Sunday, July 15, 2018

Weekend Diversion: Mitch James

All the Weekend Diversion posts this year have had something in common: They were about artists I stumbled across accidentally. Three were artists who were unfamiliar to me, one was an artist I did know. Today’s artist, Mitch James, is in that latter category, and, like the others, I looked for more about him after I happened to see his music on TV.

Mitch is a young (23, I gather) New Zealand singer-songwriter. The bio on his website sums up why he became an object of fascination for the media:
Born and raised in Auckland, up and coming artist Mitch James started playing music at 14 while at school, and on morning tea and lunch breaks he would take himself off to the music room and teach himself the guitar.

Mitch left school at 17 and got a job cleaning cars, where he made enough cash to buy a one-way ticket to London. He went in the hope of hitting it big like many of those before him. Mitch arrived in London with a £20 pound note, zero contacts and zero experience performing live. Without a place to stay, Mitch would attend open mic nights and play, hoping to land a paying performance gig – which he eventually did for a short time, until the venue closed down, forcing Mitch to go home.

During Mitch’s time in Europe he slept 8 weeks on the street altogether, played 230 gigs, busked over 100 times, was robbed twice, beaten once and witnessed a stabbing. When Mitch moved back, his covers of other artist’s songs on YouTube landed him a signing with Sony Music NZ.
There aren’t many artists with such an interesting backstory, especially ones as young as he is. This was how I came to hear of him originally. One of the TV 7pm magazine shows had a story on him, and I thought his music sounded nice. I always meant to look up some of his songs, then forgot.

Until this past week.

I was watching the music video channel and they played the video for his new single, "21" (video above), which is currently at Number 5 on the New Zealand chart. The song is about looking back at some of his good times when he lived in Dunedin, where the video was filmed. I thought it was a nice song, and a well-made video, but it was the end of the chorus that struck me:
Who would’ve thought
I’d be so lost at 23.
Oh lord,
Take me back to 21.
We so often think of wistfulness and regret as being an older person’s thing, but young people can have it, too. When I was just a little younger than Mitch is now, I was talking to a workmate at my summer job. He told me how he felt frustrated and sad that he hadn’t accomplished what he thought he should have. He was only 25.

Next up, is “Move On”, his debut single from December, 2016. It entered the NZ Top 20 the week of 19 December at Number 20. It dropped out of the Top 20 the following week, but re-entered at Number 7 the week of January 16, 2017, rising to a peak of Number 3 the week of January 30. It bounced all over the Top 20 until the week of April 3, when it dropped off the Top 20 again.

Finally, “No Fixed Abode”, his first track with Sony NZ, though not promoted as a single. The name comes from an incident in Amsterdam where police asked him for his address. When he replied that he didn't have one, they wrote: "No Fixed Abode".

I’m not good at predicting who will or won’t be big stars, so I have no idea whether Mitch will become successful beyond New Zealand. But he has an easy-to-listen-to style that is quite popular these days, and he reminds me of Ed Sheeran, who’s a big international star (and who Mitch opened for in Dunedin earlier this year). So, you never know.

But he’s another artist I’d heard of, but kind of rediscovered because I just happened to see his music video on TV. No wonder I like watching that channel so much: It’s a voyage of discovery and re-discovery.

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