James Arthur's career has been one of very public highs and lows. Arthur first gained international attention for winning The X Factor in 2012, but he didn't have his eyes set on the show until his mom forced him to audition. He had spent the past decade gigging around the UK, trying to break through as a musician with no luck, and found himself too broke to pay his electricity bill. He asked all his friends but nobody would loan him money. As he explains, "Eventually I got through to my mom, and she was like, 'The X Factor is taking this mobile van around the country, and they're in town right now. If you go and sing them a song, I promise I'll give you some money, and you can get your lights back on.'"
He won The X Factor with a cover of Shontelle's "Impossible", which hit #1 in the UK, and got him a deal with Simon Cowell's Syco record label (the same label that helped make One Direction and Fifth Harmony superstars). But from there, Arthur stumbled. None of his next few singles charted well, he was embroiled in one controversy after another, and Syco eventually dropped him.
It was at that point that life got real for Arthur once again. His money was running out, and what little cash he had was being spent on prescription pills in an effort to escape his problems. He couldn't do it anymore. "I felt like I was a joke in this country, and I didn't want to feel like that anymore," he explains. So he set to work writing his second album, Back from the Edge, and secured a small deal with Sony Music Germany to have him work on it outside his home country.
This week we're featuring the album's lead single, "Say You Won't Let Go." With a fairly simple arrangement, the song is carried by Arthur's powerful voice, and is a romantic ballad about wanting to grow old with someone. It's the kind of life he wants to have; it's the kind of story many of us want. When he was writing it, he tried to make something guys would want to play their girlfriends, and it worked. "Say You Won't Let Go" peaked at #1 around the world, and launched Arthur back into the centre of popular music, which he hasn't left since. And guess who called right after the song was released? Syco, where Arthur is signed once again.
You can learn more about James Arthur here:
About the curator - Cormac McGee
Cormac McGee is a DJ, artist manager and concert promoter based in Toronto, Canada. He’s played in front of crowds from 10 – 1,000 people and has run concerts with some of today’s top hip hop artists, including Drake, Future, Mac Miller, 6lack, Ab-Soul and more. He also runs the Music Den at Ryerson University, a business incubator for entrepreneurs in the music industry.