You may recognize him by his raspy, blues-infused voice, or perhaps by his signature hat; either way, if you haven’t been obsessing over singer/songwriter James Bay, it’s about time you do so. With big hits like “Let it Go,” and “Hold Back the River,” there’s no doubt that Bay is going to be a huge star. Check out these 10 facts about the artist to learn a little more about him.
10. It’s been a crazy couple of years for the new artist. In 2013, he went on tour with pop rock singer ZZ Ward and later accompanied Hozier on his American tour. His first EP, The Dark of the Morning, was released two years ago and he has since released two more. Not to mention that famous fashion designer Christopher Bailey asked him personally to perform at the Burberry fashion show at London Fashion Week. Oh, and he opened for The Rolling Stones. No big deal…
9. One of his favorite moments while performing is quite the romantic story. While on stage playing his single “If You Ever Wanna Be In Love,” Bay saw a man get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend, who said yes! He turned to his band-mates to confirm what he thought he had seen. Sure enough, he witnessed a marriage proposal at one of his own shows. Everyone started cheering and Bay said it was amazing.
8. Bay was the recipient of the BRIT’s 2015 Critics’ Choice Award, Great Britain’s equivalent of the U.S. Grammy’s. He became the eighth winner of the award, following big names like Adele, Sam Smith and Florence + the Machine. Although he was pretty speechless, was it really all that surprising? In the past two years his fan base has grown exponentially not only in the U.K., but in America as well, selling out his headlining tours in a matter of hours. And despite tons of pressure that the award, Bay commented that the pressure “is part of the energy.” Expect many more awards from this guy!
7. His singing voice may not indicate it, but Bay was born and raised in Hitchin, Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom. His dad is a wine merchant and his mother is a former fashion illustrator. He was eleven years old when he truly became interested in making music, and picked up his first guitar out of a closet where it had been hidden away. It was an old, Spanish-style guitar with only five strings instead of six, but Bay made the best of it. He bought a CD in the attempt to teach himself the instrument but later turned to the Internet and YouTube after discovering how boring instructional classes were for him.
6. When he was 18, he left home to go to school in Brighton at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. He said his decision was influenced by the fact that his girlfriend, Lucy, already attended school in the city and by a picture that caught his attention from their website. Bay ended up learning much more from playing gigs at local bars and open mic nights than he did in a classroom. When asked why he didn’t choose to attend school in or move to London, Bay replied that London wasn’t conducive to his lifestyle as a poor 19-year-old who couldn’t afford to spent much on public transportation or rent. He also said that Brighton was a great “warm-up” to London.
5. One of the most powerful tracks on his debut album, “Scars,” has a great meaning behind it. He wrote most of it when his girlfriend moved away to attend school after they had been dating for four years. He took advice from other songwriters he knew who told him to be honest with himself and tell the truth. He was able to complete the song only when his girlfriend returned nearly a year later. Another famous track, “Hold Back the River,” was written after he returned from playing music on different tours around the world. He realized he was losing special relationships with people in his life and wrote the song about his urge to reconnect with those people.
4. His signature Panama hat and long locks are relatively new investments, but the artist doesn’t think they’re going anywhere for a while. While living in Brighton, he stopped by a hat shop called Mad Hatters. Perhaps subconsciously, Bay admits, he was influenced by past legends Eric Bibb, Bob Dylan and Robbie Robertson who wore similar styles in their own performances. Currently, he chooses between one of three wide-brimmed hats, but is interested in buying more. However, he doesn’t plan on keeping it on forever. He says he may even consider shaving his head. He commented in an interview with theguardian, “I hope to have a long career and I don’t want to be defined by things that aren’t the music.”
3. His debut album, Chaos and the Calm, hit number one on the Irish, Swiss and UK charts after selling over 64,000 copies within it’s first week of release. It also peaked at number 15 on the Billboard 200 and number 2 on Billboard’s Folk Albums chart. Since then, it has become the best selling debut album of 2015 in England, garnering over 350,000 sales. And although most of those have come from his home country, his American followers aren’t lacking. He began his North American tour last spring and has continued playing worldwide since, selling out multiple London venues to thousands of people. Plus, the 25-year-old singer accompanied Taylor Swift on some of the North American locations of her 1989 tour this year.
2. Bay’s story of discovery is one you would think could only occur in the movies. While performing a set at a local Brighton pub, Abbey Tavern, a patron filmed two of his songs, one being his original “Move Together,” featured on his album, and uploaded them to YouTube. Later, Universal Republic record label discovered his unique voice and signed him almost immediately. He reflected in an interview, “I think back through that journey: me, in the window of a dark pub, London buses going past behind me, that going up on YouTube; Then, f**k, I’m in New York City!”
1. It was recently announced that James received not one, not two, but three Grammy nominations after the release of his debut album. He is competing against Meghan Trainer, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly and Courtney Barnett for Best New Artist (wow, such a tough category). He also picked up nominations for Best Rock Album for Chaos and the Calm and Best Rock Song for “Hold Back the River.” The singer took to Twitter to reveal his excitement, tweeting: “THREE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS. THREE!!!” The 58th Annual Grammy Awards will air on February 15, 2016, and you can expect Bay to fair well.