James Vincent McMorrow returns today with his first new music in three years, ‘Headlights’ (available now on Columbia Records). A platinum-selling artist who has independently clocked up over 750 million streams, reached #1 in his home of Ireland, and seen his music travel everywhere from Drake’s ‘Views’ to ‘Game Of Thrones’, ‘Headlights’ acts as the first preview of McMorrow’s upcoming fifth studio album. Having been announced for Latitude and as a headliner at this year’s Somerset House series – James has formerly sold out the likes of The Roundhouse, Sydney Opera House, and a residency at Dublin’s National Concert Hall – revised touring plans will also follow soon.
An always-unpredictable, multi-faceted talent, ‘Headlights’ nonetheless has the feel of a brand new chapter for James Vincent McMorrow. From its arresting opening (“who’s there for you / laying in the dark?“) to the track’s propulsive beats and soaring, gospel melodies, it’s the sound of an artist and producer making the boldest yet most direct music of his career. “I wanted ‘Headlights’ to start in a plaintive humble place and finish in this huge place,” says James, who also adapted the community-in-chaos theme of his latest material for the track’s visuals. After the original filming plans had to be scrapped due to lockdown, a video is currently in the works between McMorrow and his fans, who were given the lyrics and tempo of ‘Headlights’ before being invited to film their own interpretation (without hearing it).
Over the last decade, James Vincent McMorrow has established himself as an artist of signature style. On his own intuitive terms, James’ bigger-picture approach to each project may vary, but the idea of doing exactly what you need to do (and at exactly the right time) remains a constant. He has emerged that rare modern act who’s as integral to the worlds of hip-hop and textured R&B as he is the singer-songwriter roots of his early days. Behind McMorrow’s instantly-identifiable voice was a heartfelt, sometimes-cryptic storyteller – who, on ‘Headlights’, also appears to have come to understand himself on a deeper level. Produced by James alongside the likes of Paul Epworth, Lil Silva, Kenny Beats and Patrick Wimberley (Chairlift), songs for his forthcoming album were recorded between McMorrow’s home of Dublin, LA, and London. An eclectic, deliberately-chaotic modern pop record began to take shape, around which James also became a dad. “I have more responsibilities, people and expectations around me than ever, and the world is constantly telling me to change and grow as a person,” he says. “But I don’t feel any more responsible or capable than I did when I was 18 years old. This record is about embracing the idea that it’s okay to not have things figured out.”
For an artist who resists easy categorisation, ‘Headlights’ is not about life suddenly making sense. It’s about making peace with the fact that nothing does, and finding what you need (the joy, the fearlessness, and the creative freedom) in even the glare of the ‘Headlights’.