Piers James is the definition of an artist to his core, without meaning behind it what’s the point of the music?
For Piers James, music is about how you feel. His emotions are the main driver of his sound, resulting in a catalogue that candidly depicts his contemplative nature. As a listener, you’re initially drawn into James’ blend of hip-hop, jazz and R&B improvisations, yet are compelled to stay by his honest and reflective lyricism. Refusing to be siloed into a genre, the Ipswich-born rapper, singer and storyteller is using this year as a chance to tell the world his story.
I catch up with Piers via video-call, and he answers with a smile on his face, chilling on a garden swing. His energy shines through, with a body language that is self-assuring. When recounting his musical journey, he informs me that his calm spirit came with age; he wasn’t like this growing up. “Not being from London was hard. I was desperate to be like Wiley and Skepta. I’d be watching their videos, copying their flows”. After receiving tapes and CDs from his cousin, Piers started rapping and producing, trying to replicate the sound coming from the Capital. But this mimicry was unfulfilling, “I taught myself what all these other rappers could do. It got to a point where it didn’t mean anything. I would ask myself: what’s this supposed to feel like?”
Piers’ motivations for music shifted after being introduced to the likes of Pharrell, Ryan Leslie and Wu-Tang Clan. “After hearing artists like that, I realised that music doesn’t have to be about being at the top. It should be about your own personal perspective and connecting on a different level”. This moment of realisation led Piers to pick up the piano, an instrument he hadn’t played since he was a child, and build his craft.
When listening to Piers’ track ‘Garden of Eden’, it’s clear that music acts as a method of meditation. The guitar cadences touch on the psychedelic backing vocals, as Piers’ solemnly admits his faults, understanding that he still has room to grow, “I know I mess up sometimes / Play life on gambles with bad luck / But I’m still growing up, I’m still learning stuff, I’m not perfect love”. In this song, ‘The Garden of Eden’ acts as a metaphor for life, where we are faced with temptation at every corner. In spite of this, Piers accepts the fact that he is going to make mistakes, “but what’s important is that you learn from these lessons, that’s how you grow in life”.
I ask Piers to describe his sound, and he repeats the question back, contemplating on how to perfectly summarise a sound that, in its essence, cannot be defined. He looks up into the phone screen and says bluntly, “it’s timeless, man”. It’s important for Piers to have a sound that people can relate to at every walk of life. He wants his listeners to finish his songs with a sense of clarity and “an understanding that, as humans, we are normal people. It’s about letting go and being yourself. You don’t have to fit into the mould or be pigeonholed.”
It’s clear that Piers feels troubled by the fact that he is probably one of the few artists in the UK more focused on the message he is putting out than mainstream success. “As I move forward in life, I’m seeing a lot less of the stuff that inspired me growing up”. We talk about artists like Drake, whose recent release ‘Toosie Slide’ marks a change in the industry: musicians right now are pressed on creating songs that can become TikTok dances, desperate for virality. Piers angrily shakes his head as he exclaims, “Where’s the realness of music, the authenticity of it? People are so focused on the numbers, and trying to jump on a trend, because that’s what’s going to make you popular nowadays.”
This issue surrounding the message behind one’s music became more pertinent to Piers after his son was born. Having a child in his early twenties forced him to make a hard decision in his career, “I wanted to stick with music, but I also wanted to be the dad who was dedicated to supporting his son. At the time, to be the best parent, I had to sacrifice myself for my kid”. Ultimately, Piers found himself putting his music career on hold to raise his son. “I had to get a job in local recruitment, working 9-5 and going to the studio”. Piers did this for three years, spending his days in a job that he knew wasn’t for him. “I knew I wanted more for myself. I was destined to do more”. The popular sentiment surrounding career progression is that one must do what they can before they decide to finally settle down and start a family, which made Piers feel alone, “no one understood what it was like”.
With his son being six years old now, Piers has no regrets about his career journey. We see him with his son in the ‘Garden of Eden’ music video, “it was important for me to have him there. When I’m talking about growing up, and the troubles that come with it, I want him to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from them”. Piers is hellbent on letting his son know that he should follow his dreams and forge his own path. He wants his journey to inspire his son, “my music has the potential to create a beautiful message for him, that’s all I care about”.
Piers James’ new single ‘Can’t be my Girl’ is out now and you can listen to it here.