James Bay first got together with his romantic partner Lucy Smith at 16 when they were studying for their school exams. They have been together ever since. She's supported him from his early days singing at open-mic nights, and here he pays tribute to his longtime girlfriend.
I've only got one life and I want you in it
Tell me that you'll never let me go
Oh, bury my body or send it down the river
I could never do it on my own
The song finds Bay writing from a place of vulnerability that he's never gone to before. "'One Life' is a song I wrote about the most precious and private part of my life, my relationship with Lucy," said Bay. "I didn't know if I'd be able to sum it all up in one song, I'm still not sure I ever will, but this one feels like it got close. It's about the realization that for all the somethings I chase after, it's actually just a someone that I really need. Lucy has been next to me every step of the way, I feel extremely lucky that I get to say that. I hope this song can mean a lot to you too."
Bay recorded "One Life" for his third album, Leap, which finds him writing from a place of joy and positivity, inspired by Lucy. "Our relationship is the most important thing in my life," he told the BBC. "To have such a rock solid foundation at home, you know, it deserves a bit of credit and attention. So in a way, a lot of this music is a tribute to her."
The album title comes from an inspirational quote by American essayist John Burroughs: "Leap, and the net will appear."
Bay stumbled across it while reading Julia Cameron's 1992 manual for creatives, The Artist's Way
, during lockdown. "That quote stuck with me," Bay told NME
. "How do I know if the net will appear? How do I know if it will be OK? The second half of the quote says that it will, and you have to therefore trust it. It's saying you've got to take a leap of faith. It's as beautiful as it is terrifying; that's what draws me towards it."
James Bay co-wrote "One Life" with Steve Robson, Stephen Wrabel, Ethan Gruska, Matt Morris, and Bianca Ghermezian. He co-produced the song with Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour and Star-Crossed collaborator Ian Fitchuk.
At one point in the song, Bay appears to propose to Lucy.
Do you wanna marry me?
I've only got one life
And I want you in it
However, Lucy is unlikely to be walking down the aisle quite yet. "I remember writing that lyric and it was one of those moments where you have the opportunity to say something which, in the context of the song, feels perfect," Bay told The Sun. "Does it resonate with reality entirely? No, not necessarily. But I don't want to rule anything out. We've been together a very long time but it's not at the top of our list."
James Bay became a father for the first time in October 2022 when his partner Lucy gave birth to daughter Ada Violet. His new arrival threw a new light on some of the Leap tracks. "Somehow it almost makes the most basic sentiment in 'One Life' feel sort of even more special," he told GRAMMYS.com. "On the one hand, it's 'I've only got one life and I want you in it.' On the other hand - regarding Ada - it's like, 'I've only got one life and I'm so glad you're in it.' Because she just turned up and she's amazing."