James Yorkston, folk musician based in the serene East Neuk of Fife, recently released the magically affecting and deeply personal Route to the Harmonium via Domino Records and is kicking off this album’s tour very soon, in fact today, with his first stop, Summerhall in Edinburgh. With a plethora of dates and venues, with guests Jon Thorne (of Yorkston, Thorne and Kahn) and Neill MacCool, James Yorkston spoke with The Fountain about the nervous and yet varied life of a musician.
TF: So you’re on tour super soon, which kicks off with Summerhall tonight and tomorrow at the Oran Mor in Glasgow, what can we expect from the tour, is it going to be The Route to the Harmonium in full like we saw with the C.R.A.W.S tour or something a little more mixed?
It’s going to be a mixture. I find when I go and see bands play it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s careers from start to finish and there are a lot of people like me, who only really have one or two albums by people so I try and do at least one song from each album but at the same time that’s almost impossible. So many albums. But I will be leaning heavily on The Route to the Harmonium of course. But there will be ten from The Route to the Harmonium and ten from the other records. Is that too many, what do you think?
TF: No, not at all. And what a richly beautiful album to come back with solo after years of collaborating with Kahn and Thorne, does it feel weird to be going back at it again solo?
It’s a strange thing because I inhabit a kind of no man’s land. I make a living and I feed my family and we’re okay. I got a house years ago from one of the albums, but then nobody really knows who I am. It’s a kind of no man’s land really and the album came out, and it got pretty amazing reviews all round, especially in mainland Europe. But it doesn’t really change my life at all. I go from being the guy who walks to school with the kids to being the guy who’s on stage singing the songs, and it is quite a strange juxtaposition changing from being one to the other. Basically I am really nervous.
TF: Personally I am looking forward to your gig in a library as I am a lover of books and bookhavens, but that’s just me but which gig are you most looking forward to?
Oh it sounds daft but I love doing the Scottish ones. The bigger ones like London I am really nervous about, the Reading one has incredible Ethiopian food place nearby, so I am very excited about that. Summerhall and Oran Mor are venues I’ve played loads, it’s easier playing in Scotland than it is down south. It’s tricky, Manchester is sold out so you have to suspect that one’s going to be good. It’s a funny thing. I am just going to do my best to be as good as we can as a trio at every single gig. I am hoping it is going to be perfect, every minute of the tour, but I am sure it won’t be. I am sure we will have gigs where the sound’s bad, I am sure we will have gigs where we are a bit tired. The library gig, I have no idea what that is going to be like, I have no idea if I am going to be amplified, if I am going to be told to be quiet. It’s exciting as a performer playing a new space, and that feeling of what is it going to be like. It’s one of the positives of being a musician is that everyday can be a little different. I am looking forward to the library one but it is also a wee bit spooky as I don’t really know what it’s going to be like at all.
TF: And well, Johnstone Library is apt with your history of writing, the most recent being Three Craws, is there another you might be working on at present, can we look forward to more prose from you? The lyrical and reflective elements of Harmonium is certainly indicative there might be.
Yeah, there’s currently two offers on the next book and my agent is discussing options. I have an agent in London and she is very good, and a couple of offers have come in for a book called The High and Lonesome Blues of Tommy the Bruce and we are just waiting to see what is going to happen next. I just get on with it, and with leave it with other people to see what they can do. I mean it’s so far away from Cellardyke, it’s hard enough to do the music with being here, and trying to be in some kind of music industry when it gets to this side of the promo. I do the music without thinking about the promotion or whether it gets to single, without any of that stuff, I don’t give it any thought whatsoever, and when I hand it over to Domino I have to start thinking about that. Aye, we are very far away up here, it’s good, it makes the music more special but it makes the promo trickier.
TF: And what are your plans for the summer, are you at many festivals this year that you are able to reveal?
We are doing a few, we are doing Green Man, we are doing Port Eliot Festival, but I am going to be going over to Ireland over in the Autumn, and back over to Germany (I was already in Germany earlier this year) and I might be going back over to Sweden (I have been recording with some people over there) and then the next Yorkston Thorne and Kahn album is coming out in January. So there is always stuff to do. And then there is this great big thing I can’t tell you about, which is totally under wraps, which may be taking up a lot of my time, if not all of my time from when I get back from my tour through to September/October time so that’s very exciting. There is loads of stuff to do.
James Yorkston’s album The Route to the Harmonium is out now, via Domino Records.
He is performing at Summerhall, Edinburgh, 2nd May, Oran Mor, Glasgow, 3rd May, Johnstone Library, Johnstone, 22nd May, Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine, 23rd May and Tolbooth, Stirling, 24th May