireland’s James Vincent McMorrow performed at Turner Hall to a packed room. Milwaukee actually had more people attend his show than anywhere on the tour so far. The show was simply amazing, and if you missed it, shame on you. During the show, McMorrow performed a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” The cover was simply gorgeous.”
Pabst Theater: Wicked Game, Interview (4 parts), We Are Ghosts, We Don’t Eat
Turner Hall: Breaking Hearts, Down the Burning Ropes, We Are Ghosts
“Then McMorrow’s began to sing in his trademark smooth, airy tenor, and the back of the room immediately went dead silent. It was a fantastic moment. I’ve seldom seen a singer command a room with such a subtle whisper. There wasn’t another chatty moment the rest of the evening. McMorrow and his band had all of us hanging on each note and word.”
Sparrow & the Wolf, Follow You Down to the Read Oak Tree, Interview
I was going to post about a couple other artists today and tomorrow, but a really interesting thing happened to James Vincent McMorrow over the last week. Around the end of the weekend, McMorrow’s cover of “Higher Love” had suddenly climbed to the top of Hype Machine’s most popular tracks. Determined by blog postings, Hype Machine keeps a track of what posts are hot, and for some reason this cover version, originally released on a Silver Lining charity album months ago, caught a little fire in the blogosphere. By checking out time postings on my Google alert, it looks like Pigeons and Planes was one of the first music blogs to catch on in this wave, with several following suit over the next few days. Congrats to McMorrow on all the positive words, and go support Silver Lining if you enjoy the track on Hype. Below a version of “Higher Love” from YouTube, we’ve shared a few more highlights from last month.
Chasing the Moon caught up with McMorrow in San Francisco for a three-song solo acoustic set in an intimate studio setting. Featuring “This Old Dark Machine” and “Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft and Low”, the true highlight is one of the most tender readings of “Sparrow & the Wolf” I’ve ever heard to close out the session.
You need to scroll down a bit on the page, but Radio 1 recorded and archived a two-song in-studio performance a couple weeks ago. Not only does McMorrow deliver a powerful acoustic version of “We Don’t Eat”, he adds the rarity “We Are Ghosts” in addition to a short interview with host Edel Coffey.
All Songs Considered’s Tiny Desk Concert is soon becoming an indie folk/rock rite of passage and McMorrow received his Tiny Desk treatment late last month. The setting is beyond intimate, literally playing behind Bob Boilen’s desk at NPR Studios. McMorrow shares four tracks over his fifteen minutes including “This Old Dark Machine”, “Sparrow and the Wolf”, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree” and the B-Side “Red Dust”. Judging from his Facebook and Twitter updates, McMorrow was really excited for the video and audio session to be released. He was right in his anticipation; the recording and performance are both truly wonderful.
8/7/11 – St Canice’s Cathedral – Kilkenny Arts Festival, Ireland (courtesy of yay!)
In early August, McMorrow and his band began the process of laying down initial tracks and ideas for his next release. Tweets and Facebook updates from the camp are beaming with excitement, but James has reiterated in interviews that he’s focused on letting Early in the Morning continue to evolve in his live shows. James did get out of the studio though, performing at three European festivals the first three weekends in August. The most intimate and anticipated gig occurred as McMorrow was invited to headline the Kilkenny Arts Festival. With the backdrop of the stunning St. Canice’s Cathedral’s altar, McMorrow delivered a stunning solo set that Rarities, B-Sides & Other Stuff called “an ethereal gift”. The following weekends were spent at Denmark’d Haldern Pop Festival and Wales’ Green Man Festival, from which Buzz Mag declared that McMorrow “made a great impression on the opening day with his incredible voice and beautifully-crafted songs.” McMorrow’s September schedule includes two more European festivals before heading on his first full-band US tour from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, where we’ll pick up with McMorrow and his band next.
OEB Video Diary:
Roscoe (Midlake) – 8/7/11 – St Canice’s Cathedral – Kilkenny Arts Festival, Ireland
We Don’t Eat – 8/12/11 – Haldern Pop Festival, Denmark
We Are Ghosts – 8/19/11 – Green Man Festival – Crichowell, Wales
While touring throughout Europe in July, McMorrow was featured on international sites and stations with some interesting video sessions. In addition, McMorrow launched his own site to share some behind-the-scenes pics. Here are July’s highlights:
Musicians are increasingly adding Tumblr to their arsenal of in-house promotional tools and James Vincent McMorrow joined in on the action in early July. McMorrow’s simple Tumblr page is a forum for pictures from gigs both onstage and backstage. Some early highlights include shots from the Mitchelstown Caves gig and some great Glastonbury angles. Welcome to Tumblr, James!
KINK FM is a major Dutch outlet featuring local and international indie and alternative rock. McMorrow sat down with Diederik Van Zessen for a in-studio performance including this solo acoustic take on “Sparrow and the Wolf”.
Kapelsessies is a live music video site, recording bands playing intimate sets inside an old Dutch castle. McMorrow performed his set by one of the castle’s windows, taking advantage of the strong acoustics created by the unique setting. Kapelsessies seems to be pretty new on the scene, but they have a great idea on their hands with some beautiful content already.
We Don’t Eat, Hear the Noise That Moves So Soft & Low, Down the Burning Ropes
Last.fm is one of the leading internet radio services, so when they feature an artist it hits a pretty significant number of ears. McMorrow was featured as part of Last.fm’s “Discover” series, featuring new acts handpicked by the Last.fm team. James played three tracks in an intimate studio environment, but I could only find two full songs on Last.fm, “Sparrow & The Wolf” and “Down the Burning Ropes”, as well as an interview piece we’ve embedded below.
As of this morning, two of the top three sessions on Daytrotter are held down by artists we’re following as part of “The 12”. The Civil Wars and James Vincent McMorrow’s sets were both added to the site in the last two weeks and have been popular downloads ever since. The takes are intimate and raw from both acts, a trend among bands that record in Sean Moeller’s Rock Island, Illinois barn/studio. The sets feature some nice unreleased tracks as well, capturing The Civil Wars’ “Disarm” cover and “Oh Henry” as well as McMorrow B-Sides “Red Dust” and “We Are Ghosts”. Daytrotter has recorded hundreds of sessions over the last five years, now posting at least one new session everyday. The site’s focus on new and unique musical content to the online listening landscape has set the benchmark for any new music blog or service. Not only that, but they also provide a great forum for independent artists to display their songs to a wider international audience. To prove their reach, Daytrotter has recorded sessions with an astonishing nine of the artists in “The 12”, from hip hop artist Dessa to the fuzz-rockers Yuck to the orchestral folk of Lost in the Trees. We’ve compiled all of “The 12” Daytrotter sessions below (see more by click on the “Read More” button), which are freely downloadable directly from Daytrotter’s website.
Birds of a Feather, Disarm (Smashing Pumpkins), C’est La Mort, Oh Henry
This Old Dark Machine, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree, Red Dust, We Are Ghosts
7/16/11 – Latitude Festival – Suffolk, UK (courtesy of Thoughts on music)
McMorrow maintained his busy summer schedule in July with a mix of festival, headlining and supporting gigs across Europe. After a one-off show on the 1st opening for Bell X1 in Cork, Ireland, McMorrow brought his full band to France for three festival dates (Originally McMorrow was scheduled for four, but the Festival les Aulnes Rouges in Nimes was cancelled in the days leading up to the show). The highlight of the run was a show at the Montreaux Jazz Festival properly opening for Arcade Fire, arguably one of the biggest live acts in the world right now. The tour route then moved north to England for a spot at the Latitude Festival where McMorrow played to a packed tent aided by a torrential downpour at the time. The next three days sent McMorrow east for a trio of solo shows through Denmark and The Netherlands. Videos show a loose McMorrow during this run, playing around with some interesting cover choices including Midlake’s “Roscoe”, which as far as I know is the first time it has gone into rotation.
On July 22nd, McMorrow returned home for a trio of unique shows in Galway, Mitchelstown and Dublin. McMorrow’s appearance at Róisín Dubh as part of the Galway Arts Festival held some special significance as McMorrow played one of his first live shows there in early 2008 supporting Juliet Turner. The next night’s gig was in an once-in-a-lifetime venue, a half-mile descent 200 feet underground in the Mitchelstown Caves. McMorrow was joined by former Damien Rice protégé Lisa Hannigan in a chilly and haunting atmosphere. Nialler 9 shared a special highlight as McMorrow went completely unamplified for “If I Had a Boat”, drawing “the night’s only true aural test of the surroundings”. The weekend finished off on a much bigger stage, opening up for Joanna Newsom at The Park in McMorrow’s hometown of Dublin.
July closed out with a set of UK festivals running through Cambridge, Camp Bestival in Lulworth and a unique set at Conwall’s Leopallooza Festival. Decibel Soup claimed McMorrow “stole the show” at Leopallooza, an especially valiant feat as McMorrow took a seat behind the drums for most of the set, filling in as his normal drummer had a prescheduled gig in Austria that day. Recalling The Band’s Levon Helm, McMorrow rehearsed the week before to try to make his best go at the difficult coordination to reportedly excellent result. McMorrow is set to continue his festival run in August with a light schedule of three shows over the month. The latest word is demos for the next album are properly underway this week, so the time off seems like it will be well spent with some new music on the horizon. All in all, July was a pretty big month for McMorrow, covering major markets in Europe while also being able to celebrate his success at home.
OEB Video Diary:
(Note: Instead of highlighting multiple shows, we wanted to share three covers McMorrow broke out while in Denmark last month. Enjoy!)
Roscoe (Midlake) – 7/18/11 – Tivoli - Utrecht, Denmark
Like the River (Sun Kil Moon) – 7/18/11 – Tivoli – Utrecht, Denmark
Wicked Game (Chris Isaak) – 7/18/11 – Tivoli – Utrecht, Denmark
Late in the evening of June 29th, James Vincent McMorrow sent out the following tweet after finishing his set at the stunning Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris:
thank you Paris, I would go so far as to say my favourite show of all time tonight, pure magic in Theatre des bouffes du norms.
Luckily, the videographers were out in full force that evening in Paris and we’ve culminated the best that we found to try and rebuild at least a part of the full-band show. Look out for a rare performance of “We Are Ghosts” and a cover of Antony & the Johnsons’ “Hope There’s Someone” among other strong performances:
And If My Heart Should Somehow Stop, We Are Ghosts, If I Had a Boat, Down the Burning Ropes, From the Woods!!, Follow You Down to the Red Oak Tree, Hope There’s Someone (Antony & the Johnsons), We Don’t Eat, Red Dust
Yuck – 6/25/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK (courtesy of Al de Perez)
Since its first year in 1970, Glastonbury has grown into the leading UK festival in terms of both exposure and attendance. This year, tickets sold out within four hours of going on sale based solely on reputation. It’s no surprise that our three international acts in “The 12” were pegged for Glastonbury given the buzz they’ve been receiving throughout the last year. Glastonbury currently offers at least a dozen stages over 3 days, building an extensive list of acts ranging from high profile headliners like U2 and Coldplay to bands that normally play to half empty bars. Glastonbury offers something for everyone; even the three bands from “The 12” who appeared, The Naked and Famous, Yuck and James Vincent McMorrow, have little in common musically.
The Naked and Famous drew the largest stage of our bands, playing on the “Other Stage” for an early afternoon set. The Bristol Evening Post rated their set seven out of ten stars, praising the band’s “euphoric synths, summery electro-pop and big, festival-friendly choruses” while at the same time noting the band’s subdued stage presence. Radio hit “Young Blood” brought out the communal hand-claps and dancing that makes Glastonbury so iconic. Beyond their showcase, the band did some additional press while at Glastonbury, including a video interview with Absolute Radio.
The second day featured an appearance by Yuck at the John Peel Tent, the fourth largest stage at the festival. Much like their other European festival appearances throughout the summer, Yuck was favorably reviewed and drew a sizable crowd, especially given their 1:05 PM time slot. Counteract Magazine noted, “Yuck’s style of lo-fi garage is something that the UK has been missing for many years and their laid-back attitude compliments the music.” Like The Naked and Famous, Yuck fit in some interviews while strolling through the fields, including a piece for major UK publication NME. James Vincent McMorrow was the last to perform of the “12”. His set on Sunday was held at The Park, a medium-sized stage reserved mostly for up-and-coming acts. Reports are slim from his set, but he surely drew some new fans with a full-band performance. All three acts continued touring throughout Europe after Glastonbury with a mix of headlining and festival sets, but surely could look back on Glastonbury as a rewarding experience as they transition into the greater music world.
OEB Video Diary:
The Naked and Famous – Young Blood – 6/24/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK
Yuck – Holing Out – 6/25/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK
James Vincent McMorrow – If I Had a Boat – 6/26/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK