James Vincent McMorrow’s music is tailor-made to fill big spaces, metaphorically and literally. Luckily for him – and us – an upcoming show at the Sydney Opera House will allow it to do just that. “I want [the show] to be something that’s not just song, gap, song, gap,” he says. “I want it to be something that flows and gets bigger as the set goes along. We’ve got this really expansive lighting rig that we’re bringing; it’s kind of the fifth person onstage. Hopefully we’ll bring a booming big set.”
The 31-year-old Irishman is no stranger to Australia, having been here as recently as five months ago, but he admits the sudden demand for tickets on this tour caught him off guard, in a good way. “I don’t really pay attention to what’s going on in particular countries unless I’m there,” he says. “We were [in Australia] in January and the reaction was brilliant. When we talked about doing these shows, the idea was to do them way later, then all of a sudden I was told things are really good here. About a week after they put them on sale, I got a call saying that the Sydney Opera House was sold out and they were adding second dates. It definitely took me by surprise in the most wonderful way possible.
“I mean, I’m pretty ambitious and I want to play places like that, but I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly in somewhere as far away as Australia,” he says. “But then, you can’t predict everything; sometimes things just work. We just finished the US tour, and it was very much big venue to small venue to big venue, depending on which city we were in. I don’t feel any different if we go from 1,600 people one night to 600 people the following; I still feel the same.
“Obviously [the] Sydney Opera House is a special place; it’s like the Royal Albert Hall or Carnegie Hall or somewhere like that. There’s a resonance that goes beyond it being just another show, perhaps.”
Released in January, Post Tropical is McMorrow’s second album, and sees his sound moving further away from his folk roots in a more soulful direction. “This record was made for people to live with for a while,” he says. “I didn’t expect it to give itself away to people incredibly quickly.
“It’s been interesting going from territory to territory and seeing people’s reactions. The first record did very well in Europe, and when we played shows there we could see people starting to wrap their heads around the new sounds and new ideas. By the end of the shows we could really see people understanding it. When we went to the US, people were really into it intensely, and we could hear people singing every word … with the first record, I spent two years working away before people really heard anything. The response to the new record was really quite compelling and drove me onwards to play the songs better and better every night.”
The first single taken from the album is ‘Cavalier’, which McMorrow explains is the most accurate representation of what Post Tropical has to offer. “I chose it because I thought it was the best song on the record, in the sense of letting people know what’s coming,” he says. “I wanted it to be a song that draws a line in the sand, or plants my flag in the ground or whatever you want to call it … If they hear it and understand what I’m doing and what I’m going for, musically and stylistically, then they’ll like it. I don’t want to waste people’s time putting out songs that might be a little bit like something they might’ve heard before.”
James Vincent McMorrow will be playing at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live 2014 on Thursday May 29 and Saturday May 31, tickets available online. Post Tropical is out now through Dew Process / Universal.