Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Dylan James an English singer songwriter. Based in London but born in Bristol. Football teams are Liverpool FC & Bristol City.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
I’m not a full-time musician. It doesn’t pay the bills and living in London with two kids needs overhead commitments to be covered. In terms of my daytime commitments to music I have a great manager, PR team and producer partner. We work well together so I can do both jobs and allow people to hear my songs. Juggling life is a challenge and not always the picture so many paint on social media.
What’s great about your job?
The creative process is what makes me continue to write. It can be immensely frustrating if you get a block but when that song falls from the sky it is a magical feeling. To then hear people singing it is even better, which I did recently when Bristol City Ashton Gate Stadium played Boy’s Yard during their match time entertainment.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
I don’t like social media. I find it something we must do, but it’s a mental health circus. You have no idea who your real fans are, and everything feels fake. I watch older TV stars getting caught on the toilet and looking for likes… It’s clearly an act of desperation or a PR bomb and I’m thinking why and what are you doing!
What are the highlights of your career to date?
I only launched as a solo artist 10 months ago but being interviewed on Sky Sports and Talk Sport during the World Cup was pretty cool, as well as playing in the CBBC studio in Glasgow. Recently I performed on Times Radio and chatted to the great broadcaster Alexis Conran.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
I dreamed of getting a major record deal in my early twenties and I became obsessed with this path. Our management company were big players, but I was naive and blinkered and quite honestly wasted years believing their lies. I then ran a music company where we managed bands but running a business you have no time or energy for your own music. I’m back now writing for my own project and continue to support my obligations through my day job.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
I went to a pretty rough state school in Bristol and never had much money to begin with. Dad either had loads of cash or nothing and was always close to bankruptcy. He was my hero and taught me how to risk it all. He also taught me that being skint is not actually that great – particularly when bringing kids into the world. My Granddad played harmonica in all the South Wales clubs. I learnt lots from him.
Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?
Ian Brown was and still is my god.
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
Songwriting. Without songs you have no future and where do you start after writing your best stuff? You have to switch the pressure off and be patient. I make a creative space and go into myself.
Have you had a mentor anytime during your career, and if so, how has having one made a difference?
Quite a few. Two that stand out are my good friend Matt Owens who produced my album. Every Monday evening in lockdown we played with my poems and he helped turn them into to finished masterpieces. Secondly, Davinche who helped me navigate the music industry as it is today. He also produced and directed all my videos. He has a beautiful soul and a vision which I am eternally grateful for. He’s also a wonderful songwriter. Check him out!
Are there any online support spaces you’re a part of, and if so, how have they helped you?
Yes Absolute Label Services who I use for my distribution. Instagram is convenient and Facebook is just an advertising marketing tool. I’m on TikTok and Twitter but don’t engage much. YouTube is good for displaying video content. I also recommend SANE https://www.sane.org.uk/ and TALK CLUB https://talkclub.org/ for anyone seeking support for mental health issues in contemporary society.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? If so, what?
Significant changes since I played in bands. It was all about physical releases and ultimately classic albums. Social media has changed our ability to concentrate past 30 seconds. I worry that we don’t tell our stories through pure art but through reels and streaming numbers. My debut album is a collection of poems turned into songs to tell a story. I hope artists will be inspired to tell theirs through albums. My hope is that albums make a comeback but I’m not sure if that will happen. I remember ‘Definitely Maybe’ being released and every song meant something. That for me was such an exciting period of music and art where musicians really expressed themselves.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
Understand the business side to make sure you have the opportunity for your music to be exposed to the listeners you want to listen to your music. Have a strong trustworthy team around you and write from the heart. The one positive thing about the music industry today is that you have so many avenues to have your music heard but it is difficult to make a living unless you have a team which really know the best way to promote you. And play live as much as you can. Don’t worry about big gigs that will come if you have a light shining in you.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
Don’t be influenced by what trends are happening. Be true to your own style of writing and producing. The rest will happen if you have the talent… and have a good team around you.