London-based singer/songwriter James Carrington wants you to be an unabashed romantic this Valentine’s Day… after all, if you get hitched, he just might get paid. This Cupid-struck crooner has followed a highly unusual path through the music industry: while preparing the release of his debut album, Carrington has carried out a prolific career writing custom tunes for brides and grooms and performing the personalized tearjerkers at the wedding. Meanwhile, one of Carrington’s songs — a melodic, heart-on-sleeve ballad called “Ache” — gained some serious traction after appearing in the background of an ER episode.
After the jump, we chat with Carrington about love ’n marriage, recording at Abbey Road, and the tribulations of being a wedding singer.
Flavorwire: What sparked the idea behind Songs for Weddings?
James Carrington: I guess it started to become one after I wrote and performed at my great friend Alice Temperley’s wedding. There were 200 people there and I had to get up on a grand piano in the middle of them all — directly following a Russian opera star! — and sing my song which I had written about their love affair. The response was so warm and touching that it got me thinking. Over the last few years, I continued to do the same thing at friends’ weddings until someone employed me last year and paid me good money. It was at that wedding that I thought I should maybe do this properly. It is an amazing feeling when you create something that will stay with the couple for the rest of their lives and is only in existence because of their particular story and romance.
FW: The idea calls to mind Adam Sandler’s character in The Wedding Singer (1998), who was a bit of damaged goods when it came to matters of the heart. Have you been lucky in love?
JC: I am lucky. I spent my twenties avoiding responsibility and ducking in and out of relationships partly because I found growing up hard work! But I never got my heart broken and I always knew something was ’round the corner. I had written so many love songs by the time I met my (now) wife that I had a whole library prepared to sing to her. I have been incredibly fortunate to have met one of the kindest, most beautiful women I could ever have imagined, who fell in love with me at the same time I fell in love with her! She is the inspiration behind almost all of the songs I have written for my debut album and it truly has been a labour of love creating and recording it.
FW: Your song “Ache” has really taken off, garnering hundreds of thousands of plays on Myspace, a bevy of glowing comments, and even a spot on ER. Is that kind of success for a single tune more blessing or curse?
JC: At this stage it can only be seen as a blessing. I have yet to release a record, so to have been able to create that much awareness about my music from a song appearing in the background on some TV shows is amazing. I can’t see how having any success in the music industry could be a curse. I am so blessed to have been given a little. So many wonderful musicians never see the light of day and struggle to stay afloat in the madness that is the music industry. If one song can keep you going and create that much outpouring of emotion from strangers, then I definitely feel blessed and not cursed!
FW: Your collaborator and producer, Klaus Badelt, is quite an accomplished film-score composer. What does he bring to the table when you two work together?
JC: An amazing understanding of what I am trying to do with my music. He’s a very sensitive artist who allows you to breathe as a performer and adds magical touches that seem to me like the areas of a canvas that needed filling that I couldn’t fill. As a melodic type of songwriter, working with someone who understands the need for the melody to stand out — as he has to when he writes themes for movies — makes for a great collaboration. He was able to bring in some of the best session musicians in the world, and we recorded the strings at Abbey Road which was a dream come true. He also financed the whole project, for which I am immensely grateful.
FW: What moments stand out from your wedding-song career?
JC: The most rewarding would have to be the experience of hearing the song I wrote for my own wedding. It was played as the whole wedding party stood on a stone plateau overlooking a lush valley in Ibiza, while 20 red, heart-shaped balloons floated away into the distance and I stood there with my arms wrapped around my new wife. The most unforgettable moment of my life.
Most embarrassing was when a gust of wind blew my lyrics off the piano stand at Alice Temperley’s wedding right at the quietest moment of the song. There was a hushed silence but someone was smiling down on me that day as the words suddenly came to me and I carried on unflustered!
Most humourous would have to be when I finished singing a very tender love ballad in church to a couple (my first proper commission). 250 people. Dead silence. I finish, look towards the mother of the bride who winks and points to my flyzip. It had been open the whole time I was performing! Youch!