At Surfside, we are all about giving local musicians the spotlight with frequent opportunities for them to play in our atmospheric restaurant and rum bar. One of our most regular players is local legend James Dixon, a singer-songwriter with extraordinary talent ,who is guaranteed to captivate a Surfside audience either in front of a stunning sunset or inside our intimate upstairs bar area. Fresh off the back of a packed tour supporting Seasick Steve, with his Tuesday residency, James has quickly become an integral part of the ambience that lures people to our beachfront bar.
James delivers lively performances, engaging chat and array of eclectic folky blues tunes, offering both covers and his own songs, delivered with his unique and soulful vocals, backed by any one of his raft of guitars and instruments.
“Melodic, soulful and simply beautiful” (BBC Introducing)
In order to journey further into the musical realm of James Dixon, we asked him a series of questions relating to both himself and his music.
How long have you been in Cornwall?
I’ve been in Cornwall for around 8 years now. Before that I spent 10 years on and off in Exeter, but originally I’m from Suffolk – the same town that Ed Sheeran was from!
How long have you been playing music?
I started playing in public and for money when I was 16, so 18 years.
What style of music do you play?
Folk and blues.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
Definitely Arthur McBride by Paul Brady.
What do you love about playing at Surfside specifically?
I’ve been playing there since it opened, so I love the community that surrounds it and the fact that you can have a completely varied audience of Cornish locals, posh holiday goers, and everyone in between. It’s almost like a family.
What do you think of the new Surfside refit?
It’s even better than before, I love it! I especially like that now I can play inside as well as outside, which wasn’t the case before.
What got you into music?
My Mum and Dad and their record collection. We weren’t very well off and my Mum had arthritis so she couldn’t actually play guitar, but they both have a musician’s music taste and that has always made me understand music.
Are there any musicians that have heavily influenced you?
There are loads, but my biggest influences are John Martyn, Chris Whitley and Kelly Joe Phelps.
What is your favourite thing about playing live?
Not writing set lists and just seeing how a set emerges based on the crowd!
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to make a name for themselves?
Get out of your room and go and play live with real instruments. Don’t go online and post your music, actually go out and play it for real people.
What are your future goals and aspirations as a musician? Do you have any dreams or plans that you’re working towards?
I would genuinely just like to run my own independent label for musicians in the South West and Cornwall. And, of course, own my own house and have a family and a nice garden I get to support with my music.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music? What are they?
Yes, gardening and surfing are my main interests outside of anything musical.
Can you share any memorable experiences or performances you’ve had at Surfside? Any funny anecdotes?
I’ve got loads, but one that springs to mind was when I was performing and during my break between sets Jo Wiley walks in and sits right opposite where I’m about to play. Just as I sat back down and started playing again, about 50 kids raced in from outside all dressed as pirates and ruined the set. I got completely drowned out by them and she just got up and left.
Are there any other local musicians you’d recommend people to check out?
Yes! Ash Harding in Newquay, Vince Lee and Sophie Lord, Russell Sinclair, Gary McCausland and Mark Ben Wilson.
What are some challenges of being a musician?
No sick pay is a big one. Once I got really sick and couldn’t get out of bed for about 2 months, and due to that I faced financial disaster. Working without contracts is another one, and the transition you face when going from being paid in cash on the day to invoicing. It changes your cash flow completely as a lot of people will try to string invoices out. Also mic stands. They are a nightmare.
What inspires you to write? What’s your usual process for writing songs?
I don’t know. I very much relate to Nick Cave’s process of songwriting, stuff just comes to you. When I get the urge to write, I write and I try to make do with what comes to me. Sometimes the song just comes out in perfect prose, other times it does take some piecing together.
I used to experience writer’s block some years ago, until I was listening to someone talking about tattoos. They were discussing their next tattoo, so I asked what it was going to be, they said they didn’t know but they were pregnant with it, gestating their next tattoo. From then on, that’s how I’ve understood songs to be, you’re never actually blocked you’re just filling up with the ideas. Eventually you’ll spill over and it’ll all come out. If I ever do feel blocked, I go out and gather inspiration through gardening or seeing friends until I spill over.
Music at Surfside
James plays his remarkable sets every Tuesday evening outside of the restaurant, so pop down and experience the atmosphere! Entry is always free, but if you’d like a table in the restaurant on the night please book online.
We also host other live music, including DJs and other artists, so make sure to check our website or our social media for updates on when these events will take place!