James Morrison. Picture: Supplied
“It’s early morning here but I’ve got kids and they mess you up, don’t they?” James Morrison asks, tongue firmly in cheek. “They mess your sleep plan up!”

I am speaking to the British hitmaker shortly before he makes his first trip to South Africa. He is due to perform at Montecasino’s The Teatro in Johannesburg from January 22 to 24 and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town on January 26.

While Morrison might not like having to be awake early, he’s excited about coming to Mzansi.

I ask him what has kept him away in the 13 years that he’s been in the industry.

The "You Give Me Something" singer replies: “It was just interest from enough people who listen to my music. Who wouldn’t want to come to such a beautiful country? This is the first time I’ve had any interest.”

The crooner has given us some syrupy-sweet ballads with lyrics that aren’t always as straight-forward as pop music dictates. A big part of that comes from his upbringing. It shows in his response to me asking whether he’s looking forward to debunking any myths about South Africa.

“I suppose the one thing I heard is that it can be dangerous but that’s never bothered me,” he says nonchalantly. “I was brought up in a corrupt place in England so I’m excited to come and see such a beautiful country. I love reading up on spiritual stuff and I’ve read the cradle of humanity started in South Africa, so I’m excited to go there.”

He’s keen to visit Maropeng, but will he get claustrophobic if he takes a cave tour?

“Am I a what?” he asks, alarmed.

“Claustrophobic,” I repeat.

“Ohhhh,” he says then giggles. “I thought you said ‘an alcoholic’. But no, I’m not, thank God. I’m definitely not claustrophobic. I don’t mind caves. And no, I am not an alcoholic, thank God,” he laughs.

When he was about 14 years old, Morrison used to frequent pubs - only to play his music, though.

“At 16, I would play at pubs and people would sit up,” he recalls. “I noticed they had this interest. It would be packed and I thought: ‘I obviously have something people like’. My career spiralled from there.

“I never believed I could become a full-blown recording artist but I thought I could entertain people enough with my singing that they would fill up the pubs.

‘My life now doesn’t feel too different from back then because I’m still doing what I want to do: singing and playing music.”

One of his four albums is the curiously titled "Songs For You", "Truths For Me". “Longest title album ever,” he says. “I couldn’t even say it by the end, it’s so long.”

I ask him if all his songs contain his truth, even when is hidden in beautiful lyricism that allows the listener to make it all about them.

“I always try to root a song in something real because it’s easier to sing. I suppose that’s why most of my songs are about relationships because that’s what I am going through. But when I get a song that is not about relationships, I am stoked because they are hard to write. Songs that aren’t my truth are harder for me to write. I have to start off with the truth.”

Morrison’s new album, "You’re Stronger Than You Know", is set for release this year and is rooted in his truth.

“Like when my dad died, I just focused on that and my upcoming album. I focused on rebuilding my life after being dropped by a label, losing family and rebuilding our lives again. It’s not depressing. It’s really positive but it took a long time to get these songs together and be ready enough to go out and do them some justice. I’m more excited about my music and my career more than ever before.”