Meet James Bay, Britain’s latest sexy crooner

British troubadour James Bay performed at the 2016 Grammys — after receiving three nominations for his 2015 debut album, “Chaos and the Calm.” But he really knew that he had arrived in the States when he played that most coveted of New York stages, as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” in March. “Even from across the pond, me and my brother found out about ‘Saturday Night Live’ at quite a young age,” says Bay. “We were checking out as many musical performances as we could find.”

Now Bay is looking to debunk the sophomore slump with his new album, the amped-up “Electric Light,” out Friday. The 27-year-old is part of a wave of soulful male singer-songwriters from the UK — including Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith — who are making you wonder what exactly is in the tea over there. “Soulful is who I naturally am as an artist,” says Bay, adding that he and his fellow Brits “all inspire each other.”

As for other inspirations, here Bay reveals his Top 5 musical idols:


“She’s one of the greats, a total superhero,” says Bay. ” I got to see her at Wembley Stadium on the ‘Formation’ tour, and that was insane. She’s one of those who exists in a different atmosphere as a performer, as a writer, as a singer. Her music has inspired me and this record in similar ways to how Michael Jackson’s did. It’s very soulful, but it’s out-and-out pop music. I love that marriage of those two things.”

The Rolling Stones

“Every band that me and my brother were a part of as kids, we were just trying to be the Rolling Stones,” says Bay. “And there was a point in 2015 when I met Ronnie Wood at an awards show. We became friendly, and next thing I know Ronnie agreed to do a song with us at Brixton Academy in London.” Recalling Wood sitting in on guitar on “(I Know) I’m Losing You” — a song recorded by his pre-Stones band Faces — Bay marvels that “I had a Rolling Stone on stage with me.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“This one harks back to me as a teenager who was so obsessed with blues-guitar playing. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one of the absolute queens of blues guitar. She used to play a Gibson SG, which, making this record, was the model of guitar that I preferred for so many reasons, including the fact that she played it so well.”

Michael Jackson

“He’s everybody’s idol in so many ways. He is the King of Pop,” says Bay. “The big three — ‘Off the Wall,’ ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’ — really did a lot for me when I was a kid, and I’ve never stopped loving that music. There are a lot of people who won’t necessarily connect the dots between me being so inspired by Michael Jackson’s music.” But Bay is hoping that “Electric Light” tracks like “In My Head” and “Wasted on Each Other” will change that: “I’m excited for people to potentially make that connection.”

Joni Mitchell

She was a prominent [inspiration] for me on the first record,” says Bay. “Her songwriting is truly, truly magical. It inspires me on many levels — melodically, but particularly lyrically. I just try and dig deeper and be a little bit more unique and creative because of the way that she writes lyrics.”

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