Cork musician James Or released his debut EP earlier this year. Aged only 26 Cold Open, belying it’s title, was expected by many who know Jimmy Moore in the flesh but it took time for him to reach the point where he could write the tracks that appear on Cold Open. But those tracks reveal a depth of knowledge, self awareness and a healthy amount of self depreciation. We caught up with James Or as he embarks on the next step forward, a gig in Cyprus Avenue on December 1 and a new single ‘Berlin’ out in January.
On Cold Open James Or deals with themes of self doubt, feelings of regret, consternation, loneliness, acceptance and euphoria that encompass a twenty-six year old who is sometimes in over his head and we jumped right in and asked him to tell us more. “I write a lot of my music about my own life, and the situations that I find myself in. When I was writing Cold Open, I was getting used to being a solo act, and doing the day to day thinking on my own, rather than in a band setting. So that definitely crept in to some of the writing, while the rest of it was just making sense of maybe the last two years of my life, which has seen me really fall back in love with music after a period away from it” explains James. “The “Cold Open” EP was probably the first real gamble that I ever took on myself. I had auditioned to play on a cruise ship, but realised that I needed to do the EP then, or I probably never would. So I spent a lot of time with our producer Jack, and my band firming up exactly how I wanted the EP to sound, and tackled all the administrative issues as they arose. I really learned a lot about the process that I’d never have even thought of before, and it was a really exciting time for me. I write a lot about what’s going on with me at any given time, so I think there’s something to be said for a link between Cold Open and what I have planned for 2017, including “Berlin”. “Berlin” was the first song I wrote after we’d finished recording, and there’s always been a lot of energy in it for us when we play it. I definitely feel that it fits in with what ended up as Cold Open.
James Or mentions some great musical folk as influences including Blur, The Frames, and Elbow. “I’m well and truly a Frames fan. My guitarist Tom has a game he calls “Jimmy Bingo”, and a Glen Hansard reference rates pretty highly. I also love bands like Manchester Orchestra and Frightened Rabbit, so working with Brad Fisher (mixing/mastering) who has been involved with them was a real treat.” So after the massacre that 2016 has turned into I asked him was there anyone he was sending chicken soup to or checking in on? “Not checking in on anyone in particular. I get news updates to my phone, so it was a bit deflating to wake up in the morning to find that Bowie or Glenn Frey had passed away. But with what they gave the world during their lifetime, they owe us nothing. I have been trying to take better care of myself, although this has been with mixed success I’ll admit!”
Dealing with issues about acceptance and loneliness on Cold Open I asked James how he responds to anxiety and what he does to maintain his mental health. “I’m definitely an over thinker, and always have been. At times, it makes me feel very aware and in control, but for the most part it’s just exhausting. I find two things really helpful in being productive, and to stay out of my own head. First, I try to be very clear of what I’m asking of myself, so that I know the effort required and can be honest with myself if I’m slacking off or being a bit close minded on something. Second, I remind myself that any voice that tells you that you’re not deserving of what you want, or not good enough to be happy, is a voice that doesn’t really know you at all, because we all have incredible qualities that we never really recognise in ourselves, but that others do. As for helping others, I think a basic awareness is crucial. You are not making the most of any situation if you meet it with suspicion; so just being open minded is a big thing. And because we can’t do it all the time, it’s important to do it when we can.”
With a degree in Law under his belt James Or is no meandering gypsie boy so what does music mean to him. “The Law degree came at a very good time for me. I was a bit disillusioned with music, and it seemed like a bit of a safe haven for a while. But I absolutely loved it. For the most part, it’s reading and research which was great, because you’re trying to be creative in a completely different way, and I met some incredible people through it. I think if I hadn’t done the degree, and taken a break from music for a bit, I wouldn’t be lucky enough to be doing it now. The meaning of music has changed a lot for me in the past few years. When I wasn’t enjoying it, it felt like I could never get away from it. But when I went a bit easier on myself, clarified what it was I was looking for from music, it kind of just became a part of my everyday being. I don’t mind if there’s a lot to do, I like the idea of getting better, and discovering new ways to be involved in music, so it’s so worth the time spent on it” says James.
All things considered are there any regrets? “I try to follow good examples and learn from my mistakes (not always on the first time!), and I’ve learned that looking back and kicking yourself for something you can’t fix is a waste of time. Though I’ll admit, I’m still perfecting the practice of this. My biggest success was recording and releasing “Cold Open” with my mates. Our production manager Lobbo played a blinder in putting the evening together, and we just had the best of nights. It was the culmination of months of hard work by a lot of good people, and I was very humbled to be a part of that.”
Catch James Or when he plays Cyprus Avenue on December 1.
Tickets available at https://www.cyprusavenue.ie/