There can be few as hardworking or determined as Kiwi singer-songwriter Mitch James, whose journey has taken him from busking and sleeping rough to topping charts with his infectious blend of acoustic pop.
In early 2016 James was doing the hard yards in Europe. He struggled to get gigs and slept on the street when he couldn‚Äôt afford a bed. Less than¬†12 months later, he‚Äôd signed a record deal with a major label, released two smash hits and headlined his first New Zealand tour.
James released his first song ‚ÄòNo Fixed Abode‚Äô which hit #1 on Spotify‚Äôs Viral Chart, and has racked up more than five million streams since. In December 2016, he followed it up with his official debut ‚ÄòMove On‚Äô, produced by Sam de Jong, which achieved #1 NZ airplay and #2 in the Spotify Viral Chart. It‚Äôs since had more than 2 million streams on Spotify, with the video clocking six figure views on YouTube.
On the surface, James‚Äô rise through the ranks in the highly competitive world of pop appears to have been at lightning pace. But dig deeper and you‚Äôll find a compelling and inspirational tale that stretches back to his early teens, and explains just why he‚Äôs now being touted as one of Kiwi music‚Äôs next big success stories.
‚ÄúIn my early years at high school, I didn‚Äôt have a lot of mates, so I‚Äôd lock myself away in the music centre. I‚Äôd grab a guitar, go to a practice room and pull up videos on YouTube and teach myself to play,‚Äù James says.
Influenced back then by the likes of Ben Harper and Jack¬†Johnson, James worked hard on his craft. In his words, it¬†‚Äúkept me out of detention and gave me something positive to focus on‚Äù.¬†By Year 12, he‚Äôd realised that he had a talent that could lead to something more. ‚ÄúI started taking my songwriting seriously and my own brand of music began to evolve,‚Äù he explains.
James cleaned cars to save enough for a one-way ticket to London and headed off to chase his dream – having never before played a live gig! After three years of hard graft and struggling to make ends meet in the UK and Europe, James‚Äô big break came when someone at Sony¬†Music¬†back in New Zealand spotted a video he‚Äôd uploaded to Facebook.
Charismatic, cheeky and full of life, James perks up a room when he walks into it. He‚Äôs refreshingly open and honest. And he goes about his music in much the same fashion. His songs are personal; he writes from the heart and delivers with heart.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre all 100% real – real stories and real experiences. I think people have a¬†sixth¬†sense if you‚Äôre writing about something that‚Äôs fake. I wrote ‚ÄòNo Fixed Abode‚Äô about Europe. When I wrote ‚ÄòMove On‚Äô, that‚Äôs what I was going through at the time,‚Äù he explains.
A prolific songwriter, in July 2017 James released four tracks¬†in four weeks¬†‚ÄòWon’t Bother Me‚Äô, ‚ÄòSaving time‚Äô, ‚ÄòLucid‚Äô and ‚ÄòAll The Ways To Say Goodbye‚Äô (co-written with Grammy Award winning US writer Emily Warren).
James, who now bases himself in Auckland, also possesses the remarkable ability to stand alone on a stage with just his trusted acoustic guitar and a loop pedal, captivating a sea of faces.¬†And that‚Äôs exactly what he‚Äôs done at some of the biggest summer festivals in New Zealand, including Rhythm & Vines and Bay Dreams, as well as his 2017 ‚ÄòHumble Roadie Tour‚Äô that saw him pack out venues the length and breadth of the country.
The 22-year-old stares down his biggest challenge yet, as he readies himself to take on the world with his guitar and a swag of songs that lay the foundations for a long and exciting road ahead.
Now, the focus is on the debut album, executive produced by Six60 and due mid 2018.