As the title of James Morrison’s third and by far best album suggests, The Awakening is the sound of an artist coming of age. In his personal life, Morrison has become a father, while losing his own father after the latter’s long battle with alcoholism and depression. At the same time, Morrison, 26, has matured as a singer, songwriter and musician, enabling him to channel all of that emotion into his most accomplished collection of songs yet. “My first two albums felt like practice shots,” he says, “and now I’ve graduated. In many ways this feels like my first proper album.”
Tickets go on sale at 9.00am on Friday 2nd SeptemberThose first two albums – Undiscovered (2006) and Songs for You, Truths for Me (2008) – have sold a combined total of 4.5m copies and yielded an astonishing ten singles, including You Give Me Something, Wonderful World, The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore and the global smash Broken Strings, featuring Nelly Furtado. Those practice shots turned Morrison into an international star.
He has sold out arena tours, gigged coast-to-coast in America as well as in Australia, Japan and across Europe; he has performed on Jimmy Kimmel’s and Jay Leno’s TV shows in the States; sung in front of tens of thousands at London’s Hyde Park supporting both Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder; appeared on Herbie Hancock’s Grammy-winning album The Imagination Project – singing a widely acclaimed cover of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come; he has been voted Best Male at the 2007 Brit Awards; and – at just 21 – was the biggest-selling British male solo artist the year his debut album, Undiscovered, came out.
Everything was new then – co-writing songs, recording professionally, adjusting to being in the public eye. “It was an amazing opportunity, obviously, but at the same time I found it hard living up to being the person that people thought I was. I kept getting: ‘Ahh, James Morrison – he’s so romantic.’ And I didn’t think I was that kind of guy. I wasn’t trying to write songs to get the girls. That’s not me at all! But I loved touring, playing live – that was the side that really made me believe in what I was doing.”
When the time came to record his second album, “I was trying too hard to reconfirm why I was there and why people liked me. And that I could do it again”. And he did do it again: the album’s first single, Broken Strings, has been Morrison’s biggest-selling to date to the tune of 1.5m copies – but he struggled to embrace the experience the way he had two years earlier. Looking back, he feels his second album was too pop, too “lukewarm”, a step in the wrong direction. “I thought, if I can’t get it right next time, then I ain’t doing this any more. I’m losing myself, and I don’t want to do that.”
Fortunately, The Awakening has turned out to be the album that James Morrison always had the potential to make – at last a worthy platform for his extraordinary singing voice. “This time I wasn’t worrying about success at all, and that’s why it was really enjoyable. I didn’t feel I had to go for the big, loud notes all the time – I just sat back and sang how I felt and it all just came flooding out.”
The Awakening is a warm, live-sounding collection of classic but contemporary folk-soul songs. There are musical similarities with Morrison’s debut, but with added panache and self-belief. There are soaring strings, uplifting harmonies, soulful ballads and, in Slave to the Music, a hand-clapping dancefloor groover – a new string to his bow. There are nods to Motown, gospel, country and a hint of Latin. Technically, Morrison remains one of the finest white soul singers, equal parts Stevie Wonder and Paul Young. But he is more than just a Big Voice – he sings from the heart. “To me, pop music is just great music that lasts for years,” he says. “Though there is the other side of pop, which is where you have a hit, but then, after it comes out, it never gets heard again. I never wanted to make that sort of music.”
Official Website: http://www.jamesmorrisonmusic.com/
Tickets priced £25.00 will be available from 9.00am on Friday 2nd September at Midland Box Office: 0870 320 7000 or online at http://www.wolvescivic.co.uk/