Good Good Blood is Mirfield, West Yorkshire-based musician, husband, father and label owner, James Smith. Smith’s folk songwriting has a knack of creating an intense presence, whether that’s recalling the auburn crunch of autumn leaves, the chilling whip of a wind breaking across open farmland, or the soft, warm kiss of a loved one when you most need it. His one-man label, Fox Food Records, has released music by Dana Gavanski, Oh Rose, Bloodhype, Fair Mothers and St Charles, among others, reflecting a community of like-minded, yet diverse artists.
We talked to Smith in the run up to the release of his fifth album, At Your Mercy, this month.
Hi, how are you today?
I’m alright, I guess. We’re in the midst of a stint of January DIY and so my body currently feels 10 years older than it actually is…
What was the first song you ever wrote? What was it like?
Oh sheesh, I have no idea. I have been writing songs since my early teens and so I can imagine it would have been absolutely terrible.
What was your first release?
I’ve released music in various forms over the last twenty years or so but can’t remember the first. Obviously the digital age we now live in makes it much easier to send music out into the ether and for it to be archived/located. My first release as Good Good Blood was a self-titled album I put out on my little label back in 2014. I recorded a lot of it in one take in my kitchen, so it has a pretty stripped back vibe. I don’t often listen back to it, but when I do I always feel quite happy with how it turned out.
How would you describe your music in five words?
Sad, ethereal, lo-fi, melodic and homemade…
Tell us about your label, Fox Food Records what’s it about and how did you get into that?
I started Fox Food Records with the original aim of releasing my music and music by my friend, Andy (aka Newfoundland). Over the 5 years since it has led me to release music by amazing artists from all over the world, mainly on cassette and some vinyl releases. It has all happened really organically and naturally, without a solid plan, which makes it even more special to me. In a totally cheesy way it really feels like it was all meant to be.
Do you collaborate with any of the artists on the label? Anyone in particular you enjoy working with?
Another aim of the label when I started was to try and build a community of artists who collaborate and create art, regardless of where they are in the world. I’ve been really lucky that a lot of artists I’ve released via FFR have also helped me make Good Good Blood music. My latest album features the piano/guitar/synth playing of a certain Kevin Allan (aka Fair Mothers) and it definitely wouldn’t sound like it does without his genius.
What would be your dream collaboration (any artist)?
I’d love to get the chance to record at April Base, Justin Vernon/Bon Iver’s studio in Wisconsin and create something in that environment, surrounded by such talented people. Likewise, recording with Aaron Dessner at his studio Long Pond in upstate New York would be a dream. I’d also definitely vibe off working with the Woods fellas on something too.
Can you tell us about your new release? What can we expect?
The new album, At Your Mercy, is out 24th Jan on Team Love Records. I recorded it at home over winter 2018 into the spring 2019. The songs pretty much all came from a battered old nylon string guitar I bought from a local charity shop for £10. The day I bought it, I wrote ‘Say Goodbye’, sat on the couch, in about 30 mins or so. A couple of hours later I heard my 9-year-old humming the melody so I knew it was a keeper. After that, I wrote and recorded the songs as and when I could at home on the little set up I have and Kevin added the piano and stuff as we went along too. The songs sound fully fleshed out and have been described as uplifting, which I guess is at odds with the subject matter as the lyrics can be pretty dark at times, but it seems to work. All in all, I’d say it is the best collection of songs I have made.
Are you doing any live shows this year?
Yes, that is the plan. I’ve got a band together and we are rehearsing and looking for shows around the time the LP comes out. I’m so excited about playing the songs live. I’ve never had the opportunity to do it before and having really talented musicians help has made the songs take on a new life and sound really interesting and different from the recordings. It’s going to be amazing to play them to people.
Did you make any new year resolutions and how’s it going so far?
No major resolutions. I’m not a massive fan of new year’s. I guess my main aim for 2020 is to get the album out there, play some shows and see where it takes us. As usual, with just about everything in my life, there is no plan.