Mitch James’ new song all about ‘finding a silver lining when life gets hard’
One thing the New Zealand pop star Mitch James learned from his recent visit to the Philippines is that, like him, Filipinos are a hopeful lot who look on the bright side in the face of adversity.
The past few years, to put it bluntly, have been “extremely sh*t” for Mitch, who has had to cope with his and his family’s health issues, death of loved ones and the brunt of the pandemic. In “Motions,” the lead single of his recently released second album, “Patience,” he encapsulates the roller coaster of emotions he went through as he tried to overcome those challenges.
“It’s a song about trying to find a silver lining when life gets hard and challenging. Over the last few years, both my parents have become very sick with cancer. I have lost friends to cancer, to suicide. My own health went bad. Then COVID-19 happened. It was a very tough time,” he told reporters in a recent group interview arranged by Sony Music Philippines.
“I have been told that Filipino people are the same way. I also always look for the silver lining and the bright side of everything,” said the singer-songwriter. “The song’s message is something everyone can relate to. I think it’s the most honest song I can lead the album with.”
Mitch played as the front act for the British pop star Calum Scott’s concert last month. And he couldn’t be more excited to be finally back onstage, now that the live music scene is back. “Not being able to play shows was difficult. But I’m very grateful that we can all go out now and that a sense of normalcy is getting back,” the 27-year-old artist said.
Raised in Auckland, Mitch burst onto the scene in 2016 with the acoustic pop tune “No Fixed Abode.” He then sustained the momentum with his biggest hit, “Bright Blue Skies,” which now has more than 62 million streams on Spotify. He learned how to play the guitar at 14 through YouTube tutorials, and realized that he wanted to make a career out of music after watching an Ed Sheeran concert.
In 2018, Mitch, who used to be a street busker, found himself opening for the three-night stop of Ed Sheeran’s “Divide” world tour in the city of Dunedin. It was a full circle moment.
“He was exactly how you perceive him to be—humble, down to earth, caring, genuine. It was an extreme honor. When I left a concert of his in 2016, that’s when I realized that music is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life… It was a special moment,” he said. “The city was my second home in New Zealand and I played for 40,000 fans for three nights in a row. It was so surreal, seeing everything come full circle.”
Mitch started work on his new album “Patience” in 2018. He entered the studio with a heap of new songs—none of them felt right. He had collaborated with someone whose vision didn’t fully match his. He restarted everything from scratch. And upon some self-reflection, he realized that all he needed to do was tell his truth, no matter how difficult they may be.
“I have always prided myself as a songwriter who writes about real-life experiences. For a while, I veered away from it and things didn’t really work out. And so I went back to the drawing board, and thought about the things my fans love about my music,” he said. “I realized that it was always about being real and honest.
“So I took all the challenging experiences, good and bad, over the last few years and put them in a body of work,” he added.
Peaks and valleys
His musical path wasn’t always smooth sailing. Just as he was starting to get on a roll in late 2019 with such hits as “Sunday Morning,” the pandemic happened just a few months after. It was frustrating, sure, but never did he think of stopping. As the title of his album suggests, it’s all about patience.
“There are peaks and valleys… When you’re giving 110 percent every single day and people who aren’t making music with you tell you work isn’t good enough, it’s frustrating. But the album is titled ‘Patience,’ because it’s about sticking to the process and finally getting the results that make all the challenging times worth it,” he said.
And when he’s feeling down, all he needs to do is look back at the moments he has shared with his fans. “The connection that I have with my fans when I’m onstage is what makes me happy. Knowing how my music means to them drives me to keep going. It’s hard to give up when you’re surrounded by people like that,” he said.
Mitch hopes to return to the Philippines for a solo concert, and hopefully, have some fun times under the sun. “I hope to come back soon. I love the culture that I have experienced so far. I also can’t wait to be back for a holiday, spend some proper time in the country and work on my tan!” he said. INQ
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