Musician Marcus James just recently released his new track "Together Alone" with Miles Away. James talks about his early influences, preparing for a set and some of the main challenges developing his music career.
Q: Where were you born and where do you currently live?
A: Vancouver, BC born and raised. I grew up in Kitsilano.
Q: How did you get involved in the music scene?
A: When I was a kid my first CD’s were The Beatles and Good Charlotte. Enormously different records but they both gave me that “i wanna be a rockstar” feeling. Fast forwarding to high school, I was in an arts program for Theatre and Film. This whole time I’d been writing really emo songs on my guitar and attempting to sing. It took me all four years of high school to realize I was rubbish at it. I think my love for being on stage, video editing software, and song writing naturally snowballed into discovering electronic music production and DJing.
Q: When did you start DJing an who were your early influences?
A: I started producing in grade 12 and DJing around a year later. I’m 23 now. Coming from a background of producing first, my first year playing shows I didn’t really understand how DJing worked. I’d bring this beat pad controller and chunky laptop to to all my gigs… thinking back on it now I realize what a pain I was for sound techs. I remember other DJ’s looking at me like ‘dude what is that.’ I’ve always drawn my influences from artists outside of the whole DJ scene. Bands like Linkin Park, Death Cab For Cutie, Passion Pit, and Billy Talent were hugely inspirational to me in high school when I was starting to write songs.
Q: What has been some of your favourite performances?
A: Over the past year I’ve been really fortunate to play a number of memorable shows thanks to the team at Blueprint Events. I think the best one would be playing with 3LAU and Justin Caruso at Celebrities Nightclub. I’m such a huge fan of everything 3LAU does. Not only was everyones energy at 200% that night but he’s probably the most kind and down to earth headliner I’ve ever opened for.
There was also this gig a few years back where I was brought out to Victoria to this tiny club. I don’t think it even exists anymore. The promoter couldn’t afford to get me a hotel so I crashed on my sisters couch, who was living there at the time. There was max 40 people in the venue, probably less… but it was my show, and I came out there to throw down so I played the best set I knew how to do. As small as the crowd was, they got wild with me and I met some amazing people that I’m still friends with today.
Oh and last one, I promise… there was a show I played recently at Celebrities and it was the first time I ever brought my mom to see me play. That was pretty cool.
Q: You just released your new track “Together Alone” which is collaboration between yourself and Miles Away. Can you talk about how you guys merged together and the process of creating this track?
A: I’ve been good friends with Dev and Danny for many years and it’s actually not the first song we’ve done together (stay tuned). Dev sent me this rough idea with a few guitar chords and a vocal hook and I was obsessed with the lyrics. They reminded me of the alternative rock and punk music I had on repeat in high school.
When I listen to ‘Together Alone’ I see a guy wide awake late at night, smoking cigarettes by the window and checking his phone for a call that isn't coming from a girl who doesn't care.
When the inspiration is there, the track comes together pretty quickly. I put together an arrangement and beat for the drop, we sent it back and forth a few times going through different versions, and then met up twice to finish it up together.
Q: How do you prepare for a set?
A: I’m always passively preparing for sets. I have a note in my phone called ‘2 Mix’ and anytime i hear a new song I want to add to my sets or get an idea for a mashup i write it down in the note. Come “game day” I’ll spend a solid hour or two downloading everything and making edits. It’s important to have an idea of your set mapped out. That being said I always end up improvising a lot. You have to read the room, and theres nothing more boring going through a routine without taking any risks.
Q: Who are your musical influences today?
A: I’ve been listening to a lot of emo hip hop lately… like Nothing Nowhere and Lil Peep (rip <3). I’ve also gotta say that I find so much inspiration in my local community. It makes me proud that a lot of my friends are making beautiful music. Shouts to Adam Pearce, Giuliano Rascan, We Are Fury, and of course Miles Away.
Also shoutout Felix Cartal, his stuff over the past few years helped change the way I think about dance music.
Q: Who are some of the artists you have written for?
A: Not allowed to say ;)
Q: Who are some people you would like to collaborate with in the future?
A: My dream collab for a vocalist has always been Matthew Koma… but more realistically it’d be cool to find a local punk band and do some crossover stuff. If you’re reading this and you’re in a band hit me up :)
Q: Do you have any exciting projects coming up for the New Year that you want to talk about?
A: I’ve got almost enough music finished to keep releasing songs every month this year. Whether or not I’ll get one out every month will depend on labels and such but I’m feeling really positive about 2018. I haven’t told anyone other than my close friends this, but I’ve actually been producing as part of a duo for a while now. We’ll be launching this summer and I’m really passionate about the different style of music we’re creating.
Q: Do you find it hard to stay original in a time where sampling is so available for anyone to use and good records have been over sampled. How do you stay current without blending in?
A: I try to “write songs” before I “produce tracks” if that makes any sense. When I’m starting a new song I try and get a melody and chords down before I do much production. A well written song isn’t really something you can sample or fake. I’m not too worried about staying current. If your chasing trends you’ll be playing catch-up forever. Whereas if you just write music that you love, good things will happen.
Q: What have been some of the main challenges in developing your career in music?
A: It took me a long time to realize what I just said in the above question. I had to try my hand at a lot of different styles before I found something that is my own. I’ve been producing for around 5 years and I’d say I’ve only really recently discovered my own direction.
Q: Do you have anything else you want people to know about you?
A: My favourite colour is purple, my favourite animal is the platypus, and my favourite food is tacos. If you’re thinking about asking me on a date, I’d highly recommend bring me to a purple taco restaurant with platypus waiters.