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James Bay is working with FINNEAS on his third album

"I couldn't believe my ears when he was telling me this stuff! I was blown away, so it was an opportunity to collaborate with someone I'm a fan of too," Bay exclusively told Rolling Stone UK

By Nick Reilly

James Bay poses with his guitar
James Bay (Picture: Julian Broad)

James Bay has revealed that he’s been busy working with Finneas on his anticipated third album.

The singer, who returned yesterday with the contemplative track ‘Give Me The Reason’, explained that the US producer and brother of Billie Eilish got involved with his latest work after professing to be a long-time fan of the singer.

Opening up on their burgeoning friendship, Bay explained how he was performing in Los Angeles in 2016 when a then-unknown Finneas was in the audience.

“He said to me, and this made me feel very old, ‘I was in college at the time and you were in town doing a James Bay in conversation solo spot, talking to a guy on stage, telling stories and singing songs. He told me he had been in the audience for a bunch of those,” Bay told Rolling Stone UK.

“I was like, ‘Shit really?!’ He said, ‘Yeah man, I’m a fan of yours.'”

Discussing their collaboration, he added: “The song of mine he’s produced, he heard a voice note of it and he said, ‘Yeah this is the same artist I love, I’ve got to take my chance to work with him.’

“I couldn’t believe my ears when he was telling me this stuff! I was blown away, so it was an opportunity to collaborate with someone I’m a fan of too.”

Bay also praised the Grammy Award-winning producer’s musical flexibility, adding: “Finneas makes music that sounds a certain way, but I get to collaborate with him and say, ‘This is how I want to sound. How can you cater to that with the way you make music?’ Working with him was finding out after a couple of hours that he’s been a fan of mine and to say those words is mad because he’s so important in music and rightly so.”

The new record is also among Bay’s most personal offerings to date and hears him deal with the self-doubt that he experienced after the release of his second album ‘Electric Light’ in 2018.

“I released an album in 2018 and an EP in 2019 at the same time I went off to America for six weeks of headline touring, which was amazing,” he said.

“Three months of that year I spent opening for Ed Sheeran around Europe, but the truth is that I’d lost a lot of faith in myself. I deal with a lot of anxiety-related things in a very private way, but what’s lovely is seeing a lot more people dealing with that in more of a public way. I watch from the wings having my own struggles and I find it hard to come forward to say, ‘Hey yeah, me too,’ but I know I was really losing myself in 2019 while it all looked so lovely.”

Opening up on the reasons behind his struggles, Bay added: “That first album experience was massive and I had nothing to compare it to. There’s all the standard stigmas of making your second record and I wasn’t afraid, I had such a brilliant time making it and doing unexpected things, but what I was doing was building up and putting all this pressure on myself because I didn’t want to do something that was expected.

“When the highs are so high in the thing I do, when the lows arrive there’s a sense of worthlessness that comes and messes me up. As is my way, I deal with a lot of that through writing and making songs and it’s quite typical me – more sad songs! In that writing I was looking for a bit of hope and light, but I carried on writing and I went to write this album in Nashville.”

But when the pandemic hit, Bay was unable to record the Nashville-forged album and instead, unexpectedly, found it taking on a new dimension.

“At the end of that year I started writing again because there was nothing to do and through a dark time, and I won’t relate it to Covid, but I thought I’d finished the album and I hadn’t,” he said.

“I’d been making a very live album in Nashville which was the boundary I thought I was pushing.”

Instead, he was able to craft tracks such as ‘Give Me The Reason’, which hears him ruminate on old friendships and wonder why they failed.

“I was even writing from the perspective of relationships in my life that hadn’t gone right. As you grow you develop morals that you stand by and suddenly you’ve had a friend for a long time that doesn’t agree and you fall out,” he said.

“That happened in one scenario and I wrote ‘Give Me The Reason’ to say, ‘Look, we might not agree but that doesn’t mean we have to call the end. We have this gorgeous history. Can’t we celebrate that history and find a reason to go on and start a new chapter?'”

It all comes as Bay gears up to head out on a UK tour this summer – check the dates in full below.

Fri April 29 2022 – OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Sat April 30 2022 – CHELTENHAM Henry Westons Big Top
Sun May 01 2022 – COVENTRY HMV Empire
Tue May 03 2022 – BRIGHTON Chalk
Wed May 04 2022 – LONDON O2 Forum Kentish Town
Thu May 05 2022 – NORWICH Norwich U.E.A.
Sat May 07 2022 – LEICESTER O2 Academy Leicester
Sun May 08 2022 – HULL Asylum – Hull University Union
Mon May 09 2022 – MIDDLESBROUGH Empire
Wed May 11 2022 – GLASGOW Old Fruitmarket
Thu May 12 2022 – ABERDEEN Beach Ballroom
Fri May 13 2022 – SHEFFIELD Leadmill
Sat June 11 2022 – WORCESTER Worcester Racecourse