Should I Tell Her – The James Clark Institute (Interview + New Single)
Whether he’s in the institute or not James Clark is a doctor of pop. His prescription is simple, three minute blasts of medicinal music. Under the guise of ‘The James Clark Institute’, Toronto based music artist, Clark takes the classic pop song style that he grew up with and gives it his own spin. And his latest spin is surely one you’ll want to check out! The James Clark Institute has just released an incredible new single titled “Should I Tell Her” off their upcoming album “The Colour of Happy” and it’s one of those songs that from the very first time you hear it, it sounds like a timeless classic. Clark’s songwriting has been praised by many media outlets and this new track is a perfect example of why. If you’re a fan of artists like The Beatles, The Kinks or Elvis Costello, this new pop-rock track with a wonderfully modern twist will make the perfect addition to your Monday playlist, so click below to give it a listen! We had the opportunity to ask James about the new song, the upcoming album, working with Moe Berg, the pandemic, his “clartoons”, what he’s got coming up next, keep scrolling to read the interview!
Interview with The James Clark Institute
What inspired the lyrics behind “Should I Tell Her”
It was written from personal experience, as all of my songs are. It’s the universal situation of meeting someone who you are interested in getting to know better but at the same time you’re apprehensive about sharing everything about yourself because you’re afraid they’ll realize that you are an absolute neurotic dope.
You’ve teamed up with producer/musician Moe Berg of The Pursuit Of Happiness to bring The Colour of Happy to life, how was the experience of working with Moe?
This is the second album in a row that Moe has produced for The James Clark Institute. It was such a joy to work with Moe on the first one that I asked him to produce this one. He’s genuinely the nicest guy. Totally pro and knows a thing or two about writing and arranging hits. I hope we can make a third together.
The song also features a myriad of talented artists, can you tell us about who all appears on the track?
It’s the always tasteful and melodic Jeff Dunk on bass guitar. Long time JCI keyboardist and piano teacher to the stars, Greg Condie on piano and organ. Not only did Moe Berg produce the song but he also supplied the short but oh so sweet guitar outro. Peter Stevenson contributed the gorgeous trumpet solo and that’s yours truly on acoustic guitar and sloppy drums.
I have to ask about the glasses you’re wearing in the promo artwork, what are those!?
Those are what I call a piece of magic! Photographer, Sean Ryan (seanryanimages.com) and I were preparing for a photo shoot to help promote the new single. Leading up to the session I found the most awe-inspiring regal orange chair sitting lonely in a thrift shop. We both agreed that it needed to be in the photos. I lugged it over to the session, changed into my matching orange shirt and orange chucks. Sean pulled these orange specs out of his tickle chest and handed them to me. He instructed me to put them on and pose with his orange cat, Stanley. The rest was magic!
What can you tell us about your upcoming album “The Colour of Happy”? Will the other songs sound similar to “Should I Tell Her”?
The Colour Of Happy is a nice progression from the last album, Yesterday’s Misadventures. Personally I feel the songwriting is stronger. The performances and arrangements are tighter. When Moe and I began discussing making this record, I told him that I wanted to make an even stronger album than the last one. He agreed to help make that happen and as far as I’m concerned he was true to his word. I don’t feel there is another Should I Tell Her on the record. Every song sounds different from each other.
Many outlets have praised your songwriting and lyrical abilities, can you tell us about your songwriting process?
Well, first it helps to have my world fall completely apart. Absolute total rejection and/or personal disaster have always been the most useful components for my songwriting. I spend a lot of time on the lyrics because they are what is most important to me. I like to write a catchy melody but I do my best to stay away from writing insipid, meaningless words. Nothing bugs me more.
Moe Berg has called you “one of Canada’s greatest unsung songwriters”, what do you think of the title?
I am completely flattered. I’ve been a huge fan of Moe’s work for many years and so to have someone of his caliber as a songwriter heap praise upon my work, it doesn’t get any better.
Do you think that the current pandemic will change the sound or lyrics of your music going forward?
Hmmm…interesting question. The material I’m writing lately does sound and feel slightly different to me but I can’t say if it’s because of the pandemic. It’s possibly just the natural evolution of my songwriting. When the virus first hit, I wrote my one pandemic inspired song, like I’m sure every other songwriter did. I got it out of my system and moved on.
Covid 19 has turned Canada’s music industry upside down, what do you think our music scene will look like when this is all said and done?
I think it’s going to come back thriving stronger than ever. People will be craving live music. They already are. I played a solo show this past August at a small venue in Toronto’s west end. Safety measures were in place and the club’s back patio was maxed out with people who were there to hear the music. They were very enthusiastic and I should add, mighty generous with the tip jar. It was one of the most gratifying shows I have played in a long while. If the venues can survive I think live music will return with a vengeance. As long as the planet Earth isn’t struck by a massive, fiery asteroid before then. These days I feel anything is possible.
You’ve mentioned you rediscovered your love for creating visual art, what inspired this rediscovery?
One word: Pandemic. Once the gigs were cancelled and the last recording session for the album was postponed and I found myself struggling with writer’s block, I definitely needed a creative outlet. One day out of the blue I had an idea for satirizing and cartooning a Tom Petty album cover. I hadn’t picked up a pencil in literally several years and now all of a sudden I couldn’t put it down. Ideas were coming faster than I could sketch them. It all seemed to happen really naturally. It was a good feeling, returning to an artform that I had almost forgotten about and wondered if I could still do it. Turns out, I can!
I love your clartoons! Can you tell our readers about them?
Thank you, I appreciate your kind words. They are caricatures of mostly, if not exclusively music artists. The theme that I’ve been working with this year is classic album covers. I recreate the cover artwork in my cartoon style. I grew up on MAD Magazine and I suppose that style of satire has inspired my work. I have an idea in the back of my mind to publish a book of these album covers once I’ve accumulated enough. I’m back focusing on music and the release of the new single and album at the moment, so I can’t say when I might have that book ready to go. Meanwhile I have a ‘cLartoons’ page at clarkinstitute.com where you can see a lot of my recent work.
Asides for the upcoming album, what else can fans expect coming from The James Clark Institute?
There is a new music video to accompany the new single. They will both be released on Monday November 30th. Once the album is ready to launch, I’ll have another video to help promote the next single from it. Meanwhile I’ve tried to keep the band active during this time without live shows. We’ve kept ourselves somewhat busy recording and posting isolated music videos every couple of months. They’re all performances of some of my favourite cover songs. So I think we’ll continue to do those while there are no shows to play. I am planning on doing an online release show for the album in the new year. Those details are all still up in the air at the moment so I don’t have any other information to share at this point. I’m also on a bit of a writing streak so we’ve been banging out a few brand new songs.
Do you have any last words for our readers during these crazy times?
Please listen to my new single. I’d like to feel that I’ve contributed a little bit to help people forget about these crazy times. At least for three minutes and thirteen seconds. Also, stay tuned for the full album, The Colour Of Happy, arriving in the new year folks!