In Conversation With: Piers James
During a time in music of battling audience’s fleeting attention spans, oversaturated “New Music Fridays” and the pressure to find the next TikTok hit, there’s a pressure amongst artists, irrespective of their audience size, to conform and do what’s selling. But Piers James goes against the tide. Speaking to him he says “I can’t fit into the mould of what everyone is doing, I just can’t be pigeonholed. “I don’t want to release things just to say look at me, look at me. I want to release cohesive projects that are quality of work. I don’t want to just release things for a little bit of buzz. I would love to release music that I’m happy with”.
Piers James is thrillingly impossible to pigeonhole, his versatile productions seamlessly synthesise elements of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, reggae and grime. Drawing on his influences from Pharrell, Outkast, A tribe called quest, He draws on influences from this people but is intent on making his own sound and “I’m my own person, I‘m pushing to create new waves for my own self, and then inspiring others”. R&B in the U.K music scene is increasingly coming to the forefront, but it’s still at the margins as genres like rap and drill take priority. As Piers James explains “Alternative hiphop is not put on the same pedestal, especially in the U.K.”. However, this doesn’t stop him from making music that he describes as authentic to him.
When finding the strength and resilience to release at his own pace, PJ (as I started to call him) says it’s come natural to him. He’s always been different, himself, and taken pride in that. He recognises that this pressure isn’t just exclusive to musicians and the frequency they release, but our personal lives “The pressure to post is not limited to our own personal social lives. We pressure to post to show our best moments, performative happiness and joy”.
It’s a natural instinct to think that A Dying Breed are two different projects, different songs, separated by parts, but Piers confirms they are the one and in the same, “I worked on the projects work in two parts. Rather than being two separate projects, they are a continuation of each other, two sides of the same coin”. After knowing this and listening to the projects, you can hear how the projects melodically and thematically weave into each other. When asked about what A Dying Breed is about he says “A dying breed is an ode to anyone out there just trying to explore life, and there’s more to life than sitting in a 9-5, there’s more to life that what we’re being told. It’s about being true and authentic to yourself”.
The pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives; how we work, live and socialise. However, the pandemic has had one of the biggest effects on the entertainment and live music industry. It’s estimated that the live music industry lost $30 billion. When asking PJ how he adjusted to the pandemic, “I’ve worked so hard in music, just to get to where I am just for it to be taken away by this damn virus. I’ve worked this hard but what is this, what is my life. I had to readjust, take a step back. I couldn’t put too much pressure myself and I found that other things mattered”. The industry is recovering, albeit it very slowly, but the pandemic has forced artists and musicians globally to rethink their careers and ultimately the security of making money from live shows.
When I ask him about the future and his future relationship with music he says he’s learnt to find meaning beyond music, “music is an extension of happiness but can’t be the sole focus”.