James Wolf initially chanced his arm at becoming a musician. With a desire to perform and uncertainty how to get started in music, the Irish singer coyly told a club promoter at a party one night that he had a band called Bitches With Wolves. What he probably did not expect was to be offered a gig slot by the promoter - without a song to his name.

In a self-fulfilling prophecy, he woke up the next morning and decided to live out the lie from the night before. Through connections he made, he wrote six songs that made up a setlist that Bitches With Wolves took to clubs and festivals. His early performances showcased his big personality and bold fashion sense set to fizzy electropop. Since then, Wolf has relocated to London to give music his full attention and now performs under his own name. In creating his new EP, Oxytocin, he recruited a onslaught of pop writers and producers, including; Roy Kerr of London Grammar, Seiji (known for his work on Róisín Murphy's Overpowered record) and The Nexus who previously wrote for Lana Del Rey. The result of his collaborations is a record of house-infused, euphoric dance pop. Andrew Darley chatted with James about writing a record with a team and his determination on the road he is now taking.

I remember seeing you perform as Bitches With Wolves a few years back - a band you made up and convinced a club promoter that you were "big in Scandinavia". Surely that was a risky way to start off a music career?

To be honest with you, at the start I didn't really know that I was embarking on a music career. My friends and I were actually just taking the piss out of this guy we had met at a party. Amazingly he believed us and offered us a gig. The next morning we were all joking about it, but I decided I was actually going to go for it. I've always dreamt of becoming a music artist but never knew how to start. It felt like some kind of divine intervention. After that, everything kind of fell into place. I got a phone call from a writer who said his friend was a producer and wanted to make music with me. Next thing I knew I had written six songs and had a set to get out and start performing.

You have now switched to your own name. Was this to draw a line under your previous work?

I guess it was. I had the best time ever as Bitches With Wolves playing around Ireland with my mates and I still love the music that we made together. Moving to London, I felt I had to step up my game, ditch the bicycle shorts and mature a little. A change was needed. Some people lob their hair off - I got a new name.

Oxytocin is the chemical produced when we feel love or the physical touch of someone else. Why did you choose it to name EP?

It is a part of a lyric in 'Heart & Soul'. As I continued working on the EP, it was the one title that kept on coming back to me and it felt right. I didn't really have to search for it. People were telling me to call it after one of the songs, like 'Hercules' or 'Into You', but I wanted an original title that summed everything up. As you said, oxytocin is the hormone you produce as you fall in love and the hope is that when you're listening, you'll fall in love with songs like I have.

You worked with several people on this including Tom Neville, Roy Kerr of London Grammar, Seiji and The Nexus who writes for Lana Del Rey. Did you ever feel intimidated at any stage?

My god yes! At the very, very beginning working with Tom and the Nexus - it was a bit like my first day in school. I knew how big an opportunity it was so I had to just grab the bull by the horns, go for it and prove my metal. I'd been swimming around for ages trying to get myself started and knew an opportunity like this wouldn't come around again so I just had to get over my nerves and myself. After that, my confidence in my capabilities quickly grew, no matter who I met. It was easy to just sit down, present my ideas and start shaping them into a reality.

Is there a mind frame you have to go into in order to write with someone else, especially if it's your first time meeting?

I guess in my case, I have to go in there and be ready to spill my guts if needs be. There's a song I did recently which speaks about the darker moments of my life. I didn't really know the people I was working with but knew that it was something I needed to get out. Things got a little intense and I avoided eye contact a lot of the time but the song turned out great. The way my mind works is that I find it much easier to get my creative juices flowing when I'm bouncing ideas off someone. A writing session can end up being a counselling session sometimes. It saves on the costs of psychiatrist, which means more money for clothes - winner!

Do you find it easy to communicate a sound or what you want from song to people you work with?

For the most part, yes. I always know what's in my head and how I want things to sound. I don't know Logic but I do know where I want things to go. It's better and more time effective to go into these situations knowing what you want to write about and having some melodic ideas to use as a starting point to begin it with. When the song is written, I collaborate with the producer and we create our own little world of three-and-a-half minutes. It's a longer process than usual since most artists in my arena leave all the production work to the actual producer. For me I find it necessary to work with them so it's all coming from me.

Going by previous interviews and performances, you appear to be very out-going. Do you think where you're at now and who you can work with has something to do with just having the balls and graft to approach them with an idea?

I think that's certainly a big help. It's a very Irish thing to have a brass neck and to just get out there and chance your arm. I manage myself so I'm constantly pushing myself further. I would definitely say that it's my work ethic that has got me this far up the garden path.

Following on from that, have you had to develop a thick skin to get to where you are now?

Oh hell yes! The amount of times people knock you or tell you they think you're shit - that's just part of putting yourself out there. You kind of have to be blindly self-assured at times, put the blinkers on and march forward.

I've spoken to several Dublin bands and artists and a common thread in what they say about the music scene in Ireland is how supportive it is - it's almost as if there's a community amongst musicians who are willing to help each other out. Does this match your own experience?

Certainly. There's a great sense of camaraderie between everyone. I would have played on the same bills with people like Le Galaxie and Fight Like Apes and they were always great to bounce off. In fact, I actually did my first solo show opening for Le Galaxie in the now defunct Madam Jojo's which goes to show how good they've been.

Before moving to London did you feel you found a place musically within Ireland or did you feel like a bit of an outsider in what you were doing?

I was doing something very different to what the other artists were up to. The music scene in Ireland is very much guitar-focused and if you're not in a pair of brown cords strumming away, it's hard to be taken seriously. This lends itself naturally to the introverted frontman, whereas I was always much more of a showman. With that said, because I was different, those that were into it, were really into it.

Would you describe yourself as a natural performer?

I feed off being on stage and performing and the more engaged the audience becomes the better I become. It's like a courtship. At the start, we both don't know what to make of each other but three songs in we're both dancing our socks off and having the time of our lives. I like to maximize the amount of fun I can have in any given situation and what's more fun than getting up on stage, channeling my spirit animal Beyoncé and singing my own songs in an awesome outfit? Nothing.

Fashion is clearly important to your work in living out these songs on stage. Most who dress a differently are open to being branded "mad, crazy, bonkers etc". Have you ever had an issue with being taken seriously?

Unfortunately yes, but sure I'm just living my life and wearing what I want to wear. It's part of who and what I am and if that's going to prevent someone from taking me seriously, well that's their problem and not mine.

You have cited Róisín Murphy as a strong influence on your music and your approach. What was it that you idenitified with in her?

It all started with Overpowered. I think the main thing for me was that here was this amazing looking creature singing unreal pop music. There was such an amazing wit about her and irreverence. When she's sitting on the bus in the 'Overpowered' music video in her Gareth Pugh get up - I'd never seen anything like it and wanted that to be my life. I also really identified with her being Irish.

Most Irish musicians at the time were either in rock or Westlife. She showed me that I could be my own thing. For Oxytocin, I purposely sought out people who've done stuff with her. One of them is guy called Seiji who I co-wrote 'Deeper' with, along with this great writer called Danielle Senior. Seiji did a good bit of the work on the Overpowered record and so was top of my list starting out.

Have you thought about making a full-length record? Can you see where it could go?

Oh totally! I've some material ready for it already so it's a matter of drawing the dots together to make it cohesive. For example, I've got a deadly song I did with MSMSMSM and on the other extreme, this really cool R&B chillwave track so I need to figure out a way to weave them together. I'm beginning this process now. My mind is swimming with ideas. Oxytocin is a very bright collection of songs, that were for the most part written at the beginning of a relationship and are reflective of that. They're love songs and full of hope and declaration. I want to make things a little darker and look deeper inside next to see what I can pull out.

Now that your debut EP is finally out there, do you feel it has been a long time coming?

In an ideal world, I would have put out an album over a year ago and gone "BANG! Here I am and this is what I'm about". But it doesn't work quite like that. There's so much saturation of artists nowadays that you really need to tease yourself out. It's a double-edged sword - it gives you more time to develop but builds up a frustration too.

Ultimately, what kind of artist do you want to become?

A great one.


You can catch James Wolf live at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on July 7th. Oxytocin is out now.