James Bay gets electric on second album

British singer-songwriter James Bay's second album Electric Light will be released on May 18.
British singer-songwriter James Bay's second album Electric Light will be released on May 18.

James Bay has returned, but not as you know him.

Yes, the hat is gone, and the hair has been cut, but what's more interesting is how he's embraced synthesisers to create an album that sounds like it couldn't have come from this guitar-playing troubadour.

It's a David Bowie/Lorde/Frank Ocean inspired record, at Bay's own admission, and it's a true change for the British artist known for folk-rock songs such as Let It Go and Hold Back The River.

"I think it's my duty, responsibility, to evolve," Bay told AAP.

As he prepares to release his second album, Electric Light, the much-anticipated follow-up to his number one debut record Chaos and the Calm, he explains the change actually came from his live shows.

"The songs that I'd written and then recorded in whatever capacity for Chaos and the Calm, they sat nicely as a record but I hadn't played them live. So when I took all those songs out on the road, my live show became this really high energy experience with very low intimate lows and very high energy highs and I wanted that electricity in this new record," he said.

"I've changed things up very intentionally. So I just wanted to capture this higher energy."

He's already released several singles from the album including Wild Love and Pink Lemonade that show just how clearly this new iteration of Bay has embraced electronic music, and it's working.

"I fell in love with synthesisers... and programmed drums so it was a little bit more electronic," he said.

"There was more organic acoustic stuff which I'd done before and we just sort of crushed them together to get this sort of amalgamation and this sort of collage of new sound."

Pink Lemonade is an incredible mish-mash of The Strokes with LCD Soundsytem, and on Wild Love it sounds like Bay has put his vocals through a vocoder to give them a robotic edge.

But there are still elements of the old Bay poking through on the emotional, gospel-tinged ballad Us because all this change doesn't come without its share of apprehension.

"I'm nervous about the whole thing," Bay said.

"If I wasn't feeling nervous and any pressure than it wouldn't feel like it mattered."

But this change has come about as much for him as it has for his supporters.

"I want to continue a brilliant relationship with my fans. To continue a brilliant relationship with anybody you can't just sit and stay the same and stagnate, you have to push each other and test boundaries and progress."

* Electric Light is release on May 18. James Bay will perform at Splendour in the Grass and at two side shows in Melbourne's Hamer Hall on July 24 and Sydney's State Theatre on July 25.

Australian Associated Press