ABOVE: JAMES MADDOCK. PHOTO BY MARC MCANDREWS.
British singer-songwriter James Maddock has adopted New York, and the feeling is mutual. Although Maddock has been in the music industry for years—he formerly fronted the UK band Wood—he moved to New York five years ago to pursue his solo career and has since become an integral part of the Rockwood Music Hall community, a performance venue located on the Lower East Side. Last year, Maddock released his album Wake Up and Dream—a record that he has since updated, releasing a “deluxe” version this month. Among the tracks added to the album is “My Old Neighborhood,” a song close to Maddock’s heart.
Interview recently spoke with James Maddock about performing with Bruce Springsteen, his relationship with Rockwood Music Hall community, and marching to the beat of his own drummer.
ILANA KAPLAN: Even though you’re not from the US, I feel like your music is very symbolic of American folk music. How did that happen?
JAMES MADDOCK: Well, I grew up listening to Neil Young, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, jazz, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones… the same western music you listened to growing up. That’s the music that influenced me. I play the guitar and I love Bob Dylan. This is my version of that kind of music, I suppose.
KAPLAN: I heard that you were playing shows with Bruce Springsteen…how did that come about? What an honor!
MADDOCK: Well, it was a “Light of Day” gig. It’s a charity for Parkinson’s disease, which they do every year. Bruce plays that gig, [but] unofficially—he doesn’t announce that he’s doing it; he has [just] been showing up lately. Willie Nile asked if I could come on and sing with him [at “Light of Day”] and Willie, Bruce, and I all kind of sang the Willie Nile song. I was looking across the stage and there’s me, there’s Willie Nile, and there’s Bruce Springsteen. It was surreal. Later that night, a bunch of us got on stage and sang “Thunder Road” and “Promised Land” with Bruce. Max Weinberg was playing there. It was a wonderful experience. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Bruce. Then he bought us some tequila shots at the bar later, which was really exciting.
KAPLAN: You play a lot of shows at Rockwood Music Hall. What’s your history with the venue?
MADDOCK: I played there about five years ago as a solo artist, [and have since] started playing there regularly. They’ve stuck with me, and I’ve kind of considered it my New York musical home, as do plenty of other New York musicians. The Rockwood has been extremely influential in my presence in the city. I love them. They’re a fabulous room, they’re lovely people. I can’t say enough about them. They are very important to the New York singer/songwriter scene because, for the first time in a long while, there’s a community of musicians based around the Rockwood. Without the Rockwood, I don’t know where we would all gravitate.
KAPLAN: I interview a lot of Rockwood performers. It just harbors so many talented people.
MADDOCK: Musicians need a place to play. If we don’t have places to play that foster us, look after us and stick with us, then we kind of flounder, we don’t have our focus. What are you gonna do? Where are you gonna congregate? Where are you gonna meet? For some reason The Living Room never had that sense of community. Pianos certainly doesn’t, it’s too much on the Lower East Side… I don’t know. Something about Rockwood—Ken and the people that run the place are able to engross themselves into other musicians with their kindness, their attention to detail, their beautiful room, their consistency, their booking policy, which has been loyal to a whole bunch of people. We’ve been able to build a whole sense of community.
KAPLAN: You were obviously the frontman for the band, Wood. How did that experience transform into a solo career?
MADDOCK: I was always kind of a solo artist in a way. [Wood] was always my band, my songs, I was always singing. I don’t feel any real difference. Those guys are not with me anymore. They were my friends when I lived in London; they’re still my friends, [but] I’ve moved on, they’ve moved on. There’s no animosity or anything like that. That’s just how life goes. The only great difference is that I’m not on Columbia Records, so I don’t have that big record company to fall back on. Apart from that, I’m just continuing what I always did.
KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your song, “My Old Neighborhood?”
MADDOCK: Sure! It’s a pretty recent song. I really love the song; I really love the sentiment. I just thought, let’s just put it out and see what happens. We’ve still got the Wake Up And Dream album, that hasn’t been out very long, [but] we just felt that it’s a different world now. You don’t always need to release songs that are on albums. So far, it’s been very well received by our fans [at] gigs. We’ve made a wonderful video for it. We’ll just see where it goes; it feels like the right thing to do.
KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your touring plans? Will you be traveling?
MADDOCK: I went to Italy three times last year and earlier this year. I’m looking forward to going back there again in the summer. I just came off of a [tour] with the Spin Doctors. I’m going out to do some gigs with Joan Osborne in a few weeks. I continue to play in and around the tri-state area at the Rockwood, the Town Crier or the Turning Point, trying to build up my following: gig by gig and fan by fan. We’re just keeping on.
JAMES MADDOCK WILL BE PLAYING AT ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL ON MARCH 17.