Five minutes with Mitch James

He's headlined at the likes of Bay Dreams and Rhythm & Vines, written original songs, been signed to a major record label, and has two hit singles tearing up the airwaves. At just 21-years-old, it seems Mitch James is a force to be reckoned with.

Remix entertainment writer Hazel Reid caught up with Mitch to find out what its like to go on tour in a kombi van, his recent successes in the music industry and why he started out busking in Europe.

Did you ever imagine your first single, No Fixed Abode, would receive the massive response that it has? 2.3 million streams!
Yes and no, I always visualise good things happening so I gave it all of my energy to being a success. But at the same time, it was my first single and I was still so fresh to the music scene so it was definitely a pleasant surprise!

Your second single, Move On, has taken the radio waves by storm. What was it like hearing your music on the radio?
It’s something you dream of but in the moment it was so special just to hear it on radio! Considering everything I’ve been through for the past two years, it was probably one of the best moments of my life.

How did you get into music and what inspires your songs?
I didn’t really have many mates at high school so I used to go into the music centre at lunchtime, they had a bunch of guitars and practice rooms so I basically just taught myself from scratch.
There was no real inspiration other than acquiring a new skill. When I decided to take it more seriously when I was 16 or 17, that’s when I found Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard who are big inspirations to me. I basically tried to follow Ed Sheeran’s blueprint over to London and gigging every night.

You took a leap and went busking in Europe
I went in with an extremely naive attitude, I basically saved up for a one way ticket to London and I went over there with 20 pounds which wasn’t even enough for the tube! I had to jump the barrier arms, just to get the tube into Hyde Park where I got a hostel for 18 pounds and a bottle of water and just started busking. It was hit and miss really, a few days you’d go well with open mic nights and busking but there’s a lot of saturation with a lot of people trying to do the same thing. When you're exposed to hardship with no money but being so far away from home, it gives you the kind of life experience that's second to none. 

Tell us about planning your first headline tour and how the kombi van comes into it
Funny you say that actually, it broke down and we missed our Taupo gig! It was an idea I had with a couple of mates a few years ago and basically I just wanted to go from the top to the bottom of New Zealand in a van. It was just an idea where I wanted to get to know people and meet people on a grass roots level rather than something that seems unattainable and not very personable. I wanted to get to know all of these people who had been supporting me for a while and do it on a humble presence.

What can people expect when they come along to one of your live performances?
I try and make it something that people have never seen before - I have a drum sampler which gives a lot of punch, so it’s kind of like acoustic pop and it hits you in the chest a bit really. I perform all of my songs - released, unreleased and mash-ups. 

What has been your favourite performance so far?
I think my favourite so far was the opening night of the tour at REC bar in Auckland last week. It was packed out and it was where it all started - to see all of the familiar faces and plenty of new faces screaming back every word was something I’ll never forget.

Where would you love to travel and tour next?
I’d love to go over to Europe and do it properly with some backing. My Spotify numbers have been going crazy in Germany and Sweden so I’d really love to give them a visit as well as Holland and the UK.

What’s coming up next on the agenda for you?
I just wrote a single with Emily Warren who just won a Grammy with The Chainsmokers so that one will be coming out soon. I’ve got another support track to follow that and then hopefully get over to Europe. I have my first album coming out later this year which is already stacked so hopefully that will be the ticket to more international success!

Catch Mitch on his Humble Roadie Tour, which finishes in Dunedin tomorrow night.

Head here for ticket details.