From the moment he starts talking over a cup of tea in a trendy café in East London, I could tell there’s something different about singer-songwriter Daniel James. The 23-year-old has an endearing mix of confidence and humility. He’s not too cocky, not too shy, but like something out of a fairytale, he’s just right. In an age where singer-songwriters are a dime a dozen and all of them seem to either wallow in their self-deprecating mannerisms, hiding behind shaggy hair or drown you in their projected over-confidence, Daniel James is the refreshing antidote.
And why shouldn’t he be confident? He’s got one of the most engaging voices and the ability to weave beautiful stories in his songs. “I’m a storyteller. That’s what I like to do.”
He grew up dabbling in music, making his way through grades, but never quite able to tap into the well of creativity that was apparently waiting just beneath the surface. “My relationship with music has been really weird.” By the age of 16, he had set aside music for other activities and it was three years before he picked it back up. “I only started writing songs when I was 19 and I’ve only taken myself seriously for the past three years.”
So what was it that brought him back to music? “I don’t want to come across as cheesy, but my granny lived in an area of Belfast called Cliftonville Road, it’s a working class community with so much going on and so many stories. I would always get told these stories. When she passed away, I wanted to remember what she told me. So I wrote a song. I felt like I completed something, like a poem, and I was like I have to keep writing, writing and writing.” It’s this penchant for storytelling is obviously his strength.
Every one of his released tracks has a story to tell. “I watch a lot of documentaries and I write my songs visually. I write what I see.” And yet every track is unique, almost as if they came from different minds, and never leaving you with a monotonous stream of tracks, one after the other, that sound the same. He’s not a guy to “pick a genre and stick to it.”
He is releasing his songs one at a time and SoundCloud, his latest release, ‘A Lonely Man’, is available now. It features his characteristic vocals with a moving chorus reminiscent of an American chain gang, lending a sense of weight and history to the beauty.
This article originally appeared in Musika.