James Arthur reflects on his time away in exclusive Fault Magazine comeback shoot

X Factor champ James Arthur has spent a bit of time off our radar. He’s only just made his comeback into the music industry with his chart topping single Say You Won’t Let Go. After a tumultuous couple of years, the singer finally brought himself to step back into the spotlight. James Arthur is here to stay and his upcoming album is the body of work that proves it. Here’s his side of the story.

Jacket – Reiss / Top – River Island


After spending so much time out of the spotlight, did you ever expect to go to number 1? What was your initial reaction?

I was really happy. I found out on the Friday; I was actually in bed when my manager called. Radio 1 wanted to come in on the day. And after the couple of years that I’ve had, it was an amazing sense of achievement. I didn’t think it was possible.


Were you surprised that people reacted the way they did?

Yeah, I didn’t see that coming. Not one little bit. I honestly thought I might make a little splash, but nothing like this. This is huge. It’s number 1 in the charts [for the second consecutive week], it’s been number 1 on iTunes for 3 weeks and that’s just blown my mind really.


People have a tendency to dismiss X Factor winners. Does it feel good to prove everyone wrong?

 Yeah, it feels amazing. There’s a feeling of redemption. Obviously my music is pretty good because it would have to be in order to cut through and reach the top. That’s no coincidence, it’s obviously something that people are enjoying and that’s a really great feeling.


People will easily come to the conclusion that your upcoming record comes from a very honest place. Was that what you were aiming for?

That’s exactly what I was aiming for. The writing process was like a parallel to my life. For the past 3 years, I’ve felt like I’ve been on a bit of a prison sentence. Suffering from all kinds of mental health issues, wondering whether or not I’d come back and make any kind of a splash. I just wanted to make something honest. As long as I made something honest, hopefully it was going to connect and apparently it has.

Jacket – Levi’s / Shirt – Topman / Tshirt – French Connection / Jeans – River Island


What made you go back into writing music? Was there ever a feeling of ‘unfinished business’ that drove you back into the studio?

Yeah 100%. I felt I had so much unfinished business. That actually made me go back into it. Cause I felt like I couldn’t wallow in self-pity forever. I can’t beat myself up forever. It got to a point where I was like ‘I can’t do this anymore; I need to create something in order to make myself feel better. And that’s how it started; it was like ‘I have to prove to myself first and foremost that I’m able to create something honest.’ Once I did that, once I started to do it, it came easy to me and everything just felt so real.


This album seems like you’re trying to turn the page and leave the past where it’s supposed to be. Tell us a bit about how you slowly got back into writing and what your initial aims were.

I never really stopped making music. I was always picking up the guitar and just spewing up my feelings and singing and expressing myself. But nothing really formulated until about 18 months ago when I wrote a track called Train Wreck. It was also a very vulnerable moment, cause Train Wreck exposed moments like “Here I am at the very very bottom”. And that’s when I went like – I need to write this album. It was almost like a self-help album.


Do you reckon you’ve managed to actually turn it into a self-help album?

I think yeah, I think people are going to relate to it. It could be therapeutic. And it’s general enough for people to relate it to their lives. There are some personal lyrics in there, but that just gives you an insight into my life. But also, there are songs like – Remember Who I Was – songs like that could hopefully help people remember who they are.


Jacket – Zara / Tshirt – Topman / Jeans – Topman / Shoes – Dr Martens


You’re releasing the album on October 28th – are you nervous about what’s going to come afterwards?

Obviously I’m very nervous about putting myself out there again, with people judging my music and things like that. What’s really great about this album is that it’s so real to me and I’m so proud of it. Just for making it, just for actually finishing this project. Because I didn’t think I’d be able to. I didn’t think I was capable of it. I thought I was done, I thought I was finished, so to actually have it there, as a body of work, is incredible to me. Even if people slagged it off, I’d still be proud of it. But I think it’s very good.


Long-term speaking – how do you plan on building up your career from this point onwards?

Just one step at a time really. I hope to have some success with the album; I hope it reaches as far as it can go. It looks like I’m going to sign a deal in America soon, so I would love to explore that market. I’d love to have another couple of singles come out here in the UK and around the world. And do lots of shows, lots of gigs. That would be great.


What have you learned from rising, falling, and then rising to the top again?

To stay present. To stay in the moment. There have been many moments where I’d just let go and let life pass me by, by being in my head and thinking about the past and the future. It’s a very tough thing to learn – to be able to stay in this moment no matter where you are and to enjoy it. It’s so hard because there’s so much going on, there’s so much crazy shit that’s going on. You have to figure out a way to be fucking normal. It’s really easy to get caught up and lost.


Beanie – American Apparel / Shirt – Topman / Tshirt – River Island / Jeans – Reiss / Boots – Dune


Everybody loves a comeback story. How do you want people to perceive you from this point onwards?

Everyone loves a comeback story and everyone loves the underdog as well. I kind of feel like I’ve been the underdog. Hopefully that inspires people to not give up on themselves and their lives and not give up on their dreams. When the odds are completely stuck against you and you feel like at the bottom of this big old mountain, just take one step and start climbing. You’ll get somewhere and at least you can say that you tried. But also, I’m an ambassador for a mental health organization and I want to encourage people to start talking more about their mental health issues, because I feel it remains a taboo subject. I have terrible anxiety – I still have it now, but I can manage it completely differently than I used to. I used to smoke a lot of cannabis and take lots of pills and now I just deal with it myself. I just manage it day to day, but it’s okay to have that, you know? People are so frantically trying to get rid of this thing, but it’s fine. You can have these things and talk about it. We’re so scared to talk. Most relationships are built on fear. And I want to encourage more people to speak out, especially young men. Cause the suicide rate in young men is terrifying. And that could’ve been me. Or it could’ve been one of my friends and I don’t want that to be the case anymore. If I can use my voice to help a few people, then I would love to be able to do that.


Shirt – Topman / Tshirt – River Island


What’s your FAULT?

I should be a bit more confident. I’m always beating myself up.


Say You Won’t Let Go is currently the UK number 1 for the second week running. The new album, ‘Back From The Edge’, will be released on the 28th October: https://smg.lnk.to/jamesarthurEC


Words Adina Ilie

Photography Jack Alexander

Styling Daisy Deane @ Frank Agency

Grooming Shamirah Sairally using Kevyn Aucoin, Fudge hair and Dr PawPaw

Photography Assistant Kelly Gellard

Special Thanks The Bootlegger