Grapefruit Season

Grapefruit Season

“This album was born from me having spent 10 years as a professional musician, waiting for the moment where I would in fact feel like a professional musician,” James Vincent McMorrow tells Apple Music of his fifth album Grapefruit Season. “Everyone is waiting for that point where we feel like a grown-up or where we meet the moment with the responsibilities that we’ve been given. I’ve been waiting for a light bulb to go off, but it never did.” The dawning realization that life may never throw up that moment colors much of Grapefruit Season, as does McMorrow’s gratitude for having found someone to weather all of it with. There is little else, however, that unifies the 14 tracks here. Made between LA, New York, London, and Dublin—and finished, then delayed and significantly reworked during lockdown—Grapefruit Season sees the Dubliner pivot from familiar acoustic guitars (“Waiting”) to Afrobeats (“Gone”), loved-up R&B (“Tru Love”), dramatic piano balladry (“Poison to You”), big-bass soul (“I Should Go”), and much more. It is, as he puts it, willfully “chaotic”—and a stark contrast to this album’s contained, cohesive predecessors. “I used to make a collection of songs, and then I would think about how to frame them,” he says. “This album was just me embracing each day and each song as a little island in and of itself and how they all fit together is how they fit. The thread is me.” Read on as McMorrow guides us through Grapefruit Season, one track at a time.
“Paradise” “Before the pandemic, another much quieter song opened this record. But I realized that was the wrong instinct. ‘Paradise’ just automatically felt like it set the tone. This song is about the recurring theme in this album: I've often been waiting for that signal in the sky and it's never come, and I think that in hindsight, I've missed a lot of moments as they were happening because of it. This song is about not missing those moments.”
“Gone” “This was basically the starting point of the album. Once I had ‘Gone,’ we all knew I was doing that something that felt right, but different. I wrote it in 20 minutes and the lyrics never changed after that first day. Initially, it was supposed to go to someone else, but I just kept finding reasons to pull the cord. The lyric in the pre-chorus (‘I give less fucks than I used to/Still give a lot of fucks’) became a touchstone for pretty much everything on this record.”
“Planes in the Sky” “I used to spend a lot of time trying to find a clever way to say something. I very much didn’t want to do that on this album. We were in LA and someone in the studio started playing the bassline and I thought, ‘If I don’t fuck this song up, it’s going to be really special.’ This is in my top three favorite songs I’ve ever written. The guys would spin it around and around and I’d just listen to it—it’s hypnotic to me.”
“Tru Love” “I had two songs that I tried to fit together—one that I started about four years ago and then one from 2019. It didn't occur to me until April or May of 2020 that they should go together. It was almost like a problem to solve, so I gave it to [producer and guitarist] Jay Mooncie and Two Inch Punch, who I did [2017 album] True Care with. Despite me talking about giving up control, I’m still a control freak, but I gave them all of the music and just loved what they did. ‘Tru Love’ is quite a cheesy thing to call a song. I knew if I didn't get the instrumentation and tone right, it wouldn’t land.”
“Waiting” “I wrote this song in 20 or 30 minutes on the guitar. It’s about being candid and honest—sitting in my car and crying was a real thing that happened, and it’s something I’m not remotely ashamed of. I wanted to write about being frustrated that I have to wait [to release the record], having spent my whole life being told that all of my self-worth and all of my value is derived from this person that gets on the stage every night and sings for a couple of thousand people. It's not healthy, but it is what it is.”
“Poison to You” “I don't think five or six years ago, when I started this song, I was in a position to really occupy this song’s lyric—when people hear it, they'll know what I mean. It’s not a very positive song. There was a period of my life—around 2012, 2013, when I was at the height of the first wave of success for me—where touring was quite toxic. And I hated being out there, while also being obsessed with the idea of being on stage every night. A lot of stuff in my life collapsed. I want people to get a sense of me in a clear, succinct way and not staring through reeds to try and catch a glimpse. I did about 10 versions of this to try and get it right, and it ended up being basically the demo.”
“We Don't Kiss Under Umbrellas Like We Used To” “There's a tuning of a guitar called the Nashville tuning, which people would be familiar with if they think of a song like ‘Holocene’ by Bon Iver. It’s basically just a stack of regularly tuned guitars, but you take the high strings off a 12-string guitar and you put them on a regular guitar. They literally sound like falling rain to me. If there's ever any opportunity to add a symmetry or a connection between the lyric and the song itself, I'll pursue it.”
“A House and a River” “I write a song and then I do 40 or 50 versions of it. I need to turn over every stone on the beach. In 2020, when the album was delayed, I opened it back up. I had this idea to do something that felt more like Marvin Gaye or even Kanye West, with the drum loops. Then I had a metal drum in the studio one day and I just started playing the piano.”
“Hollywood & Vine” “When I’m in Los Angeles and Hollywood, there's a window of time where I feel like, ‘I need to live here forever,’ because everything is outdoors and healthier. But then I cross over a threshold. I was standing at a street corner, Hollywood and Vine, and I was kind of looking around and I just was like, ‘I need to get out of here.’ And I went straight to the studio and wrote this song. I wanted it to be candid and honest and have some self-deprecating humor in it.”
“Cliché” “This is a very rough-around-the-edges recording, relative to everything else on the album, because I did it in an hour in the studio. Play the drums, play the piano, play everything on top—that was it. I was trying to explore the notion of a cliché in the lyrics. If I'm honest, I think that there are clichés for reasons. Sometimes there's no better way to say a thing than to say it in the most nth-degree version.”
“Headlights” “The process with this song was very convoluted. It started with a songwriter called Justin Parker, who’s written with people like Lana Del Rey and Rihanna. He’s an amazing, intense songwriter and a really great person to be around. He had the chorus and I wrote the lyric in the hotel overnight. Then we kind of parked it, but it had to go on a journey and just needed to keep moving, even though some people would just argue the first version was probably pretty good. It's a bit of a Frankenstein—I was just trying everything with it. I wanted it to be like if you go in at 15 seconds and then you go in at 45 seconds you're basically getting a different song.”
“I Should Go” (with Kenny Beats) “I started this one by myself and then finished it with Kenny Beats. I got a text message out of the blue from him—we’d never met or spoken before. I was working on ‘Paradise’ and having a really shitty day, and the message said, ‘Hi, this is Kenny Beats. “Paradise” is one of the best songs I've ever heard in my entire life.’ Someone in my team had played it to him. I played him my demo of this in LA, and he just flipped it so fast. He knew exactly what I wanted. It was very out of step with the rest of the record, but I just had that desire to have something that felt kind of guitar-y and a bit edgy to me.”
“Grapefruit” “This was the song that I had intended to open the record. If you listen to it, the way it hands off from the acoustic elements to the electronic elements in the second verse and chorus, that felt like me in my lofty way of holding people's hands through the process. But in lockdown, I realized this was where the song needed to live.”
“Part of Me” “This song, which was made at the start of the pandemic, felt like a manipulation of me sonically and mood-wise, and I thought that was interesting. The full title was ‘There's a Part of Me That Needs to Be Constantly Fucking Up,’ which felt very emo. But also I'm an emo person, so why not embrace it? That said, rather than just picking up an acoustic guitar and singing that lyric, which felt a little reductive, I thought, ‘Why not pitch my voice down?’ Then as the song folds in on itself towards the end, it's just choirs of me singing myself off to sleep. It felt like a nice way to end the album.”

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