YOUTH Radio: Interview with James Hersey

by Amy Karp

James Hersey, Austrian electro-pop singer-songwriter, has spent the last year touring Europe, touring the US with Milky Chance, playing festivals, and breaking girls' hearts with his love songs. I mean, the man knows how to make an audience swoon. Unfortunately, unless you were the right combination of lucky and smart like I am and bought his debut album, "Clarity," at his show, you are unable to enjoy his music, as it is not yet available in the US. Until it is available, we must be content with his remixes of "What I've Done" available on SoundCloud (link at the bottom) and the few songs uploaded below.

Hersey, who plays the acoustic guitar during shows, has also been playing the drums, cello, and electric guitar since he was just a kid. He studied jazz in school and incorporates elements of jazz effortlessly into other genres.

Read the interview below to find out about Hersey's creative process, tour experience with Milky Chance, inspiration and more(:

Q. Seeing as you were so musically gifted at such a young age, did you always know even at that age that playing music is what you wanted to do with your life?

A. No, I didn’t know it would be my life until I was 17 and all I could think about was playing the guitar. I would literally play before, after, and even during class until my teachers yelled at me to stop.

Q. You also studied jazz after high school. Would you say that jazz influences the music that you are currently making?

A. There are certainly elements of jazz in what I do now, but it’s so mixed up with everything else it’s hard to pinpoint exactly.

Q. How would you describe touring with Milky Chance?

A. It was exciting because they're such a phenomenon, inspiring really, because you realize that anything is possible -- and they're also really kickass live.

Q. I know you are signed to their label, so do you work closely with them?

A. Yes, their label in Germany has been a big part of my career, they've helped in many ways. But Philipp and Clemens are not very active on the label side -- they're so busy with the band!

Q. I know that you produced your mixtape "Twelve." Do you still produce all of your own music or anybody else's?

A. I’ve produced all my own stuff until now, yes, but I’m very much looking forward to working with producers in the future. There is so much talent out there, it would be insane to think I’m the only one who can make my songs work.

Q. I am really interested in the creative process. The making of a song is something I have never really been able to really wrap my head around. Do you normally have lyrics first and then work out the instrumentals? And do you work with any other songwriters or musicians while you are creating a song?

A. It works both ways -- sometimes you find a chord progression that just strikes you before you write the lyrics, and other times you grab your notebook and write down a stream of thoughts before even touching an instrument. I’ve worked with a couple other people on my stuff, but only on rare occasions and always very carefully.

Q. A lot of your songs are pretty romantic. Are all of your songs really personal to you or do you ever make a song playing a character or just out of something random that you end up liking?

A. Most of them are real stories from my life, though often exaggerated as my imagination takes over. I’ve done a couple tracks from a character perspective as well -- coming up with a story and writing about that. Both ways are fun, but I’m probably better at just telling it like it is.

Q. How would you personally describe your sound? It seems like you gather influences from many different genres.

A. Yeah, I have the weirdest iPod shuffle you can imagine, haha. My sound is singer-songwriter alternative pop-rock with urban and electronic influences. That’s as close as I can get without getting too annoying, and that’s already pretty annoying.

Q. What artists are big influences to you, and likewise if you could work with any artist who would it be?

A. My biggest inspirations are John Mayer, Phoenix, Drake, Darwin Deez, and Jack White.

Q. You have traveled a lot and lived in so many different places. Does moving around help you gain inspiration for your music?

A. I need to feel free to make music, and moving around as I please helps me do exactly that.

Q. What would you be doing right now if you decided to stop being a musician?

A. Right now? Oh man, I have no idea. I’d probably find a couple friends and try to start another business together. I don’t think I could work for somebody else, that’s just not me.

Q. Take me through a typical day in the life of James Hersey. I’m interested in even the boring stuff
. For instance what were you doing before you started answering my long list of questions?

A. Haha, excellent question. All of them have been excellent, honestly… Today I woke up at 8.30, fed my cat, had a couple coffees, quick work-out, took a shower, called my manager, cleaned the kitchen, read my new book, folded clothes and listened to the hypem charts, took out the recycling, went food shopping, and called my parents. No meals yet, haha, but I’m going for dinner with a friend later! Yesterday was completely different though, and the day before that was totally crazy, so it’s not the easiest question, haha.

Q. How do you get ready and excited before you go on stage? Do you have any rituals that you have to do or something like that?

A. Yeah we have a small band ritual, but nothing crazy -- a little symbolic show of trust and support for one another! Otherwise I warm up my voice a bit and make sure I am relaxed and happy before I walk on stage.

Q. When will all of your music be available in the U.S. (please say soon!)

A. I am not sure when everything will be available for purchase, but believe me I’m working on it!


  1. You are just for studied and worked with a couple other people on your stuff, but only on rare occasions and always very carefully.

  2. The acoustic guitar during shows, has also been taking part in the drums, cello, and electric guitar since he was a kid. He studied jazz in school and incorporates regions of jazz effortlessly into other genres.

  3. The item works both ways -- sometimes you get a chord progression that just strikes you prior to write the lyrics, and other times you grab your notebook and record a stream of thoughts before even touching a device.

  4. You are amazing, bro! Love your music since always! :)

  5. He is not only an awesome musician but also has the perfect StyleInFasion! I admire him in all those shirts when he performs.