James Vincent McMorrow

Wide Open, Horses

Out June 14, 2024


Can you remember the last time you actually unplugged?


With your phone off, you have no choice but to turn your senses on. You can hear, see, and feel more clearly. You communicate with the people around you and commune with your environment. The world stops passing you by, because you’re an active participant once again.


James Vincent McMorrow pens the kind of songs that make you want to partake in life. As if radiating energy straight from the heart, the Irish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and troubadour’s smooth high register rings out as emotion spills over organic soundscapes accented by elements of folk, indie, and rock. His fingers pluck guitar strings with intention as his vocals stir even the most intimate emotions to the surface.


This is the spirit that emanates from his seventh album Wide Open, Horses.


“To me, the album is about finding relief from the cycle of life’s pressure,” he states. “I don’t think the theory ‘modernity equals better’ holds much water these days. The more technology we add, the more unhappy everyone seems to be. I don’t want to move backwards, but I felt a sense of nostalgia and happiness in the album. It would be grandiose of me to think I could offer you some profound release through words and lyrics, but maybe I can…The job is to make a record I love and hopefully offer a respite. Maybe we can all get back to a life where we aren’t so obsessed with trying to seek out meaning from absolutely everything.”


James has beckoned listeners to open their minds and hearts since his emergence in 2010. Along the way, he gathered over 1 billion streams across an expansive catalog. Among many standouts, “Higher Love” went BPI Gold in the UK and ARIA platinum in Australia. His cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” soundtracked the trailer for Season Six of HBO’s Game of Thrones and generated over 129 million Spotify streams on its Live At Killkenny Arts Festival version. Toppling charts, 2016’s We Move notably debuted at #1 in Ireland. At the same time, he lent his voice to “Hype” from Drake’s multiplatinum blockbuster Views, “I’m In Love” from Kygo’s Cloud Nine, and “Run Away” from dvsn’s Morning After, among others. 2022’s The Less I Knew arrived to critical acclaim as Variance attested, “It makes for the perfect listen in the midst of these complicated times, brimming with emotion and candidly confronting struggle while also looking to a brighter day. Meanwhile, he’s sold out tours on multiple continents, even packing the world-famous Sydney Opera House twice.


In 2023, he brought Wide Open, Horses to life—on stage. He booked two nights at The National Concert Hall in Dublin, recorded a handful of lo-fi demos, practiced the material for a week, and then hit the stage. Phones weren’t allowed, but James recorded it to “see what worked and what didn’t work.


“I literally performed the album before it was recorded,” he smiles. “The whole point was to expose the flaws and also highlight the special little moments. It was an odd experiment, but it worked great. The notion is so simple, ‘Write songs and perform them live’. Without cameras, they were the best shows I’ve ever played—which is interesting because no one knew the music! Everyone was just experiencing it though. I had friends in the lobby talking to strangers. Who talks to strangers anymore? It was lovely. It was a heartening experience for everyone involved.”


Galvanized by this energy, he hit the studio and assembled Wide Open, Horses. The opener and single “Never Gone” hinges on finger-picked guitar, soft tambourine, and steady handclaps as he wonders, “Cuz what the fuck are any of us really doing here? Do we even exist at all?”


“It’s the anchor of the record,” he notes. “It sums up the whole album; you’re just trying to fight meaninglessness. I always felt like I’ve been trying to find meaning so I could be remembered. When you don’t find it, it doesn’t feel good. I got to a point where I was like, ‘I fucking love this. I don’t care. If my friends, family, and people who know me as a musician love it, then I’m happy’. I regretted missing so many beautiful moments, because I’d get off stage like, ‘What’s the next opportunity?’ I’ve come to terms with the fact that when I die, I’ll be forgotten, and it’s okay. We all will. It felt ridiculous to fight it. Embracing it was very freeing. ‘Never Gone’ is just about appreciating what’s here for you in the moment.”


Then, there’s “Stay Cool.” Recorded in one take (a first for James), it evokes the urgency of the moment in real-time. “It’s the same idea of exploring new realities for myself,” he says. “Uncertainty manifests in the lyrics. Those words will resonate with me for the rest of time, because it’s how I’ve lived my entire life. I don’t pray much anymore, but there were periods where I did in the dark. On the song, I’m speaking to myself in the darkness. Even though I don’t know who I’m talking to or why, it helped.”


“Give Up” unfolds as a very special duet. James and his daughter Margot lock into a disarmingly catchy chant of “Everybody’s sad.


“I never would put my daughter on a song, unless it was completely driven by her,” he notes. “She just started repeating the line. It was funny and impressive. At the first two shows, it was easily the song of the night at. I think we’re all sad. I can say I’ve spent my whole life staring at the sky and trying to find meaning, but I’m being aware of it at this point.”


His vocals sway through a gust of airy keys on “Thenever Standard,” tracing the arc of a journey.


“It’s a straightforward love song,” he notes. “When the world opened after the Pandemic, I was going to London a lot by myself. I’d stay at The Standard, because it’s where I’ve always stayed. I’d go to the hotel from the studio every night, order food in my dark hotel room, and think about my life. So, I wrote a song to my wife, realizing how much I missed the life I was desperate to get away from during the lockdown.”


Elsewhere, “The things we tell ourselves” doubles as “a mantra” propelled by a hypnotic drum pattern. “Call Me Back” examines “the minutiae of love” over a vibrant head-nodding groove.


In the end, James Vincent McMorrow simply sounds alive on Wide Open, Horses.


“I’m grateful to be here,” he leaves off. “The whole process was rebuilding myself and my connection to music, who I am, and what I wanted to be when I was starting out at 20-years-old. I struggle like everyone else does, but I’m going to appreciate the fuck out of every moment I get now. When I play shows, I want them to be shows you talk about for years. Going through hardship, I’m back to a point where I can see myself very clearly in the music and I know what I can do.”




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