James Bay is a 24 year old singer-songwriter from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England.  He also plays guitar.  This might sound like the introduction to a heart warming story of a young guy who dreamt of a being a star but never made it.  Well, this guy is a little different.  From what I have discovered about this unique talent James' love of music started very young and had an obsession with guitars at an early age.

The story goes that a young James found this old beaten up guitar that was a rusty mess stored in the back of a cupboard.  Young Mr Bay started to play around strumming along to tunes and went with his father to a local music shop to try and "spruce" the battered instrument up!
James then taught himself guitar, preferring to playing by ear along to Van Morrison, Derek and the Dominos, some Motown and Folk.  After attempts to star in bands he was never the lead.  At 16 he starred in his first gig and "shut up a few drunks!".
At 18 years of age James he moved from Hitchin to Brighton and initially wanted to study fine art as he was also a talented painter and artist.  Instead he studied music and it is where he was building a fan base performing around the seaside town's pubs and busking spots.  His management company picked him up coming down from London to catch his show.  Music stardom was coming but first a move to London.

Someone was so impressed, one night in a Kentish Town pub, they uploaded a video of James performing on YouTube.  Republic Records saw him, whisked him to New York and signed him straight away.
James has released a handful of E.P.'s and a debut album, as well as picking up a the Brit Awards Critics Choice in 2015, he's toured with Hozier and recorded his album in Nashville.  This guy is going places.  I first heard him on a music show a couple of weeks ago, the song "Hold Back The River".  It starts like a lovely Acoustic number, with an Irish feel, then it kicks in and the guitars go up a notch with a brilliant sing-a-long chorus.  Add a few chants of "oh oh" and it is an instant hit for me.  Reminds me a lot of Kane, a Dutch rock band who I have also blogged about here.  This guy is a real talent in his own right and will surely be massive in the years to come.

James' first E.P. was entitled "The Dark Of The Morning" was released in 2013.  It includes the brilliant and gorgeous ballad "Need The Sun To Break".  It really shows his strong vocals and excellent guitar playing and also a fine lyrical talent.  The little more rockier "When We Were On Fire" reminds me of Scottish band Del Amitri, powerful guitar and vocals and clearly sung melodious lyrics.
The second E.P. "Let It Go" released in 2014 includes the title track which is a sweet soul filled ballad and has a very emotional feel which emanates from the guitar playing.  "Hear Your Heart" has a Motown gospel feel while there is a Sam Cooke influence on "Running" which is a minimal music backed vocal track but has such power and emotion.  This E.P. shows the wonderful soulful voice James has and also his ear for a great song.

In 2014 the "Hold Back The River" E.P. came and featured the previously mentioned title track and also the Progressive Rock/Soul Pop mix of "Sparks".  It also features the almost aggressive Rock acoustics of "Wait In Line, which is a little Razorlight and a little Then Jerico (the 80s band in case you don't remember them!).
After releasing a previous 6 song compilation E.P. "Other Sides", the album "Chaos And The Calm" has just been released.  Containing 12 songs (a handful previously on the E.P.'s), it is pretty much a masterpiece.  Other songs on this set that I didn't mention before include the fabulous "Craving", similar to "Hold Back The River", it's a powerful rocker with a great chorus.  The foot tapping "Best Fake Smile" has a searing guitar that beats on the senses but also a 60s/70s chorus, really great song.  "Collide" is another favourite of mine, a stop/start chopping guitar is a perfect backbeat for this rocking and rolling, almost Dance-Rock number.  The energetic 80s stomping "Get Out While You Can" is also quite awesome.  A fine album by a fine new artist.  There are a number of "next big thing" candidates that in my mind are far overated, this guy is not, he is a really talented guy.  This is what British music needs, a guitar playing, soul rocking Indie superstar!