• Eve Watson

James Smith to play Rescue Rooms

Taking tips from his hero Johnny Cash, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, James Smith cut his teeth performing for rowdy crowds of misfits and rebels - and he’s coming to Rescue Rooms on 29 March.

But this wasn’t down at Folsom Prison, it was on the creaky stage of the notorious East Ham Working Men’s Club. “I loved it,” says the hard-grafting East End native, 20 years old and one of the UK’s most promising break out talents.

Born to a taxi driver mum and market trader dad, James was raised in Upton Park, East London.

Having picked up a guitar aged 9, he was only 14 when he began smuggling himself into venues, becoming a regular on the local pubs and club’s scene playing all over the East End. Partial to a bit of cheeky backchat, James was kicked out of school at 15 and ended up joining his dad selling soap on the market stalls in Green Lanes.

It was then he found the time to dig deep into the soulful sounds of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Paolo Nutini, Mark Ronson and Michael Kiwanuka.

Equipped with an enviable knowledge of old soul, Jamesbegan writing songs about lost love with all the power and sentiment of the greats but for a new generation. Over the last year, Smith has steadily built up a cult following releasing songs under the radar including the viral hits Tell Me That You Love Me and T-Shirts amassing an incredible 160 million total streams across all tracks. There’s also been a string of sold out shows in London (Omeara, Dingwalls) as well as Europe (Amsterdam, Hamburg and Berlin), an early sign of this young talents global appeal.

Recorded as live, An EP By James Smith gives you a first taste of this exciting new artist. This is heartbreak as pure as it comes, written in the immediate wake of James’ split from his first love and co-produced by, godfather of the UK underground GEENEUS.

Beginning with a tender reflection on the dying embers of a relationship, Rely On Me takes a classic soul route and showcases James’ flawless way with a memorable chorus and a tearstained lyric. Quickly followed by Say You’ll Stay, a piano-led, propulsive heart-on sleeve pop epic and the tender, post break-up, plaintive, Hollow. It’s finished off with a stunning cover of Bob Dylan’s Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright, which is also James’ dad’s favourite song. “He really likes it,” says James before revealing just where he might have got his sharp sense of humour, “But when I played it to him he said ‘you do realise that a lot of people are gonna prefer the Dylan version?”

Depends whose listening……