Even as the trailer for season six of Game of Thrones went viral on social media on Wednesday, the question that everyone seemed to have (apart from, “So is Jon Snow dead or alive?”) was, “What’s that music playing in the background?”
Well the song is “Wicked Game” — originally sung by Chris Isaak. And the musician is James Vincent McMorrow. The Irish singer-songwriter first made waves in 2010, when his debut album, Early In The Morning, was released in his home country. Then came 2014’s Post Tropical, which included the soulful “Glacier”, considered among McMorrow’s best songs.
McMorrow has said that while he was proud of his debut album, Post Tropical was more the kind of music that he was a fan of himself. “I’m so proud of that album, but I never longed to be a guy with a guitar. You play these songs live as best you can, and suddenly you’re a folk musician.
But the texture of this record is completely different. This is the kind of stuff I actually listen to,” McMorrow said.
The change in sound between his albums was evident right from the first number, “Cavalier”. Other tracks like “Red Dust”, “Look Out”, and “The Lakes” showcased McMorrow’s songwriting and virtuosity with a variety of musical instruments.
Who McMorrow’s been compared to
With his soulful, melodic sound and falsetto, McMorrow has been compared to other musicians like Ben Howard and Bon Iver — even James Blake.
In addition, reviews (such as this one in the Guardian) have praised McMorrow’s “extraordinary voice and ability to tell stories through his songs”, calling him a “convincing and impressive artist”.
After finding millions of fans through the GOT trailer, which is around a minute-and-a-half long, there are going to be more such praises coming McMorrow’s way for sure.
How he got the GOT gig
For all the acclaim his debut album received, McMorrow wasn’t very widely known — until one of his tracks from Early In The Morning was featured in the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.
The publicity from the GOT trailer is bound to be even more. While McMorrow hasn’t talked about how his rendition of “Wicked Games” was finalised for the trailer, he did tweet about just how over-the-moon he was! “Not fanboying, not even a little bit…” he tweeted, followed by a cheeky, “Is Jon Snow really dead tho?”
Not fanboying, not even a little bit....... https://t.co/vy4erWBk6j
— JamesVincentMcMorrow (@jamesvmcmorrow) March 8, 2016
A long way to the top
The 30-year-old musician may be enjoying the fruits of fame now, but it has been a journey that had its fair share of setbacks. In an interview with the Guardian, McMorrow talked about how he was signed on by record label Universal at the age of 24 — only to be “chucked out” later.
“You play a couple of shows, and these label guys come – and they leave halfway through a show. Then the phone calls just stop. And your heart is broken,” McMorrow said of the experience. “Dejected”, he says he flew back to Dublin from London, determined to “chip away” at songs that meant something. This was how Early In The Morning came about.
McMorrow is left-handed, but plays his guitar right-handed. His hands reportedly shake quite a bit when he performs — a legacy of the time he abruptly gave up drinking in 2012. Why did he choose to give up alcohol? Because he stepped off the stage at the Royal Festival Hall in London and had no recollection of what his performance had been like.
“I wasn't always aware of the importance of this job,” said McMorrow. “I'm aware of it now, I appreciate it, I'm here, I've got one opportunity… I sound like Eminem! But it's true. You get one chance to make an impression and coasting through, is a disservice.”