“Set Your Spirit Free 2023” reached number 3 on Heritage Chart in July
Interview: Former Yell! singer Daniel James talks about his perspective on the sucess of his latest song “Set Your Spirit Free 2o23”
David Warren is editor and author for Pop Expresso reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel James, who had the Top 10 hit “Instant Replay” in the UK charts in 1990 as part of the duo Yell, recently released a new song, “Set Your Spirit Free 2o23” which reached number 3 on the Mike Reads Heritage Chart last July. Daniel James is a one man show and he talked to David Warren of Pop Expresso about his career and future plans in music, radio and TV, sharing unique and personal insights.
There are some outstanding names on the heritage chart. Did you believe you would spend 11 weeks in the top 10 with Set Your Spirit Free?
Firstly I’m chuffed, 12 weeks in the top 40 and 6 weeks in the top 10 with Set Your Spirit Free 2o23
Is it going strong still? on that chart?
Yes. The weeks I was on the top 5, Paul Young was nº 1, Pet Shop Boys, nº 2, Nick Kershaw, nº 3, Daniel James, nº 4, Texas, nº 5. It was a brilliant Top 5.
Do you intend to release further songs with the same vibe in the near future?
I have a track ready which I started just before “Set Your Spirit Free 2o23” came out …I was thinking about releasing that in July, but with “Set Your Spirit Free 2o23” still being in the chart I’ve decided to hold it back a little…but it has a very uptempo dance vibe. I’ve also got a couple of tracks that I wrote and demoed a while ago that I am going to revisit and remix. That’s the beauty of songs…you can leave them on a shelf in the back of your mind and go back to them and add new ideas to them.
What kind of overall feedback have you gotten to these most recent songs?
When I was at number 3 in the chart, my ex-manager Jeff Chegwin sent me a really nice message of congratulations. He always believed in my songwriting and voice. He introduced me to Dick Leahy for the first time. Dick Leahy was George Michael’s publisher and mentor, he loved my songs and signed me to his publishing company. Of course, he’s no longer with us, but he has a great history and reputation in the music industry. Being signed to him while he was alive was a great honor.
Have you earned new fans as a result of these new songs and have you resumed touring?
The track itself is still being played and building up plays in Europe now too I’m thrilled to be honest as not only have the Yell! fans stayed loyal and enjoying my new material so many new fans have discovered my music. I’ve travelled all over the UK these last month’s doing lots of promotion. I’ve met new fans in Scotland Wales Northern Ireland, Kent The Midlands The West Country.The North East too. It’s been great introducing my new music to people. Many people would come over and say…wow we didn’t know used to be in Yell!…Some say…Oh My older sister had your poster on her wall, or my mate’s brother was a DJ and played Yells songs all the time. I was in a cafe in Brighton after a tv show and a guy came over and said he used to play Instant Replay and Let’s Go Round Again 12 inches on his mobile disco. Lots of guys up and down the country who were DJ’s in the 90’s come over and remind me that Yell! Played there clubs back in the 90s. It’s great having people share their happy memories who are now enjoying my new songs. I’ve been working with a group in Belfast at a brilliant place called Coole Studios for youngsters who want to build their skills and confidence. They’re all teenagers at school and all really talented, I enjoy working with them. They have a great team running it.
“It’s been great introducing my new music to people. Many people would come over and say…wow we didn’t know used to be in Yell!…Some say…Oh My older sister had your poster on her wall, or my mate’s brother was a DJ and played Yells songs all the time.”
Any plans for mainland Europe?
I’d love to start and spread my wings and play some live gigs…maybe start small. There is talk of maybe some appearances near Christmas. I hope they happen with the Christmas track.
Is it going to be a Christmas song?
Yes. Last November I had an idea to put Silent Night and Oh Holy Night together as one track. I took the idea to the great producer and musician Stuart Epps. Stuart has worked with Elton John Robbie Williams Chris Rea and Many more. We came up with beautiful arrangements. However, I got delayed putting the vocals down as I got a really bad cold and lost my voice. So the track wasn’t mixed till the first week of December… By the time I released it there was little chance for much promotion. However, when the guy who does my radio promo, Steve Osborne Media, got back in the office in January he had received loads of emails from Radio stations across the UK who had played the track on Christmas day and Christmas week. He spoke to them and they all said it was a shame they hadn’t had the track earlier as they would have put it on their playlists. So I’ve decided to re-visit the track and release it this year, but give the team a decent time to promote the track. It’s just my voice a guitar and keyboards, and although I say it myself, I’m very proud of it. So hopefully Silent Night Oh Holy Night with get a full release this Christmas, in mid November and people will get to hear it properly during the build up to Christmas, plus I hope to get the opportunity to perform it live at some venues around the country. I just need to make sure I don’t catch the “lurgy” this year so I can sing it live.
Look back at the Yell! 1990 hit “Instant Replay”
Do you believe you can make a difference in the market by sticking to a style that you enjoy rather than following the big chart trends?
I’m really enjoying my return to the industry. It’s like being given a second bite of the cherry…only this time I have more control. The heady days and razzmatazz of Yell on TOTP were and exciting ride. They may be in the past, but I still get to go in the studio with my ideas, musicians and producers of my choice. I can change a melody, a bridge or a line in a song without having a label owner breathing down my neck. I work with a great team on my videos, get to put any ideas into my videos. I chose every photo that goes out too. In Yell! (although great fun,) I was forever butting heads with Simon Cowell our label owner over songs. He is a great business man, but I saw myself as a singer songwriter and I remember once being put in a studio with a well known producer and team and they gave me (the group,) a backing track and left us alone in the studio for half an hour and they said put some lyrics to it. To be honest, I write songs from the heart…from my life experiences or things I see around me. I come up with the lyrics and the melody, I see it as a story or a picture I’m painting, or a video. The whole image is in my mind as I hum and sing it it my head, I need to sing it into my phone straight away if I happen to be out and about. That idea when I was in Yell! of shoving me in the studio with a backing track didn’t really appeal to me, it felt like I was being asked to just throw some words onto a track that I couldn’t feel or relate too. So now I get to be creative and enjoy every second of the industry, and I enjoy co-writing and collaborating on songs. I read this week that Kylie Minogue has never let a single photograph of herself be released without pouring over them and making sure she is 100% happy with it. Well I was the same. I mean if your going to put something out there, then you’ve got to give it your best in every way, give it 100%. So I totally agree with the Kylie’s approach.
“I’m really enjoying my return to the industry. It’s like being given a second bite of the cherry…only this time I have more control.”
Do you now mix or produce your own songs or work on them together with engineers and producers?
Yes I’m mixing with the engineer or producer, and if I’m not there all the time, I listen, then we share notes. Each song is like your baby, It’s very precious. It’s a great having such a great team around me, from producers and engineers to musicians, video makers, PA and promotions people. I’m so lucky to have found great people to collaborate with and share this opportunity with. And I’m very thankful to all the Dj’s, journalists, presenters, radio and TV producers who have taken the time to listen to my new material and playing it. I hated lockdown, but this return journey into music would probably never have happened if it wasn’t for the horrible isolation of lockdown.
Isn’t life full of surprises. I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to be back in the studio again. To hear my songs on the radio again or see my videos on the TV. I’m a lucky boy, I just hope I can keep expanding and creating.
“I never ever thought I would be this fortunate. In all honesty, I hated lockdown, but this return journey into music would probably never have happened if it wasn’t for the horrible isolation of lockdown.”
What artists would you like to work with in your career?
I love Nile Rogers work, what a career! I would love to work with him. Quincy Jones is another huge talent I would love to work with, Tony Visconti, Trevor Horn Barry Gibb all geniuses and Burt Bacharach of course. There’s some great talent out there at the moment. I really like Barry Can’t Swim – Joshua Mannie from Edinburgh. I found myself making up and singing a top line to one of his tracks the other day. He’s great. I just love working with new energy. I’ve been working with a great musician and music engineer Zac Sanders, he’s very gifted with sound. I’d love to write and record a ballad with Adele. But I imagine her diary is sooo jam packed (laughs) oh and David Foster, another genius at the mixing desk.
Do you believe the aging and loss of several influential and iconic musicians in recent years, that have been around for decades, will affect our cultural landscape in years to come?
Those amazing musicians and storytellers who have passed recently, thank goodness they have all left such a great musical legacy for us to listen to forever. Such gems for us to enjoy. Their influence will continue for future generations because their fabulous material is available for everyone to hear. Music really is a huge part of peoples lives from birth to death. It may change and evolve along the way as you broaden your tastes and life experiences. That is the same for the artists creating as for the listener. What an exciting journey.
Netflix is now streaming the horror cult movie “Bloody New Year”, where you have one of the main roles, do you have any plans to resume your acting career?
We filmed “Bloody New Year” on Barry Island. It was a great time. It was a low budget film, but the premise was good and director Norman J. Warren worked hard trying to make it work. There’s a few nice scenes that still hold up. I’m up for more acting work. Hopefully something will come along soon. It’s a different part of your brain…so it’s nice to step away from the serious business of the recording studio and lose yourself being someone else for a while.
And you are now currently also hosting a radio show isn’t?
I am currently hosting a radio show each week called Bangers and Chat which is syndicated across 15 stations across the world. I play 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and some 2000’s hits and research and talk about how the song came about, who wrote it, produced it, how many times it was released before it charted and any interesting tales behind the scenes along the way. I enjoy learning about the songs and telling the stories. It goes out on several online stations most days of the week Sunday to Saturday. I post details on my Facebook and Twitter pages each week with links.
“Set Your Spirit Free”
Pop Expresso release notes from 2021.
This fresh new single by Daniel James puts contemporary Pop music closer to a place which for music purists should had never left. By looking back at Pop songs from decades such as the 1980’s, and seeing how they still endure to this day, some cannot help but wonder how somehow the art of crafting certain song genres was lost.
Daniel James, who was a living part of the Pop music organism of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, hasn’t forgot the right chords, beats and substance in making music. “Set Your Spirit Free” presents a contemporary take on classic Pop music, pleasant to listen to and catchy enough without sounding excessively commercial. James composed the song inspired by the pandemic and the lockdown the world is still going through, and the positivity of the song can transpire not only through it’s lyrics but also the upbeat. Also worth to notice this is James return to music after several years, and his voice has matured pleasantly, which can perhaps open up new perspectives in his long career, that reached the peak of it’s popularity as a member of the duo Yell! with the smash hit “Instant Replay” in 1990. “Set Your Spirit Free” is undoubtedly one of the greatest Pop songs of 2021, will definitely please to music fans who want a break from some of today’s less endurable bluntly commercial tunes, and it is guaranteed to remain in your ears for your years to come.
Watch the new video for “Set Your Spirit Free 2o23” by Daniel James
Watch the lyric video for the original 2021 release of “Set Your Spirit Free” by Daniel James
Connect with Daniel James
Read more on Daniel James single
Also watch: The original trailer for the 1987 horror cult film “Bloody New Year” starring Daniel James
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