Hold Back The River

Album: Hold Back The River (2014)
Charted: 2

Songfacts®:

  • James Bay grew up in the English town of Hitchin listening to James Taylor and Bob Dylan, before studying guitar at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music. The bluesy singer-songwriter first gained some traction after playing right before The Rolling Stones during the band's 2013 Hyde Park shows. He also had a hugely successful run of support slots with Tom Odell, John Newman and Kodaline. Bay's big breakthrough came when he was named Critics Choice 2015 by the Brit Awards panel. The award is almost a guarantee of success - Adele, Jessie J, Ellie Goulding and Sam Smith have all won the prize early in their careers.
  • Bay's debut single "Let It Go" was iTunes single of the week. This is his second single, which peaked at #2 on the UK singles chart.
  • James Bay told The Sun about the song: "I wrote it after my first really busy period as an artist, when music had taken me around the world for the first time, and at the end of the year, I've become really eager to see friends and my family properly. 'Hold Back The River' is a metaphor for that feeling."
  • James Bay penned the song after a headlining show in London. He wanted to connect with all those he knew who had come to the gig, even if he barely had the time to see them. Bay explained to Billboard magazine: "In a song I wanted to say, 'I know I'm not around very often at the moment, but I'm never gone. We can always give each other a call.' It all came out of that emotion."
  • The song was a last-minute addition to the LP. Bay told Billboard: "When I started recording my album, there was a little gap I was looking to fill, so I was messing with ideas, and 'Hold Back the River' was the last one to be written. It was late to the album recording party but made it in through the door, and I'm really glad it did."
  • James Bay told NME how the music of an American rock band fed through into this song: "I was listening to Kings of Leon and the key track was 'The Bucket,'" he said. "I loved the repetitive, relentless guitar and the pace of it, the rush at the end is the same as where I take 'Hold Back The River' – that was the inspiration."

    There is another connection to the American rockers. James Bay's debut album Chaos and the Calm was recorded in Nashville with Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King.
  • This won the 2016 award for Most Performed Work at the 2016 Ivor Novello Awards.
  • James Bay wrote "Hold Back The River" with Iain Archer, who also co-penned Snow Patrol's "Run." They composed the song in Archer's studio, which is located in the bell tower of a church on London's Caledonian Road. Speaking to Jessie Ware on the Tables Manners podcast, Bay said the songwriter's church bell tower studio, "sounds really good when you stand in there and just stomp on the floor and sing."

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