Play On: An Interview with James Radcliffe

James Radcliffe
James Radcliffe
James Radcliffe

The TreeHouse editors had the great pleasure of interviewing Edinburgh-based musician James Radcliffe. He provided insights about his music, his devoted followers, and his amazing ability to support himself solely through his music.  According to his site, “Radcliffe is a 100% listener supported independent musician, writer, and artist. He has been writing and performing publicly since the tender age of 8. He has played in a diverse collection of situations, including (but not limited to): punk bands, jazz groups, orchestra, brass bands, outreach programs for charity, solo, and many, many more. He has performed in: coffee houses, rock clubs, jazz venues, front rooms, concert halls, theaters, and on the street in an ever-growing list of countries. James writes, records, mixes, and masters all of his own music in his home studio. His music and writing are now downloaded, listened to, and read in over 170 countries around the globe. In Jan 2014 he released an independent album of original music. More recently he released: ‘Invocation‘; a single created exclusively with layered acoustic cello and voice. He believes very strongly in ethical business, and 10% of all profits from his work are donated to a charity which: feeds, houses, clothes and educates orphaned children in Nepal.”

James Radcliffe
James Radcliffe

TreeHouse: On your site, you explain that you are “a 100% listener supported independent musician, writer, and artist.” How does that description drive your music?

James Radcliffe: It doesn’t really drive my music at all. The music and the art drives itself, I have no real say in it, I just follow where it leads.

The ‘100% listener supported’ moniker is more to do with the business side of what I do. It lets people know that I am doing this 100% independently, that every sale makes a difference, and that, when they buy the music, the money is going directly to me and not thru a middle man.

TH: From where do you derive inspiration to create your music?

JR: From everywhere. It’s very unconscious for me. I have the impression that I soak things in, and connect to deeper part of me when I write, play, or make records. Everything contributes to it. All of the thing that is my life.

TH: Who are your listeners? How do they typically find you and your work?

JR: My listeners are very cool people. I would say that, for a long time people came to my work thru my blog ( and, now that it’s grown, it’s a combination of that, twitter, and good old fashioned word of mouth.

TH: Do you often play in public to promote your music?

JR: I do play live, but not really to promote my music, more to create something with other people. Music with a crowds’ attention is a totally different beast.

I haven’t played live for a little while and am starting to feel the hunger, so will be touring very, very soon!

TH: On the page in which listeners can purchase “Present: Reflections,” you mention, “10% of all profits go to a charity that: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.” What made you choose that particular philanthropic goal?

JR: I knew people who had volunteered with the charity for extended periods, and just really love the work that they do. It’s quite small, which gives you a very deep connection with each child. The fact that, when people buy my music, it makes the world a little bit better makes me very happy indeed.

TH: What kinds of strategies do you employ to promote your work?

JR: I’m not sure you could call anything I do a ‘strategy’, but there are some things that I am conscious of. I make sure that, if I put anything out, whether it be music, or writing, or even a tweet, that it’s of quality, and has value. I am very conscious of not wasting my audience’s attention, (which I think is a commodity of far greater value than money). I also strive to be as authentic as I can be. I’m not sure how good I am at any of it, but I do know that I am getting better. 😉

TH: Who are your blog readers? Do they often connect with you through comments? How important is it to you to correspond with readers/listeners?

JR: My blog readers are my people! 😉

Yes, they often connect with me thru comments, tweets and emails. Some of my posts have 500+ comments, so my audience is varied. I think it’s vitally important to connect and interact with my guys. They are my tribe and they are the real reason that I get to do what I love for a loving. Plus, they are all pretty damn cool people. I have made some really good friends thru my work.

Another reason that the people who buy my music are so awesome (and one of the reasons I can do this as a viable living) is because they pay WAY over the odds for my music.

For example, this E.P. has a minimum price of £3, yet many of my audience have chosen to pay much more, some up to £50 (around $90) for this digital download, which is incredible.

TH: Was it a massive leap of faith for you to choose music as your career? (What were you doing professionally before? Or what else do you now professionally?)

JR: No, not at all. I always wanted to do this and (for better or worse) have always had a kind of ‘Burn the ships so the only way is onward!’ style of doing things. There was no Plan B for me, and giving up is just not an option. I was going to make it work or die trying.

TH: Finally, what advice would you offer to those who seek to follow in your musical footsteps?

JR: I would say: ‘Do not try and follow in my footsteps, instead, work on finding your own path. Don’t rush. It’s more important to be authentic than to be first. Make sure that this is what you want to do and, if it truly is, do not stop. Do not give up. Keep going, and, one day, the world will roll at your feet.’

James Radcliffe
James Radcliffe

On his site, Radcliffe explains that he “believes that creating things that have value and are as true and real as possible, and then sharing those things with others, is a mission worthy enough to dedicate his whole life to.”

Buy Radcliffe’s single Invocation here.

Check out Radcliffe’s latest EP.

Read more about James Radcliffe’s thoughts on his success.