He bumped into a guitar player he knew who invited him to record some demos at his home studio and put him in touch with Spencer Wells, a former band scout for David Gray’s label.
Wells liked what he heard and passed the demos on to some contacts at Universal. Wells also decided he wanted to take a shot at managing Morrison, even though he’d never done it before.
Morrison agreed and the pair started drawing up a contract. Wells decided they needed “a proper business head” and brought in Paul McDonald to co-manage.
It’s an arrangement that seems to work well. Chris Dalston and Jon Pleeter, Morrison’s agents at CAA, have as much praise for Wells and McDonald as they do for Morrison.
Pleeter told Pollstar all three are great to work with, and said Morrison is not only “an amazing musician, he’s a great human being.”
“I think part of that comes from Spencer and Paul,” Dalston said. “They keep him very grounded. They remind him where he’s from.”
Morrison tries hard to keep everything in perspective.
“I just try to keep my feet on the ground and enjoy it. I know that I’m not a cocky artist – I’m just James and he’s been lucky.”
He does admit the rapid success has been a little unnerving, but playing live has helped him come to terms with it.
“I felt like I’d just been plunked into a roller coaster ride, and I had to just grip on and grin,” he said. “It was quite scary at first, whereas now I’m kind of enjoying it a lot more.
“I feel more confident about my singin’ – when people sing your songs back to you, it does make you feel a little more confident.”
Working with a close-knit band on the road has also helped. Morrison said he was lucky enough to work with keyboard player Nikolaj Torp on his album. Torp pulled the band together, drafting the drummer from a group he was in and a guitarist and bass player he’d known since he lived in Denmark.
“They were really tight as people anyway – and as musicians,” Morrison said. “That was one thing. I was always like, ‘If I don’t have a band that I get on with – I don’t care how fuckin’ good they are – I’m not hangin’ around with a load of dicks.’”
Dalston and Pleeter say it’s Morrison’s live show that’s really going to take him to the next level in the States, and they’ve already got a plan in place to make sure it happens.
“His live show very much speaks for itself,” Pleeter said. “He’s just amazing live and we have a great record as well, so it’s a matter of bringing him back as often as possible.”
“Right now, he’s playing in a duo setup,” Dalston said. “I saw the show in Europe recently with a full band, and it’s to a different degree. It’s incredible actually. The full band is mind blowing.”
Morrison is currently playing a handful of dates in the U.S. before heading to Australia and New Zealand in May. He’ll hit the European festival circuit this summer, and return to the States to open for John Mayer in July. He’s expecting to head out either on his own or as part of a package tour in September.