James Arthur on ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ Success, Holidays + Going ‘Naked’ (INTERVIEW)
In 2017, battling against the likes of contemporary pop mainstays Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, who both released new albums to expected success, would have seemed like only a fool's errand. Still, between ubiquitous trop-house radio hits and dancefloor breakdowns, a simple guitar-backed love story, "Say You Won't Let Go," broke through the boom of each club thumper and became one of the year's most memorable and lasting tracks.
The artist behind the sleeper hit, X Factor winner James Arthur, released the song more than a year ago, and had already dropped two albums before it caught on. But patience paid off for the big-voiced Brit crooner, and "Say You Won't Let Go" reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Arthur only the second X Factor winner to find space inside the chart's Top 40 (Leona Lewis hit No. 1 with "Bleeding Love" in 2007).
Now, Arthur looks to keep momentum alive in the States with new single "Naked," which dropped earlier this month. PopCrush caught up with him after a holiday-themed Pepsi Sound Drop performance at New York City's Haus, and he told us all about his coming work, his take on a Christmas classic and why a bare-bones love song still has the power to make noise.
Tell me about your involvement with Pepsi and the Sound Drop platform; how has it helped you to connect with fans?
It was great to collaborate with Pepsi for their Sound Drop platform. I believe it’s a great way to also showcase new talent on socials/YouTube too. I worked with the very talented Samantha Harvey and loved her rendition of “Can I Be Him.” Also, I got to come and do a gig just for Pepsi in New York, which was my first show there.
In the spirit of the season, where did that arrangement of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" come from? Do you have a particular connection to that or another song?
I’ve always liked the song, but wanted to put my spin on it. I worked on it with my band and we wanted to do an R&B/modern feel to it.
Any holiday traditions you're looking forward to?
No real traditions but it’s just about me getting to spend time with the family as I don’t get to see them much throughout the year because of work.
And, in the spirit of the end of 2017 and the many end-of-year lists, what were some of your favorite artists or songs?
I’m really liking Post Malone right now and his vibe. Think he’s got a lot more to come too!
"Naked" is really catching on — why do you think people are reacting so powerfully, and did you get the impression that would be the case when you recorded it?
I’m glad people are liking it. When I first heard it I knew there was something special with it. I just like to write songs that people universally can relate to. I don’t necessarily base it on a pergola experience. From this song in particular, I actually imagined it as a female singing it. But I like that it can be relatable to everyone.
Why do you think "Say You Won't Let Go" is the song that really struck a chord with an American audience? Has it changed the way you approach the market?
I wouldn’t say it’s changed my approach to the market. I am just so grateful that the US and rest of the world actually took to the song. It’s a simple love song that tells a story and everyone likes that.
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