James McCartney, son of Sir Paul and the late Linda, has rapidly earned accolades for his powerful mix of accessible melodic songs and experimental rock introduced via two EPs, 2010's Available Light and 2011's Close at Hand. An impressive 16-song set at the Coach House last year also proved he can be a formidable live talent, although he's had to fight to be heard as a solo acoustic act at Coachella.
He returns to the Indio festival for a second helping Friday afternoon, just after he wraps a two-night stand at the Hotel Cafe in L.A. McCartney's full-length debut, Me, is due in late May.
I caught up with him via email a few weeks ago for this interview.
Soundcheck: I was impressed by the range of material on your Complete EP collection, from melodic power pop to more experimental rock. Could you talk a bit about your growth as a songwriter since those songs were recorded and how that influenced the process of making Me?
James McCartney: That's nice, thanks so much. Well, I wanted to show a progression. My favorite artists are definitely ones that grow, and I want to be one that does too. The songs on my first two EPs were written over a broad period of time. Some songs were older and some brand new. All of the songs on the new album are new, so this is much more of a snapshot of where I'm at right now. It's a real singer-songwriter record, with an emphasis on lyric writing and melodies. I worked with David Kahne on the recording, which was lovely.
When I saw you perform last year you were backed by a band, but now you are performing alone. What led to that decision?
In keeping with the album title, this tour is, in fact, "me." I did a solo show last year at NYC's Rockwood Music Hall and it went great. It gave us the idea of doing the same thing on a national scale, in listening rooms around the country. Just me and an audience, and of course these new songs. No distractions. I'm really looking forward to it.
What was it like going on your first U.S. tour last year?
It was amazing. I love America and it was my first chance to see it as a touring musician. Meeting fans after the show, seeing the cities, it was great.
Will you approach Coachella different than playing a more intimate club?
I don't plan to ... I'll do it just the same. I think the way I'm doing these songs will work very well, even in that bigger setting. I haven't played the festival before, so it will be quite an experience. And quite a way to kick off the tour!
You've noted that your favorite artists are those who evolve over time. In what ways do you explore on the new album that you didn't on the EP collection?
It's really just an evolution, as we all go through. This album and these songs are the next steps for me, just as Close at Hand was the net step from Available Light. I think there's even more depth in the writing and singing on this record, and since the last batch of songs I've continued to learn who I am ... as we all continue to learn about ourselves.
How has David Kahne and any other producers or artists you've worked with helped shape the sound of the new album?
Well, David Kahne, primarily, is who I worked with. I've recorded the previous EPs with him as well so we have a great working relationship. He's also worked with my dad, of course. Dad was a part of the recording, too, and of course he's an influence. My band from the U.K. is on the album, (NYC singer) Kate Davis appears on the album, as does Steven Isserlis and Shawn Pelton. Just a great group of people, and a great time in making the album.