I didn’t expect Gavin James to be so funny.
I first heard his music only a few weeks before our interview, a brief chat done to promote his performance at American Express: Unstaged, a bombastic showcase held at the El Rey Theater. His songs are direct and genuine to a fault. He’s presented in music videos as a stoic, romantic everyman, a melancholy lothario. So I was surprised to find him so loose and upbeat when I sat down with him at the swanky Carondolet House in L.A.’s Koreatown. He bounded around the room both before and after our interview with an infectious energy that sucked in everyone in its path.
A big part of your story is that you got your start playing in pubs. How do you keep these bigger shows intimate?
I try my best. It’s really hard to do it. My shows are fine.
Back in Holland and Ireland I try to keep it super intimate. Probably the biggest show I’ve done has been at the Olympia Theater in Dublin, which is like 1800 [capacity]. That’s probably the most you can do and keep it intimate. I would be able to do anything more than that and keep it intimate.
Cause even doing support gigs over here on the Sam Smith tour, I was trying my best to not just be like CLEVELAAAND.
I try to tell a few jokes or something, but it’s really tough. It took me like two or three gigs to get the gist of it.
One time I saw Drake perform, and he flew through the audience pointing at people and thanking them. It was like, 20 minutes.
20 minutes of flying?
It got so uncomfortable. It was like ‘why is he still doing this?’
What’s he flying around for?
I guess if you’re Drake that’s what you do.
You can do whatever you want.
I was at Capitol Congress a couple weeks ago, and everyone there was pumped about you. That’s actually how I heard about you. How does it feel to have all this backing and newfound support?
It’s great. I love it. Everyone over here has been really really cool and really nice.
Does it ever freak you out?
Nah. Not really. I don’t really stress about too many things. I never really stress too much about anything.
What I’ve been doing has just been really, really slow rise. From starting in pubs and getting signed to an independent label when I was 21.
Do you live here now?
No I still live in Dublin.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re in town?
I don’t know. Most of the time I’m here somebody I know is here.
I haven’t been here too much, but when I am I go to In-N-Out Burger. Gotta get In-N-Out Burger. Amazing.
If I’m in the city I try to go to open mic nights and stuff. Try to feel the vibe.
That’s what I did in Dublin and London and stuff. Just kind of go around and meet all the new musicians.
You ever see people who are really knockout?
At the Hotel Café I saw this band, and they were amazing. We ended up going out for drinks afterward.
I think that’s the best way of doing it. Especially if you don’t know anybody on the scene.
I was listening to your song and I was impressed that you got the word ‘transcendental’ in a song.
That’s actually a Stephin Merritt song. I think I mispronounced it.
Peter Gabriel made that song quite famous. I put it on a live album that I did. As people were leaving the gig I said ‘I want to play this song for everybody’.
I did the encore and forced everybody to come back in the pub. Think I got most of the words right.