UNCO[V]ERED: Mitch James

Mitch James’ journey has taken him from sleeping rough and busking on the streets of Europe, to topping charts, performing sold-out shows, and now, his debut self-titled full-length album.

On song writing he says “We are in this place with pop where everything feels a bit like a jingle, there are great melodies out there, but there’s no real substance for people to cling on to, I wanted to give people stories – stories that they can relate to.

It makes way for an incredible debut record. A raw and honest collection of songs written over the course of 18months, but based on the tangible experiences of his lifetime.

All the lyrics mean a lot to me, this is all real s*** that’s happened to me, or to people around me. It’s about me chronicling my own journey but also putting stories into a broader sense so that other people will also understand them.

It also sees the 23 year old artist pushing new ground in the studio – seeking out some of New Zealand’s most well-known musicians, Ji Fraser and Eli Paewai from Six60.

Recorded and produced at the legendary Roundhead Studios in Auckland with Simon Gooding, Fraser and Paewai took on the roles of executive producers, with fellow Six60 member Chris Mac also lending a hand. “Once we got in the studio, right from the word go, they brought a fresh and edgy element to the sonics. We did some really out of the gate s***, but we also still captured my pop sound.

The record is truly the culmination of all that’s been before, for James. From gigging around Europe in 2016 with barely enough to pay for food, let alone a bed at night, to then being signed by a major label.

On the surface, James’ rise through the ranks in the highly competitive world of pop appears to have been at lightning pace. But dig deeper and you’ll find the experiences that stretch
back to his early teens, explaining just why he’s now being touted as one of Kiwi music’s next big success stories.

In my early years at high school, I didn’t have a lot of mates, so I’d lock myself away in the music centre. I’d grab a guitar, go to a practice room and pull up videos on YouTube and teach myself to play,” James says. Influenced back then by the likes of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson, James worked hard on his craft. In his words, it “kept me out of detention and gave me something positive to focus on.”

James cleaned cars to save enough for a one-way ticket to London and headed off to chase his dream – having never before played a live gig. What followed was three years of hard graft.

I played 230 gigs, busked more than 100 times. But I also slept on the street for eight weeks, was robbed twice, beaten up once, and witnessed a stabbing.

James’ big break came when someone at Sony Music back in New Zealand spotted a video he’d uploaded to Facebook.

Skip forward to 2018, and the charismatic singer from Auckland has performed at New Zealand’s biggest festivals, including Rhythm & Vines and Bay Dreams, a nationwide headline tour in a Kombi van, and playing to over 100 thousand when he opened for Ed Sheeran’s three stadium shows in Dunedin.

UNCO[V]ERED premieres on Saturday at 12noon, after the Spotify Countdown. Channel 801, only on Foxtel.