Ones to Watch 2017: James OR

Stephen Keogh


When it comes to Singer/Songwriters it can be difficult to distinguish yourself from the others. Ed Sheerans, Passengers and Damien Rices aren’t difficult to come by. But, among the crowd there is James OR. James is a Cork man of 26 years and has been playing and writing now for 13 years.

He began playing guitar at the age of 13 in an attempt to impress a girl from Limerick. He intended to learn how to play it just two weeks (we were all young and naive once!) but ultimately his Father said he would put a deposit down and James had to wait until Christmas to get the guitar and the girl. Unfortunately, he never got that girl…

From the start, James was writing his own songs. He had always been interested in music and cites bands such as Blur and Elbow as big influences on him. However, he also puts Nirvana at the top spot for enticing him into exploring his own talent saying “ a happy accident was Nirvana…they brought out their greatest hits and all my friends were into them but I had never heard of them. The day I went out and bought the album was the same day my girlfriend broke up with me so I just went home and binge listened to it. And it just seeped in and made me say ‘yeah! I want to do this. I want keep writing music! I want to keep playing guitar! I want to be a musician!'”

He began playing with friends at the age of 14 and did the usual local halls and teen discos, but knew he always wanted to go bigger.



In James’ music, the themes of regret, loneliness, acceptance and euphoria are always present and says “I always envied those who could sit down and just write a song about an idea or something. I’d have one line in my head and maybe a tone but I have to force myself to sit down and stay there until the song is finished. For some reason the themes and tones that  you mentioned are just what always come to me naturally.”

Last Summer, James released his debut EP, Cold Open. He discussed the making of the EP and working with Christian Best in Monique Studios in Middleton, Cork. He describes Best as “a wizard”, and that “ that studio has magic in it and he’s the sorcerer.” “He just sits back and gives you so much freedom to do what you want to do..and when he sees you tapering off he kind of pulls you back and that’s what makes him so great to work with.” He says he got the name Cold Open from the opening parts of a film or programme and that the name always resonated with him.

I knew that had to be the name of my EP from the beginning because it always just stuck with me. It was the idea of a new beginning that attracted me, I think, but the four songs we went with in the end sat really well with the title cold open and it was the graphic designer of the album that said we should go with it.”, he added.

He told us that Blur’s 1993 album Modern Life Is Rubbish has had a major impact on him stating “I just listened to it and was like ‘how did someone write this?’ And then I started dissecting it and it’s actually just verse, chorus, verse, chorus. It’s very basic stuff but it’s the production that carries it so well.”

He also says that 1993 was such a crucial and pivotal point in Blur’s career that it inspired him greatly. “They were £60’000 in debt and everyone told them not to release the album and just call it quits but they just went for it and it worked for them! And the same with Parklife because the critics didn’t like Modern Life Is Rubbish and that album [Parklife] consolidated their career. Seeing what they said to me ‘there’s no excuse for not doing it and writing in your own natural way and doing what you think you should do'”.

He mentioned the support he’s received over the years from friends and family which ultimately led him to open for led him to open for The Coronas at the IEC, Cork in December last year.

James will be releasing a brand new single titled ‘Berlin’ on March 3rd of this year and will be performing it in Whelan’s on March  10th joined by his backing band. The Whelan’s gig kicks of his 5 day tour around the country with dates in Cork, Limerick and West Cork, if you’re a Corkonian.

You can find James on Facebook at:

On Soundcloud at:

On Twitter at:

And finally, his website at:


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