Since breaking through in the UK as the winner of the X Factor TV show in 2012, James Arthur has been a major star in the UK, Europe and Australia. The singer/songwriter, who is known for having a powerful, soulful voice, has had a steady flow of hit singles over the past nine years. Impressively, he had a worldwide hit when he released his ballad single “Say You Won’t Let Go” in 2016. This single was a mainstay on pop radio in the U.S. for a full year, and was certified triple platinum.
Currently, Arthur has just released his fourth album, It’ll All Make Sense in the End (on Columbia Records). This album marks a strong return for Arthur, and it includes several songs that rank with his best work. Earlier this year, he released the excellent singles “September” and “Avalanche,” and the new album includes such highlights as the heartfelt ballad “Emily,” and the uptempo cuts “Medicine” and “SOS.” All of the songs are well-written and display his distinctive personality, and Arthur’s singing is passionate and emotional.
Arthur grew up in the large town of Middlesbrough in Northern England, and he’s been writing songs and performing since he was 15. Early on, he played in several bands, but it was his successful appearances on X Factor that led to him signing with Simon Cowell’s Syco Records and eventually with Columbia Records. It was in 2013 that he released his debut album, James Arthur, which contained his hits “Impossible” and “You’re Nobody ‘til Somebody Loves You.”
Then in 2016, Arthur released his acclaimed album, Back from the Edge, which has been his best-selling work and featured his biggest hit, “Say You Won’t Let Go.” Two years later (in 2018), he released his third album, You, that included his UK hits “Naked,” “Falling Like The Stars” and “Empty Space.”
After that, Arthur had two additional hits: “Rewrite the Stars” (a duet with Anne-Marie) and “Lasting Lover” (with DJ/producer Sigala).
Along with his new album release, Arthur is looking forward to performing live again. This March, he will be headlining a major tour in the UK, and in April he will be headlining a tour in the U.S.
Here’s the video of James Arthur’s single, “September.”
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with James Arthur. He discusses the making of his new album, how he wrote his new songs “September,” “Emily” and “Avalanche,” and how he collaborated during the pandemic.
DK: It’s been two years since your previous album, You, was released. Can you talk about the making of your new album, It’ll All Make Sense in the End, and what it’s been like for you during the pandemic?
James Arthur: Yeah, it was a really cathartic process for this one actually. Like most, I sat around at the beginning of lockdown and was in a really tricky place with my mental health. This album really was the thing that got me out of that state. It gave me a purpose and a sense of direction in a time when I was really lost.
DK: I read that you wanted to make your new album more guitar-driven, and for it to be a coherent body of work. Can you talk about this?
Arthur: Well because of the lockdown, I set up a studio in my house. I brought in a close group of collaborators, in a place I naturally felt really comfortable. That’s what gives it this immersive feel, both in the writing and the production. Even though it spans a few different lanes, you’re right that I wanted it to be slightly heavier and have more guitar elements. That’s my bread and butter really, it’s what I grew up on—guitar music.
DK: “Emily” is such a unique, emotional song, about envisioning what it would be like to have a daughter & family. What inspired you to write this song?
Arthur: It was a really reflective time, and it made me really think about what it would be like to be a dad—what I’d be like as a dad. I thought about how my future child might feel about my work, and about the things they might one day read about me.
Here’s the video of James Arthur’s song, “Emily.”
DK: Two of my favorite songs on your album are “September” and “Avalanche.” Can you talk about writing those songs?
Arthur: “September” has a real soft spot for me, I was so pleased to be able to release it as single. Not least because it meant I got to make a funny video for it which I’m really proud of. This one is the kind of storytelling writing style you’d expect from my music, but with a fresh production that kind of feels a bit like Springsteen to me.
“Avalanche” was one of those lucky ones that just falls together, I was actually totally joking when I sang the lyrics of that chorus in the session, but we all kind of liked it. It’s an imagery I’ve thought of before—this idea of two people together as an avalanche crashes around them. A bit morbid, but there you go!
DK: Besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your favorite songs on your album?
Arthur: I think I have a different answer for this every time! But definitely “SOS” is something really special to me. I really needed that song when I wrote it. I was feeling a bit down and out but I had this realisation that often everyone around you can also be silently going through something too. The video is another one I’m really pleased to have made, with the video-making legend that is KC Locke.
DK: I read the writing credits on your album, and you wrote several songs with George Tizzard & Rick Parkhouse of Red Triangle, and with James Yami Bell. Can you talk about your collaborations with them?
Arthur: Well Red Triangle are longtime collaborators of mine really. I love working with those guys and they always just totally understand exactly what I’m going for. Yami was a new collaborator for me but his sound definitely shaped a lot of this record. He’s kind of like a UK Post Malone!
Here’s the lyric video of James Arthur’s song, “Avalanche.”
DK: I read that you’ll be playing shows in the UK in March 2022, and then you’ll be touring in the U.S. in April. Can you talk about your upcoming tours?
Arthur: I’d love to—I cannot wait to be back on the road. I’ve missed my band and crew, and I’ve so missed the travel. But mostly I’ve missed being face to face with fans. It’s a cliche but I don’t think there’s a better feeling than that, either on the stage or when I get to meet them to say thanks in person. That’s keeping me going right now. And I hope to be announcing more countries as soon as all this Covid sh*t blows over!