The Pirates have spoken!

From over 2,000 submissions, 30 acts from across the UK have been chosen to compete for the prize of a lifetime. Just three of these musical outfits will be awarded with a talent development package that includes everything​ they need to break into the musical stratosphere in 2018, including unlimited rehearsal, recording, industry mentoring and more.

For this special ‘Who Are Ya’ takeover we profile 3 top North West acts that have made to the Pirate Prodigies final.

The brains behind this incredible competition is the swashbucklers over at Pirate Studios (you can read recent our interview with them here). David Borrie, the Co-Founder of Pirate Studios, explains why this contest is so important, “We have 25,000+ musicians in our community, so many of them are producing amazing music. We find it incredible some of these guys aren’t already household names so we thought it would be awesome if we could be the ones to give them a helping hand.”

The programme has been backed  and the teams behind Liam Gallagher, Charli XCX, The Libertines, The Zutons and Brit & NME award winner Kate Nash, who adds “I’m so excited to be a part of this. What Pirate Studios are doing for the music scene is the most supportive/coolest thing I’ve seen in years! Get involved.”

It’s now up to you, the discerning public to vote for your favourites. Voting closes on Friday 20th April, and you can find out how to cast yours after this interview…

This is James Holt

James Holt

Who are ya? I am James Holt, like the famous Mancunian brewery (no relation).

Where are you from? Currently blowing kisses from the moors of Bolton

How long have you been doing what you’re doing now? Been playing music since I was six years old (I play piano, guitar and cello). I’ve been performing regularly on the live circuit for around 2 / 3 years now.

Is being a musician your full time job? You could say that. I do a lot of freelance work for music services and in particular Brighter Sound, who are based at Band On the Wall in Manchester, where I help teach songwriting to young musicians. I also play piano in a restaurant and recently finished my Masters in music composition from Salford University.

Are there any obvious influences in your music? All of those 60/70’s dreamers are in there: Beatles, bit of Dylan, bit of Bowie, Pink Floyd.

Are there any not so obvious influences in your music? I love classical and jazz music and the interesting harmonic progressions, which are common in those genres, have manifested somewhat into my songs.

Any musical Guilty Pleasures? Come on you can share, we’re all friends here! I really enjoy sad/romantic French music from the 50/60’s or cheesy trad. Jazz. Love disco too.

Apart from yourself of course, what other band/artist would you recommend our readers check out? Upcoming bands (there are lots of friends who I can think of who are smashing it atm, so I can’t name them all, but here’s a few!): The Jade Assembly, Josephine Oniyama, Slow Readers Club, Man & the Echo, Spring King, Vinny Peculiar.

Hidden gems: Mary Margaret O’Hara (“When You Know Why You’re Happy”), Jacques Brel (“Ne Me Quitte Pas”), LOVE (“Alone Again Or”)

Tell us about the defining moment when you thought ‘Fuck, yes I want to be a musician!’ It was when I was 16 writing those early songs in my bedroom, it was then that I fell in love with composing and haven’t stopped writing since.

Does what go on, on tour, stay on tour? Always.

What’s your most favouritist gig (as a gig goer), like, ever? Maybe not my favouritist gig ever but definitely the most memorable: it was at the Dog and Partridge in Bolton (now, sadly, no longer), I can’t remember the name of the act, but it was a one-man-band dressed in a robot/space-alien costume, with a Frank Sidebottom-esque helmet, and he was playing this tribal/techno-beat music on a drum kit using synths, loop stations, reverbs, and other technical wizardry.

My most favourite gig I’ve ever played is at the Royal Albert Hall – of which there is video evidence:

Who, in your wildest dreams would you like to collaborate with/be produced by? Brian Eno.

(for those who don’t know there is a story behind that, he chose my song ‘Whatever Happened to John?’ as his Curator Choice for the NOISE Festival 2014 – I also met him when he invited me to his John Peel BBC lecture, top bloke!)

Best place for people to find out what you are up to?




Anything to declare? I’ve released a couple of EPs (you can find them on my Soundcloud and Spotify pages) and a charity single for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, which raised over £1000 for the charity!

Vote for James Holt to receive the hallowed Pirate Prodigies package of a lifetime here

Voting closes Friday 20th April – so hurry!