It’s been five years since Jarryd James’ life was transformed by his monster track ‘Do You Remember’ and his debut album. But this humble, unassuming soul from Brisbane hasn’t let that change his process.
Jarryd was working as a social worker in Brisbane before the runaway success of ‘Do You Remember’ changed the course of his life forever. To date, he’s had more than 330-million streams, an ARIA top 5 album and two platinum-selling singles (‘Do You Remember’ and ‘Give Me Something’) along with collecting an ARIA Award in 2015.
Jarryd then embarked on a national US tour, performed at Lollapalooza and Bonaroo as well as headline and festival performances through France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Sweden, and Denmark. Jarryd also supported Two Door Cinema Club and Jack Garrett, along with touring locally in Australia with Meg Mac.
“It’s a weird thing,” he admits, “because before you get to make music full-time you think it’s all smooth sailing once you get to that point. But it’s not the case for everyone. I have this odd mix of feeling overwhelmed and then super grateful that I even get to do it in the first place. I don’t think that will ever change.”
He’s still in search of songwriting perfection – even if that means shutting himself off from the world until he’s conjured a particular vibe.
“There’s definitely an element of loneliness to it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he explains. “When I’m feeling a particular way I like to listen to music that’s more on the melancholic side. That’s where my sound sits. In a weird way it can be really healing – just feeling like someone is commiserating with you.”
Second album P.M. is the next step in Jarryd’s evolution. It’s an album of deeply seductive R&B numbers, written at nighttime when he can eliminate all distractions and let music consume him completely. “Creatively, I always work better when the sun is down,” he says. “It’s more peaceful and I can hone in on what I do better.”
P.M. took shape over 18 months in studios in Los Angeles, Nicaragua, Brisbane, Auckland and New York. To help articulate the sounds that were keeping him awake at night, Jarryd handpicked a list of producers including Clams Casino (A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples, Lana Del Rey) , Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow, Malay Ho (Frank Ocean, John Legend, Alicia Keys) and Joel Little (who produced Jarryd’s first track ‘Do You Remember” along with Lorde, Tove Lo, K Flay).
Throughout the process, Jarryd worked in a stream of consciousness fashion, “spewing out ideas” until they coalesced into something resembling a song. “Anytime I’ve tried to write something creative and cool consciously, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “I’ve learnt my process is to not think about it too much, and let the mood and vibe inform it; to relax into the music.”
At the start of the writing process for P.M., Jarryd took himself even further outside his comfort zone, heading deep into the Nicaraguan jungle working with the likes of Broods, Joel Little, and Grammy award winning Australian producer M-Phazes.
Opening track ‘Miracles’ – a “song about the songwriting process” – was an idea that came out of the Nicaraguan sessions. “It’s commentary on trying to make music and failing, sometimes I feel like I’ve written everything I can write and just need to find something extraordinary to do it again. I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t finish songs, while it seemed that everyone around me was churning them out.”
While it was written at the beginning, it wasn’t finished until the end and was the last song from the album completed with Joel Little in his Auckland home studio. “Joel is one of the best people I know,” says Jarryd. “He’s such a deeply musical guy but in a low-key way. He’s at the top of his game.”
The minimal beats and heavily effected vocals of ‘Let It Go’ were inspired by the blurring of time and feelings of disorientation Jarryd experienced while in the jungle. “Four in the morning, daylight crawl in,” he sings, as the track warps around him like a vinyl record left out in the sun. “How did we get like that?” “It’s about the weekend; about Friday nights and Saturday mornings,” he explains. “That was the environment we were in on that trip. It was getting up and making music all day and getting back into the pina coladas at night.”
‘Problems’ was recorded in a New York studio with both Malay and Clams Casino at the helm. Although the idea started a little closer to home, on a phone call back to Jarryd’s sister in Australia. “We were just catching up as I walked to the studio, feeling pretty disconnected and lonely, and I hear this kid playing the same thing over and over behind her. She’s a teacher, so she walked out of the classroom and I recorded it and started the day with that as inspiration.” The intricate beat that underpins the track was played live by Jarryd on a drumkit, with Clams Casino working his magic later on. The track’s propulsive energy matches the themes of urgency in the chorus. “We’re running out of time,” Jarryd sings, “and we’re not going to get it back.”
‘I do’ was also created with Clams, with the opening of the track again inspired by a phone recording Jarryd made on the New York subway of a busker playing an erhu to passers by. “This dude was playing for himself, not caring who was listening as everyone walked by, so I just pulled out my phone and recorded a voice memo as it really struck me”.
‘Different Language’ took shape in Jarryd’s loungeroom, with Josh Fountain (BENEE) finishing the track in his Auckland studio. Lush and evocative, it points to Jarryd’s ambitions as a producer. ““I’m constantly learning and practicing in the hope of some day becoming self-sufficient in the studio” he quips.
‘Don’t Forget’ is Jarryd’s first collaboration with Andrew Wyatt, best known for his work in Swedish electro-pop outfit Miike Snow. Meeting through mutual friends, the pair instantly connected, crafting a shape-shifting evocative track that moves through several moods across four minutes. “Andrew is old-school, verging on being from a different era altogether,” he says.
The record closes out with ‘Overdue’, a group effort that encapsulates everything Jarryd loves about making music. Those woozy first bars are the product of a happy accident with Malay in New York, with 20-year-old Wisconsin rapper Trapo bringing the track to its thrilling conclusion over beats by Toronto Producer FrancisGotHeat (Drake, Travis Scott). “It’s about my bittersweet relationship with Los Angeles,” says Jarryd. “I’ve hated being there at times, living in a hotel room during the day with no-one to talk to but the bar staff, but then working with incredible producers and understanding that’s where I found I myself as it’s where I had to be .”