“I started my musical life as a guitar player who had never sung a note,” James Bay tells HollywoodLife when discussing his partnership with Fender and the launch of the American Vintage II Series. Celebrating Fender’s legacy with a line of guitars and basses that embody a vintage-inspired style and sound, the American Vintage II Series seems tailor-made for musicians and players like James. “A couple of years in, I sort of started singing because we started playing in bands,” says James. “And though that’s the case, I consider myself a guitar player, first and foremost.”
As James says in this EXCLUSIVE interview, being a guitar player is more than just learning notes and theory. It’s also about having a sense of style. “In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, a lot of stuff happened in pop culture and fashion. We can’t argue with how timeless a lot of it feels,” he says. “A guitar for a guitar player who’s starting out — or who’s 10-20-30 years in — there’s something about the process, the experience of finding a new [guitar] or another one, is like wanting a new jacket. You go around be around that stuff; you go to thrift shows; you go to these timeless places. Fender, of course, is on the map as Levi’s or Saint Laurent is. You’re not going to make any mistakes if you go with them.”
“I think the cool thing with this new American Vintage II Series is like they’ve lent into that like almost further than ever before,” says James. “They’ve replicated 50s stuff and 60s stuff and, and different 70s things. But [this line] has really resonated with me. The way they’re owning their own cool is unashamed, and that attracts me to it even more. I think, as a guitar fan, a guitar player, and a Fender fan, I love to see them, and I want to go to them.”
James and Fender have gone hand-in-hand – literally – as he’s established himself as a modern six-string slinger. James teamed with Fender for his one-of-a-kind Master Built Pink Lemonade Mustang guitar, named after the track from his 2018 album, Electric Light. In July, James released Leapthe follow-up to Electric Light. When asked if there was a possible instrumental album in his future – his version of Surfing with the Alien, Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar, or such – he says that it’s more likely than we think.
“I’ve been bottling up this version of me, this musician instrumentalist version of me, for a while now so as to show the world, as best I can, that I’m a songwriter. In a way, I suppose I will say that sometimes, I think I might have neglected the instrumental person I am. And as a result, I don’t know whether there’s a purely instrumental album on the horizon. I know that there’s a lot more [music]. I’ve just put album three, and I’m already, I’m already working for album four.”
“I feel more resigned than ever — and that’s a strange word to use, cause I mean this in a very positive way — I feel more resigned and excited for guitar solos on this next album,” James tells. HollywoodLife. “There is a lot more instrumental [music] coming from me in the future. I was talking to a couple of guitar magazines recently, and they asked me some of the questions because, live, I’m doing more guitar solos than ever. I’ve got one song of three solos in it – Intro, Middle Solo, outro.”
Those solos came from a custom Fender guitar, so James was the perfect candidate to partner with the brand on the American Vintage II Series launch. There are no other guitars like it, meaning it will be destined for a museum one day. “
To think he’s playing on a piece of living history is “such a huge thing” to consider, says James. “It’s just ‘my little guitar,’ that’s how I’ve thought about it. And you know, I didn’t push my way to the front of a line or anything. It was such a strange scenario when it all started to really come to life. Paul Waller, the master builder, just hit me up on Instagram and said, ‘Do you still want these?’ And it was a photo of the laminate that would go on the headset. So it said ‘Fender Pink Lemonade.’ And, in that moment, I was like, ‘Oh, uh, yeah! Yeah, it’d be great. Is that even a like, possible or allowed?’ It had gone away from me, the whole potential, because the guy who had sort of started to take it forward at Fender for me had left Fender.”
“So, from that kind of maybe/nothing scenario to the potential of it belonging in a museum one day or something like, it’s, it’s such a huge jump,” says James. He says that his Fender won’t become an exhibit soon. “That’s far down the road,” he tells HollywoodLife. “The guitar needs a lot of playing and I wanna do a lot of playing on it first.”
Click here for more information about Fender’s American Vintage II Series.