For many artists, collaboration is a big part of the creative process. But for James Hersey, it has played a particularly significant role in shaping his career and helping him find his sound. After a remix of his breakout single “Coming Over” surfaced in 2014, Hersey has been rubbing shoulders with all the right people. Through collaborations with Kygo, Dillon Francis and filous (who is responsible for the aforementioned remix), Hersey has made a name for himself in electronic circles with his uniquely delicate voice and honest lyricism.
While he’s still a songwriter at heart, Hersey has found himself a new outlook on music. With his latest single, “Miss You,” he has fully embraced his electronic-pop sound, combining gentle melodies with plinking synths and light guitar work—an element which has become fundamental to his sound. Co-produced by Will Hicks and mixed by Stephen Fitzmaurice (Sam Smith, Disclosure, The Kooks), it is pop songwriting at its finest. However, despite its upbeat tempo, the song is far from uplifting.
Like so many chart-topping hits these days, “Miss You” was written on a whim following a moment of vulnerability. The product of two “sleepless nights” and a hastily-planned trip to England, it reads like a heartfelt confession to a long-distance lover: “Show me/ What a difference you make/ What a word that you say now could mean when it’s over, and it comes time for change.” While he’s reluctant to say who exactly these lyrics refer to, he tells us she’s a “very special girl.” And given the single’s initial success, we’d say she’s very special, indeed.
On the back of his recent mini-tour through Europe with fellow electronic-pop darlings, HONNE, we caught up with Hersey to discuss his plans for the future and talk collaboration. While we were at it, we asked Hersey for some travel advice the next time we visit his hometown, Vienna. Find his travel tips and more in our full conversation below.
IC: Vienna isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of independent music. What is the music scene like in your home city?
JH: Incredibly, Vienna has had a strong surge of interesting music in the last few years. SOHN, Bilderbuch, Camo & Krooked, Left Boy, Wanda, filous… It’s getting better, and there are an unreal amount of jam sessions happening in town right now, so hopefully it doesn’t stop!
IC: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
IC: What are three things everyone visiting Vienna should do or see?
– Go join or watch a jam session
– Walk around downtown with a drink and take a seat in the parks for excellent people-watching
– If it’s summer, grab a friend and rent a paddle boat on the Alte Donau
IC: You’re currently touring through Europe with HONNE. How has the tour been treating you so far?
JH: It’s been great. HONNE are so sweet, and their audience completely get where I come from musically. Can’t wait to go back to those cities next year.
JH: I’ve been running my own project for years now, and turned down a lot of offers before signing with Glassnote. They are one of the only record companies that is truly close to their artists, and allows them to be absolutely free creatively.
IC: What can you tell us about the music video for “Miss You”?
JH: It’s about the tensions of long-distance love. Having someone you love become absolutely intangible for weeks on end can be heart-wrenching. Apart from that, I had a lot of fun co-editing the video and adding my own flavour of effects to the final product.
IC: Is the girl on the album artwork for “Miss You” the same one that’s featured in the video?
JH: Nope, but she is a very special girl. The story behind the “Miss You” artwork will be revealed with the Pages EP release next year!
IC: In the past, you’ve collaborated with names like Dillon Francis, Kygo and filous. Do you have any other collaborations in-store?
JH: There will definitely be some sweet collaborations in 2017, but I can’t yet reveal with whom.
IC: How did your collaboration with Kygo and Dillon Francis come about?
JH: Kygo hit me up after seeing my “Coming Over” rooftop video, and I sent him stems for the version I recorded earlier last year. He and Dillon went to the studio a few days later and there was an epic hook on his Snapchat with my vocal on it. We came to a fair agreement and it was the first Billboard Number 1 for all of us.
IC: Do you have an album in the works? If so, what can we expect from it?
JH: Yes, absolutely. First I’ll be putting out the Pages EP spring of next year, and I’m writing now for the album to come after that. It’s going to be a lot of mixed influences. No holds barred, so expect acoustic guitars on hip-hop beats, gentle vocals on electronic landscapes, and of course a lot of honest lyrics from my life.
IC: Lastly, what are you most looking forward to in the new year?
JH: Definitely releasing my first worldwide EP with Glassnote! Everyone who’s heard the songs so far is in love with it, so I can’t wait to release it to the world.