If any town is punching way above its weight in the UK’s alternative music scene right now it’s Stornoway. There can’t be many places with a population of just 9,000 which can boast two major label artists – pop wonderkid Dot JR, who signed a £500,000 one-album deal with Polydor in January, and The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, who released his debut album Fireplace through Geffen last year.
Stornoway also hosts its own music festival, Sounds In The Grounds (May 20-21), which is in its fifth year and must be one of the cheapest for tickets in Europe. The Pop Cop got Dot JR aka 24-year-old James Reeves, headliner of the Main Stage on the Friday night, to tell us all about it.
The Pop Cop: Have you played Sounds In The Grounds before?
James: “I’ve played it the last four or five years, with bands. I vaguely remember once playing on the back of a truck and the car park used to be the college so it’s pretty big compared to that now.”
The Pop Cop: How would you describe the atmosphere?
James: “It’s quite like Belladrum. Lots of parents take their wee kids. When it gets a bit late the kids go home but generally it’s quite family-orientated. It’s good for everyone. It’s all about the music. There’s not much else to it apart from going to see live music and having some food and drink. It should be good.”
The Pop Cop: Are you a bit of a local celebrity in Stornoway now?
James: “People have taken my picture in the supermarket but I think they’re more excited to see me than Dot JR. I’m still Jimmy from the block… [laughs] I can’t believe I said that.”
The Pop Cop: Were people surprised when you abandoned your singer-songwriter acoustic-folk sound?
James: “Most of the people who knew me from the island thought it made sense because I had been DJing for five years and all the music I was into was nothing like how I played. Apart from Johnny Cash and Bright Eyes, it was all club music and I was listening to a lot of drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep, rap and grime. I used to play in rock bands and I really missed the energetic live performances and being able to be a bit crazy. Calvin Harris and Mike Skinner both said recently they don’t want to be that old guy running around on stage and I just want to do it while I’m still young. A lot of people miss the folk stuff but when I hit 30 I can go back to it. I’ll have used all my energy up. I’m not going to forget how to write folk music, though – it’s still how I write the new material.”
The Pop Cop: Do you hang out with Colin MacLeod aka The Boy Who Trapped The Sun?
James: “He just got married so I haven’t seen much of him. I’ve been trying to get him on a man-date but we keep finding obstacles! I’ve got lots to talk to him about. He’s been good with advice, he’s always been there.”
The Pop Cop: I know Colin moved down to London when he signed his record deal – do you have any plans to do likewise?
James: “I haven’t got a place yet. I’ve certainly been thinking about it but I’ve been a bit like Billy Murray in Lost In Translation, staying in a hotel on my own, which is a bit depressing. But it’s alright, I’ll cope.”
Dot JR is currently embroiled in a very messy situation with regards to the sacking of his manager, Lee O’Hanlon, which you can read about on Jockrock. I spoke to James about the situation, but three hours after the interview he texted me to ask if it would be OK not publish his quotes on the matter, and I agreed to respect those wishes.