James McVey of The Vamps took an inspiring leap into the unknown with his debut solo track ‘Dancing On The Head Of A Needle’.
Its raw, introspective acoustic pop received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from fans, and now James can reveal that there’s more solo music to come. He has just announces the November 10th release of his debut EP ‘Manabi’ and shares its second single, ‘Blood and Bones’.‘Manabi’ is a Japanese word that translates as “learning through study” and that’s an apt summary of James’ journey throughout its creation - a process of self-discovery which, in turn, led to previously uncharted angles to his songwriting. The songs emerged during an enforced spell of silence as James recovered from career-saving surgery to remove a polyp on his vocal chords. While unable to sing, he remained obsessed with writing musicand soon the most personal songs he had ever written emerged.
What’s more, he meticulously focused upon his craft, carefully finessing every single line to maximise their emotional impact. James says: “I was just focusing on what I actually wanted to say with the songs, and working out whether there was a real, tangible emotion I could convey – did it resonate with me?
“It took a long time to get there. I also remembered the innocence that I had when I first heard Damien Rice’s first two albums, and how I was blown away by those songs. I wanted to go back and capture that wide-eyed feeling for this EP.”
In contrast to the turmoil he described within ‘Dancing On The Head Of A Needle’, the new single ‘Blood and Bones’ sees James expressing his pure, heartfelt love for his wife Kirstie. It’s a song that needs little embellishment to make its impact, with James’ croon accompanied by stripped-back acoustic guitar and luscious vocal harmonies. It’s one of his favourite songs on the EP, and one that is testament to the devotion and gratitude he feels for her.
He adds, “When we’ve been flying through the hurricane that is my career, she’s been there. She’s sacrificed a lot of her time, she’s everything to me, and I’m so grateful for her guidance and stability.” She even helped, somewhat fortuitously, to shape the ‘Manabi’ EP.
On a trip to the States in 2022, she convinced a reluctant James to head out for breakfast, where they ran into the Grammy-winning songwriter Amy Wadge (Ed Sheeran, Sam Ryder, Camilla Cabello). They discussed potentially working together, leading to James visiting her in Wales where they co-wrote three of the EPs six tracks. James wrote and produced all of the EP, calling on other select collaborators for specific songs in the shape of James Walsh of Starsailor and Alex Stacey (Ella Henderson).
As its title implies, the result is that ‘Manabi’ has been a learning experience for James, a process which taught him how to be a better husband, friend and artist. And the more you learn, the more you realise you’ll never quite have all of the answers.
James will celebrate the EP’s release by playing a special launch show in London at Hoxton Hall on November 10th. All ticket sales will benefit the mental health charity Mind, who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and who campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding of mental health issues.