Childhood & Early Life
He was born James Michael Bay on September 4, 1990, in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. He grew up there and studied at the Hitchin Boys' School.
English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Eric Clapton's song ‘Layla’, counted among the greatest rock songs of all time, inspired Bay to play classical guitar when he was just 11 years of age. He came across an old rusty guitar with 5 strings in a cupboard of his house and played it.
At 18 years of age, he relocated to Brighton for further studies. There he began playing the city's open mic nights. According to him, it taught him much about writing and performing of his own. He made effort in penning down songs that would move the people.
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A video of one of his performances at an open mic in London was uploaded on YouTube by a fan. This video drew attention of Republic Records A&R which led Bay to sign with the label within a week.
On July 18, 2013, he came up with his first EP titled ‘The Dark of the Morning’ released through Republic Records. That year he also toured UK and Ireland with the Irish band ‘Kodaline’.
The following year on May 12, Bay released his second EP ‘Let It Go’ through Republic Records. It debuted atop 10 iTunes album chart. The first single of the EP also named ‘Let It Go’ that was written by Bay and British songwriter and musician Paul Barry and produced by Jacquire King released in Europe on September 15, 2014. The song peaked at #62 on the UK Singles Chart on September 27 that year.
He released the song ‘Hold Back The River’ through Republic Records on November 17, 2014 in the UK as the second single of his debut studio album ‘Chaos and the Calm’. The song that was written by Bay along with Ivor Novello award winner Iain Archer climbed atop the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard ) chart and the Irish Singles Chart and peaked at #2 on the UK Singles Chart.
‘Hold Back The River’ became a success furthering fame of Bay. It received 3× Platinum certification from Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) and 2x Platinum certification each from BPI in the UK, NVPI in Netherlands and (FIMI) in Italy.
He released his third EP titled ‘Hold Back the River’ on November 21, 2014. That year he also toured North America with Irish musician, singer and songwriter Hozier. He recorded a Burberry Acoustic session apart from giving live performance on the Burberry runway.
On January 13, 2015, he came up with his fourth EP titled ‘Other Sides’ released through Republic Records.
His first studio album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ produced by American record producer, engineer and mixer Jacquire King was released through Republic Records on March 23, 2015. Recorded at the Blackbird Studios in Nashville, the album debuted at #1 in the UK Albums Chart on March 29, 2015. The album garnered 2× Platinum certification from BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) Limited in the UK and from Music Canada in Canada.
The song ‘Let It Go’ that was also included in the album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ was re-released in March 2015. The song went on to peak at #10 on the UK Singles Chart in July 2015. It also marks as the first song of Bay that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching the #16 spot.
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The five-day festival of contemporary performing arts called the ‘Glastonbury Festival’ that is held annually near Pilton, Somerset, England saw Bay performing on the pyramid stage in June 2015. That year he also became part of the fourth concert tour of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift called ‘The 1989 World Tour’ in Europe.
In 2015 he also won the Critics' Choice award at the BRIT Awards; the Breakthrough Solo Artist award at the GQ Men of The Year event; and the Q Best New Act award at the Q Awards.
The 58th Annual Grammy Awards event that took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on February 15, 2016 saw Bay earning three nominations. These included in the category of Best New Artist; Best Rock Album for ‘Chaos and the Calm’; and Best Rock Song for ‘Hold Back the River’.
The 2016 Brit Awards that was held at The O2 in London on February 24, 2016 saw Bay performing with Canadian singer Justin Bieber in the latter’s famous song ‘Love Yourself’. Bay also won the British Male Solo Artist award at the event.
In 2016, he won the Most Performed Work award at the Ivor Novello Awards for his song ‘Hold Back the River’; the Best International Newcomer award at the Echo Music Prize award ceremony; and the Q Best Solo Artist award at the Q Awards.
The Pixar produced blockbuster hit American 3D computer-animated comedy film ‘Cars 3’ that was released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 16, 2017 included a cover of the Tom Petty song ‘King's Highway’ that was recorded by Bay. The cover version also finds place in the official soundtrack album of the film.
Other endeavours of Bay apart from his musical pursuits include advocating for international non-profit organization WaterAid; and coming up with his fashion collection #jamesbayxtopman with British multinational men’s fashion retailer ‘Topman’ in August 2017.
He plays amplifiers of Tone King, a company that manufactures vacuum tube guitar amplifiers and stand-along attenuators. He also endorses the amplifiers of the company. A precise re-modelled version of his customized 1966 Epiphone Century guitar, the Epiphone Signature “1966” Century Outfit was released by him in 2017. The ‘Hat Man’ logo of the singer is etched on the custom strap and headstock of the guitar.
His second studio album ‘Electric Light’ was released by Republic Records recently on May 18, 2018. The album that is produced by Jon Green and executive produced by Bay and Paul Epworth consists of 14 tracks including ‘Pink Lemonade’, ‘Wild Love’, ‘Wasted on Each Other’ and Wanderlust. It has so far garnered generally favorable reviews from the critics circle.