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J.J. CHAMBERLAIN

WE INTERVIEW J.J. CHAMBERLAIN, WHAT HAPPENED?

Hi JJ. What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

I decided pretty early on. 

I remember being in early years at primary school in Wakefield and certain pieces of music that they would play in assembly would hit me hard. I guess if you’re having strong emotional reactions to a teacher playing a piano, you should probably explore how it feels to play live music yourself. My parents brought me up to love Music, they laced it into everything that we did. 

Introduce us to you all and your musical history.

Well, it starts with my Dad’s band The Expanding Wallets, I was a touring baby as he went up and down the country. When we later moved to Spain, he was getting me up to play one-note solos with his band The Scandallis. I loved it, getting to stay up late and play in Spanish bars. I suppose if that happened now it would be a safeguarding concern but I’m super grateful to have had that musical start. 

What was life like for you before music?

Haha…it wasn’t. Apparently as a baby I’d only fall asleep to Chopin or Rickie Lee Jones. I couldn’t do silence. In terms of writing my own songs and performing, I suppose you could say there was always something missing. Even playing the violin in an orchestra didn’t quite feel right, but when I first got up on a stage with a guitar, everything just fit into place. 

What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?

Difficult question. It’d be really hard to pinpoint a single song, but I remember being a 7-year-old who was suddenly given free roam to his parent’s LP collection, and I came across A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles. My Dad had put all the Beatles and Stones LPs into chronological order so I could explore their entire back catalogue, but I got stuck on A Hard Day’s Night. I loved that record from start to finish. 

Where do you feel you currently sit within the music industry?

I’m very much a grassroots, DIY artist but the experience of having played in bands my whole adult life has been really rewarding. I’m playing Kendal Calling this summer with a new project and that is exciting, but it feels like I should have been doing shows of that size a long time ago. Lots of factors have gotten in the way, namely Covid. 

J.J. CHAMBERLAIN


What’s the biggest thing you have learned from someone else in the industry? 

Be yourself. I always thought being a musician meant putting on this big persona on gig days, which is rubbish. A friend of mine showed me first hand that being sincere and honest with audiences leads to a much warmer level of engagement. We do enough masking as humans, but there’s no point pretending to be some sort of rock star when your songs display all your vulnerabilities anyway. 

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.

I’ve recorded at Abbey Road, I speak Spanish and I’m related to disgraced formed PM Neville Chamberlain. 

If you could wish for one thing to aid your career, what would it be?

Just for people to continue to take notice of my music. It’s been an amazing turnaround moving from London back to Yorkshire and seeing how people still love guitar music here. In London it always felt like it was becoming more niche with the ever-increasing list of venue closures. I guess that’s what I would wish for, more grassroots music venues to open and for the government to take music as seriously as it takes other professions. 

Do you ever worry about people taking things the wrong way or cancel culture? Discuss….

Not really. I think you’d have to search pretty hard to find anything dodgy about my music/lyrics, or how I carry myself. Even if something did come up, I’d be the first to address it in reflection. I’m a progressive person, so I don’t really worry about being cancelled or misunderstood. 

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? If not why not?

What, like the fact that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by an imposter? Oh and Avril being replaced because she stopped spelling her song titles with numbers and mildly aged? It’s bonkers all that! What I would say in the defence of conspiracy theorists, is that critical thinking is so important and that’s what they’re practicing. You also have to mix it with a certain level of rationalisation. 

What was the worst experience on stage?

Urgh, one night in Camden’s Dingwalls I broke a string, changed it while the rest of my band played on, and then broke another string in the same set which meant I finished the gig with 5 strings, most of which kept slipping out of tune. It sounded like the musical equivalent of bin-juice. I also remember playing in a band at a punk venue and being heckled before a note was played, then watching the audience’s reaction as they realised that we were actually pretty good. 

Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about. 

Believe it or not, I’m not actually related to Neville Chamberlain. I suppose another thing would be to disclose that I’d never mixed live drums before this single came along. It was eye opening, but I think I’ve got it down to an art now. 

What are the next steps you plan to take as a band to reach the next level?

I’m hoping to tour and to continue writing catchy songs to share with the world. One thing that I need to do is get over to Atlanta, meet up with my friends MammaBear, Gas Hound and Tak and do some shows over there. That would be a dream. 

What are your thoughts on Elon Musk’s contribution to the world?

I’m not sure how I feel about answering that question, he might be watching. He’s omnipresent you know? Nah, I think with anyone that has that level of fame and fortune, they could always do more. He’s invested in solar energy, great, thanks for that, but buying Twitter so he can get away with making lightly (sometimes moderate) right-wing statements? We didn’t need him to do that. I’d love to see him give a load of money towards ending homelessness or fixing the US medical system. He’s got enough money to make a big difference. 

I hear you have a new single, what can you tell us about it.

Indeed! Eyeballs is the first single from my debut solo album and I’m really proud of how it’s sounding. Really happy with the response so far too, lots of reviews and a fairly good play count on it’s first week. Like a lot of my songs, the lyrics are deeply personal, and my influences are bursting through the composition. 

What was the recording process like?

I have to say, remarkably easy compared to some of the recording processes I’ve taken part in previously. It’s nice being your own engineer, and with this one I was in full flow, there wasn’t a point where I felt stuck. I knew how I wanted it to sound, and I stopped when I felt I’d achieved that. I’m an over-thinker and a bit of a perfectionist so it was a great feeling sitting back and saying “right, it’s done.” 

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?

I suppose learning when to take the pressure off yourself, or when to stop forcing a song to its completion. Songwriting should just flow, it shouldn’t take hours of deliberation. I want to write songs that feel natural and to do that I think you need to keep as much of the process as free as possible. 

Would you change anything now it’s finished?

Nope. Don’t tempt me! 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Just how grateful I am to everyone who has played the single so far. It’s a strange feeling putting a piece of yourself out into the world, especially if it’s personal content, but it’s so worthwhile when you see and hear people’s positive reactions to the song. I can’t wait to share more music with the world. I’ll be taking the album to the stage in May so look out for me! 

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