Interview: Martin and James

Hey guys,
as I have only put up the video version of the Martin and James interview I did back in August I decided to write everything that's been said down and post it separately.

Martin Kelly and James O'Neill are two incredibly talented musicians from Scotland. They are signed at "Universal Music Germany" and live in Berlin, Germany. To describe their music they would use words like folk, acoustic and pop. (and add punk, death metal and jazz as a joke.)
Martin and James supported many bands and singers like Milow, Taylor Swift, Amy MacDonald, Ellie Goulding, James Morrison, One Republic, etc.
They released 2 EPs (2008: Bad Dream | 2010 Wrong Directions), their selftitled album (2011) and just a few days ago "Life's A Show", their second album got released.

See what they told me about their newest album "Life's A Show", LA gangs, how a broken finger was the start of their career and learn a lot more about them. 

(Scroll down to watch the video!)

house in the sand: So guys, you've just released your single 'Matilda'. It's being played on very many radio stations. How does it feel to hear yourself on the radio?
James: We've not heard ourselves yet.
Martin: I haven't heard it yet.
James: But we're glad that it has been played.
house in the sand: I've heard it quite often now.
James: Really? Oh that's good! That's good to hear.
Martin: We don't have a car in Berlin so we never really listen to the radio.
house in the sand: I just started listening because I knew you were played.
Martin: Maybe I'll start listening now that I know we're played.
house in the sand: Might be a good idea!
Your record 'Life's A Show' is about to be released in a week.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Martin: We recorded in Berlin and Los Angeles as well. Two very different cities at different times of the year.
We had a lot of ideas before going in to record. We would get a whole bunch of ideas and then sat with me, James and our producer Tobi and we would pick out the best ideas.

house in the sand: You do most of the things on your own, right?
Are there any co-writers at all?
Martin: No, Tobi our producer became part of the writing process as well for most songs on the record.
James: And it was just good fun. You know we love Berlin as a city, it's a really creative city so it was good to write songs there.
And then LA was a very different environment, so it was a Ying and Yang creatively because we went in sunshine in October and we've never been in LA before.
But we were a little bit scared because of Americans and LA gangs and the guns and stuff. 
And we were in the studio one time and the producer said to us "Don't go to the shop around the corner - go to the shop across the road because someone got shot there last week!"
So we were recording in the studio thinking 'Ah, I hope nothing bad happens to us..'
But it was good fun!

house in the sand: For the record, do you have a favourite song of it?
Martin: I think my favourite song is a song called 'You'll Be Gone, I'll Be Here' because the lyrics are quite personal for both of us.
James: It's actually the most surprising song. We didn't realize it's going to be like that as we had a verse idea and then we had a chorus idea and we put the two together and it fitted like a jigsaw, it just seemed to work.

It's the most surprising and the most developed song. And also the lyrics are really personal for us as it's about our friend. So that is my favourite also.
house in the sand: That's cool!
Martin: He's just copying me!
James: Yeah, of course!
house in the sand: Sounds good!
When you finish a song, who is the first person that gets to listen to it? Is it Ryan or your producer?
Martin: When we finish recording? When we come out of the studio I think Ryan is a very good reference point because he's known us for a long time and he's toured with us.
James: He has a very different musical brain as well.
house in the sand: He's honest, I guess?
James: Yeah, he's very honest.
Martin: He's too honest!
James: We also send it to close family and friends to get their reaction and they always give us their honest opinion. So honesty is always the best when it comes to music.

house in the sand: Something that's been on my mind for a while: when one of you sings the lead vocals on a track - how do you decided it? Do you play rock, paper, scissors? Or do you fight? Or just try what fits best?
James: Usually the person who brings the idea to the table has the best idea of the melody and can therefore lead the song better. But on this record occasionally Tobi, our producer, would say 'Oh maybe it's better if Martin sings this, maybe it's better if James sings this' and that's the first time that's happened. But usually it's the person who brings the idea to the table.
Martin: Usually it works more naturally if that happens.
James: Yeah, it feels better.

house in the sand: Ok, let's travel back in time: do you still remember your first official gig as Martin and James?
Martin: I think the first gig I remember doing as the two of us was a gig in Glasgow: we had a record company who had arranged to come and see us at a show.
Our drummer and bass player went out the night before and got drunk. The drummer slammed the bass player's hand in a door and broke his finger so he couldn't play.
He called us up on the morning of the concert and said 'look guys, we can't play'.
James: It was the most important concert at that time in our lives.
Martin: We decided to go and do the concert any way. Just the two of us with acoustic guitars and singing.
We went to a bar before the show and we were very nervous because we had no band to hide behind. So we had some beers and said 'ok, let's go! Let's do it!!!' 
James: It was very Rock'n'Roll actually. We had to go and just not care about anyone in the audience and not care about how we sounded. And it worked out in our best interest.
Martin: We found we enjoyed it.
James: And also the record company gave us some money then to go and make more demos. It worked for everybody that time.
house in the sand: Good he got his finger broken!
James: Yeah, very good!

house in the sand: As house in the sand is a music blog: what have you been listening to lately? Anything you'd like to share?
James: We're big fans of Glen Hansard and it was such an honour to support him in Berlin.
Family Of The Year was our last record, that's a good record. Also The Lumineers.
Martin: I was at a festival last weekend and watched Gaslight Anthem live. I've heard the record and thought it's good but when I heard them live it was really good.
house in the sand: Alright - one last thing: how's your German going?
Martin: Ich lerne jetzt Deutsch. 
James: Ich gebe auch.

house in the sand: Thank you so much for taking time.
Martin and James: Thank you so much Vanessa.

Martin and James online:

I hope you enjoyed this post! : )


  1. No comments here? It's a shame! Thumb up ;)


Let me know what you think! :)