- 25 Feb 21
Ex-Gypsies On The Autobahn man James Smith is making waves again with his YURN and J. Smith projects. Photo: Antony O'Connor
You’re releasing music under two different names at the moment: YURN and J Smith. Is it important for you to keep them separate?
The two projects are quite different, not only sonically but in the whole approach. For J Smith, I want to be honest and open with no bells or whistles. YURN, however, is experimental, rigid, meticulous and controlled. It’s the alias I use when producing for others and epitomises my production style, especially with electronic music. There is some spillover, as they’re both still my musical expressions, but they’re packaged differently.
How would you describe the process for each project, and what do you see them evolving into?
When writing as J Smith, I start on guitar or piano, and it’s more akin to the music people may have come to know me for. It takes influence from the likes of Nick Drake, Julia Jacklin and Sun Kil Moon. Some of my electronic influences from bands like Radiohead can also be heard.
I strive to be vulnerable and reflective when writing – I want someone to learn something about me when they hear a song, and hopefully something about themselves. I grew up alongside some amazing songwriters, touring with Little Green Cars, having coffee around Brian Mooney’s honky piano, or hearing folk songs that could move a congregation.
When I write as YURN, I’m usually on a laptop, playing with textures and beats. So much of your personality can get lost if you write like this, and it boils down to simple expression, or the luck of a wrong Apple command or mouse click. It can be a fast process or meditative, but I still like bringing in acoustic elements I’ve grown up with.
Your debut single as J Smith, ‘I’m Sorry’, deals with heartbreak but was written for a friend. Was there a particular challenge in writing from someone else’s experience?
So much of people’s experiences are universal, it’s only the particulars that differ. So when I went to write this song, I knew how my friend felt but not everything they were going through. This, at the very least, helped me understand a little deeper, and let them know I was alongside them. I remember hearing something very poignant, which is that there is nothing we can really say to help someone in moments like these, but simply to feel our hushed breath on their shoulder is the most we can give.
Listen to 'I'm Sorry' below.