"New single is Impossible for 2018": James Arthur on returning to his signature sound and recording on the new Greatest Showman album

The singer-songwriter talks about his new song Empty Space, third album and appearing on the new Greatest Showman album.

After spending the last year caught up in the dance world, James Arthur has returned to his signature sound with his new single Empty Space. In fact, as he says below, he’s taking it all the way back to the beginning with a nod to his 2011 X Factor winner’s single…

Hi James! So Empty Space is about as ‘classic James Arthur’ as it gets, isn’t it?

“I’m excited about it. The song comes to a pretty climactic end – the last chorus is the main event. It is classic James Arthur, really."

Is this because your last single You Deserve Better – which we loved, by the way – didn’t quite do the business in the charts?

“My last single was more of a banger, but it was the first time I felt like I was trying to cater to radio. I think I got a little bit too far from what people bought into me as an artist. I’ve gone back to that, but with a bit more of an evolved sound – there’s some trap and hip-hop influences in there. I hope people embrace it and enjoy the evolution of my sound.”

The song is about loss; is it based on true story?  

“It’s not a direct reflection of what’s going on in my life at the moment, but loss is something I’ve dealt with a lot over the course of my life and in my journey as an artist. It’s a subject I’m familiar with and I feel really resonates with people. The idea with this album is to give back to fans what I think they want. The last album was all about me and promoting it got quite tiresome because it was very autobiographical. Empty Space is about loss in general – whether that’s a in relationship or in general losing someone you love.”

We’re hearing a mild hip-hop influence in the song…

“I’ve always been a big hip hop fan. Before X Factor I had a band called The James Arthur Band where I was mainly rapping – it was quite bluesy. I’m obviously a big Eminem fan, Jay-Z, Kanye West, but I’m also really into the UK rap scene – I’m a big fan of a guy called Shotty Horroh who is featuring on my album. This album will be the classic what I do, but the sound will be a bit like my first single Impossible, with those trap cymbals. In fact, I see Empty Space as a bit of an Impossible for 2018.”  

Does this mean Dance James Arthur has gone forever?

“Thankfully a lot of great offers for guest features have come in recently, so hopefully you’ll hear me on some dance tracks very soon.”

How is the new album coming along? We heard you’d scrapped a lot of it and started again…

“It’s going great. I’ve seen a few articles saying I’ve scrapped a dance album, like I was going to go full on David Guetta! But no, a bit of it got scrapped. It was going to be the most experimental album yet, but seeing the reaction to You Deserve Better, I felt like maybe I needed to get back in a studio by myself and see what I could come up with. Although I enjoy traveling and working with big producer, there’s something to be said for producing stuff yourself, plugging in a guitar and being creative on your own. I think people feel that more than something that’s a collaboration sometimes, especially with me. A lot of the album has ended up just being me again.”

You’re also on the ridiculous-but-amazing Greatest Showman Reimagined album, singing Rewrite The Stars with Anne-Marie. How did that happen?

“It’s an honour – and I’m on a track with arguably one of the biggest female singers in the world right now! I’ve been a fan of hers for so long, since her track Peak. Hopefully we’ll work together again on my album. I’m trying, but she’s a busy woman these days."

Be honest – had you seen the film before you were asked to sing on the album?

“I had! I saw in Dubai a while ago. I like that song in particular so I’m glad they asked me to do that one. I love how it turned out."

James Arthur's new single Empty Space is out now.