Having been on the scene a few years now, New Zealand musician Mitch James has made a habit of honesty in his music. Whether it comes from the real-life experiences he places into his lyrics, or the raw emotion that he chooses not to dilute when it comes to the writing process, he’s arguably one of the most genuine musicians on the scene today.

With Mitch James set to release his debut album later this month, and a few Aussie concert dates booked in for next month with Conrad Sewell, we sat down with Mitch for a chat about honesty in music, realising your dreams, and his humble beginnings.

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While Mitch James has been making music for many years now, it was in the last year that his profile well and truly rose in his native New Zealand, having been thrust into the limelight after being handpicked by Ed Sheeran to open his New Zealand shows – something which he had dreamed of for some time.

“I’ve got a little visualisation folder on my computer,” he begins. “It’s got stadiums, plaques, a nice little house in Queenstown. Just sort of what I want to achieve basically. And I’ve got some things that I’ve already achieved that I’d previously visualised in there to try and manifest more of that stuff.”

“It was just insanity because I’d always looked up to Ed, not only as a musician but as a human. So, it was amazing to just always – I’d visualised that and that Ed thing in particular for so, so long. And for it to just come and be in front of me, not once but three times, was just incredible.”

Having first come to prominence with his music through busking – much like Ed Sheeran – Mitch James spent a period of time couch surfing, playing music, and learning life lessons about overcoming life’s struggles the hard way – something which is reflected within his music.

“When I was in London and shit was going horrible, the main thing that got me through was just perseverance and resilience,” he explains. “I had a goal in mind and nothing was ever going to stop me from getting to it, no matter whether it was sleeping on the street or being rejected by industry people or whatever. It was always just the power of the mind is so under estimated that I knew that I just kept at it through all the bullshit in between, that it would eventually happen.”

“It took a bit longer than I hoped but I’m still young, so I’m so grateful to be in the position where everything is looking up and I am signed, and people are listening and taking it seriously.”

“I always try and write about real shit. For example, no song ‘No Fixed Abode’ is about having no fixed abode. So, it’s all just – I think people have a sixth sense for real-ness and passion in music.”

“I wouldn’t say necessarily that my lyrics are – you can tell that they’re more passionate than someone else’s, but I feel like people can just use that sixth sense to feel that I want this so bad and I want to share my experiences with people that might have gone through something similar.”

“I always just try and use what got me through those shit times and those qualities. I try and put them subconsciously into my music and then if it shines through, that’s amazing and I’m glad that it potentially is.”

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Despite writing from a personal place in many of his songs though, Mitch James explains that being so open and vulnerable in his music isn’t anywhere near as difficult as you would think, rather, it’s quite the opposite.

“I don’t know about Australia but definitely in New Zealand, there’s this thing about being a man where people feel like they have to be so macho and, ‘Oh, I don’t get emotional…’ and shit like that,” he explains.

“Especially as an artist. If you’re not being vulnerable, there’s nothing really to give to people. So, I’ve never found it difficult and I’ve never really – well, I mean, maybe as a teenager, there’s moments where you feel like you have to be like everyone else, but it’s always sort of – vulnerability has always been crucial with my music and any music that I’ve liked really. Bar Oasis.”

“I find it’s so important to just – and when I’m in a regular conversation, I’m just a happy go lucky guy. But people in my team are always like, ‘Where the fuck do those lyrics come from?'”

“It’s so cliché but it’s sort of like my therapy for myself. When I was over in Europe and going through all that shit, I had no one else to verbally diarrhoea all my shit onto apart from myself. So, I’d just internally deal with it. I’m very good at internally dealing with shit but then my music is where I let it out.”

“It’s a really rewarding process for me to spill it all out onto paper and the studio and onto vinyl or whatever. It’s definitely my number one, just being honest, being real, being genuine. And I think that’s why people are reacting to my music positively because it’s quite – I mean, it’s not very normal I guess for a young dude to be vulnerable which is a fucking crying shame in my eyes.”

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While the last few years have seen a rise in the number of artists opening up about mental health issues, and not fearing the stigma that is sadly still attached to discussing such issues, Mitch James feels that this is one of the most necessary conversations at the present time.

I’m so glad that [a dialogue has opened up] has because it’s just – fuck, it’s just bullshit,” he explains. “I don’t know about Australia but in New Zealand… I think we’ve got one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world. And I would imagine a lot of that is because people, they don’t know how to deal with their emotions because all the male role models in their life are just going, ‘Oooh, sport.'”

“I’ve had my mental health issues in the past as well. There’s no shame about fucking coming clean about it.”

“I was talking to a friend in Melbourne. I caught up with him on Monday about the exact same thing. He was just open about it. I was like, ‘Bro, I’ve been there.’ So, it is really cool. I mean, I hope that I can be a champion of sorts for some people to just be like, ‘Fucking just be honest.’

Mitch James’ self-titled debut is out on September 14th. Pre-order it here, and catch him on tour with Conrad Swell next month.

Check out Mitch James’ ‘Lucid’:

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Conrad Sewell ‘Come Clean’ Australian Tour

With Special Guest Mitch James

Thursday, September 6th
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, NSW (18+)
Tickets: Moshtix | Ph: 1300 438 849

Friday, September 7th
Howler, Melbourne, VIC (18+)
Tickets: Moshtix | Ph: 1300 438 849

Saturday, September 8th 
Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane, QLD (18+)
Tickets: Moshtix | Ph: 1300 438 849

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