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INTERVIEW: James McVey Talks ‘Blood And Bones,’ His Manabi EP, & More!

INTERVIEW: James McVey Talks ‘Blood And Bones,’ His Manabi EP, & More!

If you’re anything like us at THP, then you grew up absolutely adoring The Vamps and their unique take on pop. And we have James McVey to thank for that! As the band’s founding member, he’s had such a hand in shaping not only our taste in music but how we think about the world and our emotions. James and The Vamps have channeled so much thoughtful energy into each of their songs, so it’s no surprise that James’ solo work is just as moving! His latest single, ‘Blood And Bones, is a beautiful ode to his wife, Kirstie, that has absolutely taken our breath away.

James has writing credits on some of The Vamps’ most romantic songs, from ‘Shout About It’ to ‘Chemicals,’ but ‘Blood And Bones’ feels like a whole different level of admiration and vulnerability. It feels like a handwritten love letter straight out of our favorite romcom, yet somehow better because James is the one writing it. You can feel his love for Kirstie in every word he sings, and it showcases how immersive his songwriting is, really pulling you straight into his world and heart.

And if you’re digging James’ solo music, you’ll be buzzing to know that he’s releasing his own EP, Manabi, on November 10th! He wrote the six songs on the EP when he was recovering from vocal chord surgery, reflecting on his growth over the years and what he’s learned from different experiences he’s had. Make sure you pre-save it right here because this is one project you won’t want to miss.

We love James through to our blood and bones, so you can imagine how excited we were to get the chance to ask him all about ‘Blood And Bones,’ his artistic outlook, and what it was like to grow up alongside fans! Listen to ‘Blood And Bones’ below, then let’s dive right in.

Hi James, congrats on your gorgeous new single, ‘Blood And Bones!’ What does the song mean to you and how has it been seeing how much your fans love it so far?
Thank you! I’m really proud of ‘Blood and Bones.’ The guitar part had been following me around for the last few years, and I eventually realized I had to sit down and write it. I feel the song is the cornerstone in expressing my marriage; I’d written dozens of [songs] about my wife up to that point, but ‘Blood and Bones’ seemed to resonate with me more than any of the others. I pushed for the lyrics and am over the moon with how it came out. Seeing people enjoy my music is extremely special, and that’s something that’s never taken for granted.

‘Blood And Bones’ has so many amazing lyrics, with one of our favorites being “if I could paint, there would be no colors, no shade that could discover the rainbow of you.” Is there a certain lyric that you’re especially proud of?
I think that second verse is my favorite lyric across the whole EP. Only having a handful of minutes across a project to convey certain themes and feelings can be difficult and that’s why I’ve tried my absolute best to not waste a single word. I’m really happy with how ‘Dance or Die’ ended up, too…

You’re officially releasing your solo EP, Manabi, in November, which is so exciting! Is your creative process or approach different when you’re working on your own than it is when you’re working on music with The Vamps?
Manabi has been completely different from a production standpoint. First off, I’ve produced a lot of this project. I’ve never produced before so that came with its challenges, however, the outcome has been truly rewarding. There’s been a lot of exploring whilst writing lyrics which has been emotionally cathartic. I like the fact I can lean on the other Vamps boys if I’m struggling creatively, but I’ve not had that for this. The result is a concoction of emotions, from despair to elation. Ultimately I’ve been forced to face certain vulnerabilities whilst creating Manabi. I’ve not been able to hide anywhere, and I’m grateful for that.

The Manabi EP title means “learning through study” in Japanese, and we think that’s such a beautiful summary of how learning about yourself and life has helped you become a better artist. How did you land on that title, and what’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself while creating these songs?
I’ve tried to live by the mantra of forever learning. I don’t necessarily mean learning in the conventional form of maths or science; more learning about yourself by facing demons, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, or something as simple as asking questions. My ‘Learning’ has been a prolonged period of inward reflection over the last few years where I’ve knocked on doors that I haven’t wanted to. I’m now much better for it. Manabi documents that period of learning.

Which song on Manabi are you most excited for fans to hear when the EP comes out?
I think fans will enjoy ‘Antarctica,’ but I’m more looking forward to people hearing ‘Dance or Die.’

You’ve said that your experiences listening to Damien Rice’s first two albums really influenced how you approached the Manabi EP and the feelings you wanted to capture on it. Is there a certain song of his that has especially impacted you over the years?
I couldn’t pinpoint a single song in particular, that’s what’s beautiful about Damien’s work; you can slip into his entire library, and before realizing it, you’ve been listening for two hours. I’m obsessed with ‘Colour Me In,’ ‘Older Chests,’ ‘Trusty and True,’ but honestly listen to everything.

Speaking of favorite artists and inspiration – your music has been such an important part of our lives for over a decade, and we can’t imagine how special that kind of connection with fans must feel from an artist’s perspective. What has it been like for you to grow up with so many of your fans and make such amazing memories together?
Realizing that I’ve been able to be a part of people’s lives is a gift I only recently truly acknowledged and appreciated. It’s easy to get swept up in the craziness of this industry, and I have been guilty of that over the years. Now I’m 30, I try my best to reflect on my career, and every time I find myself at the same conclusion: everything I have achieved is down to the fans. The Vamps or Manabi isn’t mine or ours, they actually both belong to the audience… They’re so much bigger than us four or me. I owe the entirety of my experiences over the last ten years to the fans, from the sellout shows to my marriage!

You’ll be having your very first solo concert in November, with proceeds supporting Mind and their mission to support mental health! How do you pick the perfect setlist for your shows, whether it’s a solo gig or with The Vamps? What is it like for you to get to support such an amazing cause with this show?
I’ll let you know when I’ve decided it! Ha. I have the difficult challenge of performing a body of songs that the world hasn’t heard yet. I’m not too sure about an order, I just hope that people come to the show with an open mind… and ears.

Over the years, you’ve pushed through so much, between working on music, dealing with fame, and even getting vocal chord surgery. We’re so proud of all your accomplishments so far! If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would you say?
Thanks so much! I think I’d encourage myself to be more honest with myself and others about my mental health in the more turbulent times. I’d tell myself to live a little more, not take myself as seriously, and be present in the moment. Life is fragile and fleeting, and I regret not embracing it more in my earlier life.

A lot of fans found you through The Vamps, but we wanna flip the script a bit! For any new listeners reading this who found you through your solo work, which Vamps songs do you think they’d enjoy most?
Tough question, depends on their mood I guess… I’d do ‘Can We Dance,’ ‘Missing You,’ ‘All Night,’ and ‘Married in Vegas’ if you want the typical “Vamps experience.” My personal favourite songs however are ‘Same To You,’ ‘Time Is Not On Our Side,’ and ‘Paper Hearts.’

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Speaking of older songs, you’ve technically released solo music before The Vamps in the forms of tracks like ‘Move My Way’ and ‘Brightest Of Colours!’ We’ve always admired those songs, but your work has only gotten better and better over the years. How do you feel you’ve grown as an artist since those days?
I did indeed. I was very young. Any evolution I may have experienced has come from learning, and I’ve learnt by living and listening. It’s taken me 15 years of experiences and writing to finally get to a place where I’m confident in what I’m creating. I’ve stopped trying to be a certain person or to write in a certain style. Manabi is what happens when I throw the majority of musical inspirations out the window and just try what feels natural.

What do you hope fans take away from Manabi when we finally get to hear it?
Honesty. I’d love people to recognize that this music is my truth. I only worked with a handful of people on this project, and every word and instrument has been meticulously questioned. I don’t think I could’ve given much more for my first EP.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention or say to your fans that the questions didn’t touch on?
Nothing other than thank you and that this is just the beginning. Thank you!

Thank you so much to James for answering all of our questions! We grew up looking up to you, and it was such an honor to get to talk about your music and artistic journey. We know Manabi will be such a special EP for all of us and can’t wait to hear it!

Now, honeybees, we want to hear from you! What do you think of ‘Blood And Bone?’ Which track from Manabi are you claiming? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!


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