- 29 May 19
As he prepares to support to Kodaline at their St.Annes Park concerts on May 31 and June 1, Morrison opens up to Michael Kealy about a tumultuous year in his personal life and his love for Ireland.
Everything threatened to collapse around James Morrison as he worked on the follow-up to 2015’s Higher Than Here. His relationship with long-time partner Gill hit tough times and he began to lose his natural songwriting instinct. So it comes as no surprise his new soul album is an impassioned, deeply personal affair
“Gill had left me on my own with the kid for a week and I didn’t think she was going to come back,” reflects Morrison over lunch at Dublin’s Gibson Hotel. “We’ve been together a long time. When it gets hard it gets really hard, especially when you’ve lost a couple of babies. Everything was really shit for ages.”
Even as he was in the pits of despair, the singer’s previous label was pushing him to write uplifting music. But he never completely gave up hope. Signed to a new label, Stanley Park Records, he began composing music from the heart again. As he emerged from the long dark night of the soul, Morrison realised he had some of the strongest material of his career in the form of You're Stronger Than You Know.
“I’m excited about the sound of this record,” he enthuses. “There’s a few songs on there that are the best I’ve ever written. You’re Stronger Than You Know has got an attitude about it I wish I had on my previous albums. It’s much less pop, much more soul than any of my other records.”
During the recording, Morrison called on old friend Joss Stone for lead single ‘My Love Goes On’. Their connection goes back to 2007 when she presented him with the BRIT Award for Best Male Solo Artist.
“She’s a legend,” says Morrison fondly. “I really liked the idea of us coming back together after all these years. I actually didn’t think of the song as a duet straight away, until someone suggested it would be cool if we worked it as a call and response kind of thing. I got lucky – she really understood it and sang it as if it was her own song. In my opinion, she deserves credit for being one of Britain’s greatest ever soul singers.”
That song is a rare upbeat moment on an album simmering with darkness.
“One of my favourite songs off the album is ‘I Still Need You’ which I wrote in 10 minutes,” says Morrison. “It’s about when Gill left.”
Family is a consistent theme on the record. Closing ballad ‘Until The Stars Go Out’ was written after discovering his daughter was being bullied at school and ‘So Beautiful’, written with Gary Barlow, is another track about Gill.
Morrison played a well-received Dublin date in the Olympia recently, and his love of Ireland is obvious.
“I wish I was Irish,” he gushes. “I love the depth of character the Irish have. People who have been through a lot of shit always have soul, and that’s why the music is so good here. I love Hozier, he’s cleaning up right now. In a way, Dublin reminds me of Nashville; there’s musicians everywhere. People here have such a love for the arts and great music.”
You’re Stronger Than You Know is out now. Morrison plays support to Kodaline at their St.Annes Park concerts, May 31 and June 1.