Lonesound is the moniker of British songwriter and producer James Ewers. Here, the former frontman of My Luminaries shares his thoughts about band politics, starting again new, and playing at Glastonbury.

by Anna Kelhu

As the former frontman of the late My Luminaries, I imagine you’ve already grown accustomed to rock’n’roll life – dividing your energy and time between the studio, the stage and the road. Are you expecting different things from the solo career as opposed to life as part of the band?

Not really! Though I did initially, when I decided to record my first album at home and then put it out online. I assumed I’d be able to just keep writing and recording songs in my little room and uploading them, and that would be that. That’s of course ok to do, but if you want to make something of your music, its not that simple. I’ve always preferred the recording side of music to the gigging side, and had lost some confidence after stopping My Luminaries. Since then I’ve spent most of my time in studios, producing and writing songs for other people. I’d decided I was going to go head first in to production, and was enjoying making records and bringing the best out of other songwriters without having to pour my own emotions in to the songs. After a year or so I started to get the itch to write my own stuff again, and felt like I should at least be out there amongst all these other artists. As soon as I began playing the first part of the album to people (the album is to be released in 3 parts as 3 EPs over the next 10 months) I had some great reactions, and its helped to build up my confidence again for being a frontman. I’m very fortunate to have got a backing band together consisting of old friends, who are also great musicians, which has been such a pleasure. No band politics, just a common goal to play these songs as well as we can. It’s a lot easier, and fortunately because we’re friends I don’t miss out on the in-jokes! 

What led to you deciding to start new as a solo artist?

I’d accumulated a lot of unfinished songs over the last couple of years, and I wrote them without any intention of putting them on any album. This freed me up a little I suppose, just enjoying playing around with sounds I hadn’t used before. Things like 80s sounding ‘Count Duckula’ synths and layering up female backing singer “shoop shoop” parts with my girlfriend singing. Then I’d listen back to these things and think “this is the most exciting thing I’ve done in ages! and it sounds so FUN!” So there was a basic method there to play around, build on it and finish more songs. It didn’t feel logical to involve a group of other people into that creative process and try and be democratic about it. It can get a little worrying at times when I feel low on ideas, but I have encouraging people around me and Mike (guitarist in the backing band and flatmate) always lends a second opinion, and never asks me to turn the music down.

Having been a brilliant lyricist and songwriter for long already, you must’ve gone through different stages as far as inspirations and motivations go. What keeps you going? What are your current aspirations?

You are too kind! Well it kind of feels like a brand new start, and I feel like the last 9 years of my twenties has been one big learning curve; learning about whats really important in a song and record, about the music industry, about friendships. And for the first time I’m making music that I’d listen to (or trying to anyway) and I realise that that’s ok, that’s enough and anything else is a bonus. What keeps me going is the idea of having a discography of 30 or so albums behind me, however unsuccessful, by the time I’m on my deathbed. And that motivates me more than having one massive hit album. Obviously I’d like a certain amount of people to like those 30 albums though! I find lyrics really hard, so that’s the only thing that prevents me writing more. I realise nobody finds writing good lyrics easy, but that doesn’t help! But the wincing and pulling my hair out always seems to yield some result in the end so its worth it. My aspirations are as they’ve always been, a simple desire to write songs every day without the concern of paying the rent every month. You never know!     

How do you build up a song? Do the lyrics come first, or the melody together with harmony  – or is it a simultaneous process..?

It always has been a melodic hook of some sort, around a basic few chords, and a random few words, which surprisingly will often stay, and then I’ll build the song around that. The lyrics might not have a real structure until very late in the process, but I’ll always know what sort of emotion I want them to provoke, and then its a case of joining the dots. I have lyrics to write for a new song I’m playing at a gig in 3 days time, and this sort of a deadline works well to at least get a first draft written. The chords and melody have always been the easiest part for me, and the only part that has occasionally just flooded out in one go.   

In your opinion, what is the most important thing one can achieve through reinventing, exploring and sharing their music?

I think of music as lubricant for life. Sorry, I know that has certain connotations! But if you can make something that touches someone in some way and makes their life a little easier to live for 3 minutes, then that’s a big achievement, and it’s easy to forget. Looking at those artists who have gone on for years and years…If you can be touched by one song from their whole catalogue, then none of those songs have been written in vain. Of course there are enough songs to last you a lifetime and people always say “do we really need more?”, but I was lucky enough to see Springsteen in Berlin last month and I remember one of his new songs touched me as much as eg Thunder Road did. And then multiply my experience by fifty thousand people throughout that show. Its not always easy to realise any connection when you’re on a stage and apart from the audience, so its good to go to gigs occasionally and remember what’s happening from the listener’s perspective.

Lonesound  

Where do you see Lonesound in a year’s time?

Well My Luminaries’ last gig was opening Glastonbury festival in a tent with two and a half thousand people. If I can get to do that again at next year’s Glastonbury then I’ll be very happy indeed, and that’s my only sort of realistic goal or dream I’d like to see through. The first part of the album is out on July 1st 2012, then the second is planned for October, and the third planned for Spring next year, with a 12″ vinyl release of the whole album. So in a year’s time the album will be out, hopefully I’ll be touring it outside of London because people will want to see it live, and I’ll be writing the next one. 

Any plans to put up a few shows in Amsterdam..? 

That would be amazing! My Luminaries played at the London Calling Festival there in 2007, with the likes of Kate Nash, The Macabees & Friendly Fires, and we enjoyed the festival and the backstage parties so much that I didn’t really get to see any of the city, or any sunlight for that matter. So I’m definitely due a trip there soon, and would love to do a gig or two, and even catch up with the Janitors at Paradiso!
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The Great Outdoors (Part 1) is the first of 3 upcoming EP download releases, culminating in a 12” vinyl release of the whole album in early 2013. This first EP is a blistering home-recorded introduction to the eclectic alternative songwriting that is to come from this passionate performer.

The Great Outdoors (Part 1) is out on 1st July 2012 from all good online record shops.

MORE ABOUT LONESOUND:
www.lonesound.com

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