News Lulu James: ‘I Like A Good Debate’

Lulu James is taking not only the North East but the whole of the UK by storm. We catch up with the South Shields singer in a Brighton pub.

Lulu James is taking not only the North East but the whole of the UK by storm. We catch up with the South Shields singer in a Brighton pub for a bit of a natter about her latest EP, nightcaps with Diplo and creating that ever elusive debut album your own way.

You’ve just released your debut EP, how’s it been going for you so far?
It’s going great. It’s pretty unbelievable how fast everything’s taken off, it’s going really good.

What’s the response been like?
Sick. Everywhere I’ve been. Obviously, now I’m going around the country and people are knowing the name and knowing the music and stuff and the response so far has been brilliant - even from press!

Have you been reading your own reviews?
Well, I’ve had to! I get all my friends like, ‘Have you seen this blog? Have you seen that blog?’ Even my family. Everyone’s picking up magazines and stuff so I’ve not really got much choice, to be fair. Someone’s always reading something so they’re always sending me stuff to read. I’ve pretty much been everywhere so far and it’s good to see - on Twitter and stuff - that people are chatting about me in different countries, like America and Japan.

Have you noticed a big difference in the crowds since the EP’s release?
Yeah, definitely. Also, it’s a wide range in audience that I’ve got - from 18 to 40 - it’s really good to have that massive group. People are starting to pick it up dead well and respond to the songs. They’re starting to sing it back to me a lot, which is a bit tedious sometimes. Especially my friends or people from Newcastle that come to my gigs and just sing random things out of my songs at me. But it’s all good.

Have you found people are looking at your lyrics a bit more? Has anyone asked you about them?
Surprisingly, as much as people are taking in the music, they’re taking in the lyrics. I see, just joking on like that, that they have listened to the words.

What’s more important to you when you’re writing - music or lyrics?
I dunno. I think they come hand in hand. Obviously, I concentrate more on the top line but if I wasn’t happy with the music, I’ d obviously speak to my producer and say, ‘Dom, I’m not really feeling it,’ or ‘I’d prefer it to be like this.’ We work dead well like that. He would never get offended at me not liking a specific thing. The same with the top line, if I was to write something and he was to say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t sound too good,’ or ‘work on your chorus a bit more.’ So it goes hand in hand, and I think it’ll be good to as a full product.

So is the writing process more of a collaborative effort then?
Well, yes and no. He’s individually writing the music, I’m just keeping an ear open to what I like and what I don’t like, and the same. We tend to work in the same room though as I prefer to be like that so things can be built on there and then. So I’ll just be writing my top line and then I’ll sing it, if I’ve got a verse down or something and I’ll see what he’s got to say. We’re pretty strong minded in what we do and we debate sometimes, which is pretty good. I like a debate. Working with Dom’s really good. We have a mutual understanding.

Would you like the chance to work with other producers in the future?
Yeah, definitely. Obviously, I’m just concentrating on what’s happening right now but I think that in the future, definitely with other DJs and producers.

Do you have any plans for an album at the moment?
Album’s still quite far away but we’re still working towards it. We’re just keeping stuff in the pipeline and keeping songs back and seeing how everything goes. When it feels right, we’ll know the right time to release an album.

How’s it being an artist from the North East? There are a lot of bands up there but it’s often a little overlooked.
It’s good. I love being from the North East because I absolutely love being in the North East. I think the good think about this project is that it’s hard to get out of the North East. The fact that it’s going in the right direct is challenging and it’s exciting. I’m totally proud of being from the North East.

Have you ever been pigeon-holed because of where you’re from? Do you think people expect your music to sound a certain way because of your background?
I don’t know, they may do but so far they’ve had open minds. I think the most important thing is that they’ve listened to my music before they’ve judged. I think they’re getting it so far.

Where’s been your favourite place to perform so far?
I’ve loved every single gig that I’ve done. Where’s the funnest gig that I’ve done? I can tell you the un-funnest! I’ve loved the London shows. The first London show that I had was mostly an industry show so that was probably the hardest but it was the one that I totally wanted to kick ass in. Everywhere’s been fun. The EP launch was mint, in Newcastle at the Cluny. As intimate as it was, there was loads of people that I didn’t know there. I was thinking that it was going to be all family and friends and all faces that I know but it totally wasn’t so that so far was the most exciting to see that people had come out to support.

Do you spot the same faces every time you play or is it more varied?
I think in a certain city it might be the same groups of people that go to see the same sort of shows but no one’s yet to be following us. I haven’t got any groupies yet. I’m working on it though!

How do you prepare to play a show?
I just take it as it comes. I haven’t got a specific way of how I prepare. I don’t have an alter-ego when I’m on stage. I am pretty much me when I’m on stage so it’s not like I have to sit and meditate and change into this different person because what you see is what you get. I don’t have any down time or anything. I just like chilling and this is relaxing enough.

What’s the stage set up like for those who haven’t seen you perform yet?
We’ve got my producer on stage, a bassist and a keys player - he plays guitar as well on one of the songs. And me. Before now, I’ve done PA with just lights. That was really good but the experience of having the band and stuff - it’s harder but you can appreciate it more because of all the timing and things, and if someone mucks up, the whole thing mucks up. It’s more pressure working with a band but it’s great. I like getting challenged and having a bit of pressure on me because that’s what makes me work harder. I like to get nervous before I go on stage because if I didn’t, I don’t think I’d be particularly bothered. I’m pretty hands on with the band. I’ve known the lads for a long time and they know how I work and if I’m not happy with something, I’ll straight up say it. They don’t take offence and that’s part of Team Lulu, if you like. Nobody takes offence because we’re all straight forward with each other. Nobody is trying to get at you, they’re just saying it how it is, and that’s the way we work and it’s better because everything’s out there and everyone does their job well.

The imagery for the EP has a very specific look to it. Was that something that you were quite involved in deciding?
Everything that I do I’m involved in. I don’t get pushed into doing something or told that’s what you’re doing. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it. If I thought it was a wicked idea, I would do it. Even with that photographer, he was wicked and we worked really well. Even the hair and make up were like, ‘Yeah, you should do that!’ And if it worked, it worked. I think we got some really good shots out of it and I was full on with that as well. It was about everyone seeing the same vision.

It sounds silly but how did you come about doing this in the first place?
When I was really little, like three, I got dragged to a church every Sunday for choir practice. So I started singing then but that was nothing that you take seriously. And then I did a couple of school concerts and stuff but then that was nothing either. I sang at my friend’s birthday party and his mum was like, ‘Oh my God, you’re so amazing!’ and everyone was really hyping up about it so I decided that I was going to start singing more so then I applied for more school stuff, and getting involved with more proper music, and then it died down for a bit and I started doing busker nights. I was in loads of different bars, pubs, shit holes, just wherever I could be to sing. I entered a competition called UMT Generator and that’s where I met Dom. We just sat down one day and he just talked about what it is that I wanted to do. I said, ‘Well, I don’t want to do anything that anybody else has already done. I don’t want to follow in anybody else’s footsteps. I want to take influences from other people and build something of my own, if I can.’ And then we worked and worked and worked, and then we got ‘Rope Mirage’, which was the first song we worked on together and it kicked off from then. That’s definitely the right sound. It felt right and it felt like it was mine. It just felt fresh. I think it’s got lots of different influences and I feel you can hear a lot of different influences so I think that will help me reach a wider range of people that can appreciate it as well.

Ok, you’ve mentioned influences now. Talk us through them.
I’d say vocally, Amy Winehouse and India Arie. Gil Scott Heron as in spoken word, full of talent, RIP. Musically, I love Gang Colour, SBTRKT, Jamie XX, Mount Kimbie, Flying Lotus, all of them sort of acts. James Blake, I’m a massive fan, No.1 fan. And Diplo. I started off probably listening to Diplo and then from that I just broke through to loads of different artists and I really appreciate those types of artists. It’s not necessarily about how many chart songs they can have out or trying to get into the charts, it’s about the music with them and I really think you can feel that, I really appreciate that about them. I’ll hopefully follow in their steps a little bit.

So who’s your dream producer? Would it be Diplo?
If we could share a hotel at the end of the night! If we’re gonna have a night cap, I’ll definitely work with Diplo.

The EP was self-released but are you signed to a label from now on?
We self-released the EP and I think that was a really good move to make at the minute. I think there’s a great importance in that. We need to stick doing what we set out to do. So instead of somebody trying to sway us to do something else, we’re doing what we wanted to do from the start. That’s the best thing about that. I don’t think there’s any point in putting pressure on myself at this early stage. I think everything’s going so well. It’s going at a fast speed but it’s a good speed for us. We’re handling it. There’s no pressure. We’re doing what we love. And there’s nothing more that you can want. We’re in no hurry. Run before you walk, that’s the one.

Lulu James’ new EP ‘Rope Mirage’ is out now. She’ll play Dot To Dot Festival in Bristol (Saturday 2nd June), Nottingham (3rd June) and Manchester (4th June) this weekend - check out for full event info and ticket details. Priced at £20 per day, the multi-venue music festival offers incredible value for money while giving music fans the opportunity to catch future stadium fillers and the most exciting acts around in intimate surrounds.

Tags: Lulu James, Neu

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