“Finding the glimmer of hope”: Bec Stevens Opens Up About “James’ Song,” Her Anthemic Ode to a Lost Loved One

Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Melbourne singer/songwriter Bec Stevens opens up about her stunningly cinematic and achingly raw new single “James’ Song,” a soaring, soul-stirring anthem of passion, pain, and perseverance – and a powerful tribute to a lost loved one – taken off her upcoming sophomore album, ‘BIG WORRY.’
CW: Suicide
Stream: “James’ Song” – Bec Stevens




Tell me you’re gone, and I’ll let the bad thoughts in…

Sometimes, life hurts. A lot. There’s nothing you can do but try to hold your head high and push through, one day into the next.

And sometimes, the clouds part, the sunshine pours down, and what was once a pit of dark misery becomes a radiant space of light and love. But the darkness is still looming above us, lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to jump out and bring us back to that place of despair. “It’s not raining inside for once and it’s nice,” Bec Stevens sings in her latest release, welcoming a moment of emotional respite with open arms and an open heart. “The hindsight rules my life; it’s my second side. Tell me you’re gone; tell me you’re gone, and I’ll let the bad thoughts in – I’ll let the bad thoughts in.

Stunningly intimate and achingly raw, “James’ Song” is a soaring, soul-stirring anthem of passion, pain, and perseverance – not to mention a powerful tribute to a lost loved one. In this song, we hear the weight of depression pressing down; we see a weary soul crying out for help; and we feel a strain of hope, inner strength, courage, and resolve.

James' Song - Bec Stevens
James’ Song – Bec Stevens
It’s not raining inside
For once and it’s nice
The hindsight rules my life
It’s my second side
Tell me you’re gone
Tell me you’re gone
And I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I’ll let the bad thoughts in

Released February 3, 2023 via Damaged Records, “James’ Song” is the breathtaking third and final single off Melbourne singer/songwriter Bec Stevens’ forthcoming sophomore album BIG WORRY, out March 17, 2023. As its name suggests, the song was originally written by James McKenzie, a close friend of Stevens, who tragically took his own life in late 2019.

Stevens originally received the song from McKenzie as a voice message recorded on his phone; an instant favorite, she has been playing it tirelessly on and off the stage ever since his passing, finding her voice in his words while all the while uncovering new layers of meaning, depth, and understanding. She put out a scratchier demo version of the track as a part of Damaged Records’ Cabin Fever Compilation Volume #1, which the label released in September 2021.

Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw



”This song is not mine, but in many ways, it’s all I have left,” Stevens explains. “James sent me this song after the last time I saw him. A shitty little voice memo he recorded on his phone. It hurt to listen then, but for different reasons. In 2019 when I got the call that he had taken his own life, I was utterly shattered. I wanted to feel close to him, so I found the last song he had sent me, and I listened again; I heard it differently this time. Hearing the line “and I can’t help but think that this might be the last time we speak”… A feeling I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to explain.”

Now re-recorded and produced with her BIG WORRY collaborator Jonathon “Jono” Tooke, “James’ Song” shines with all the light, love, and passion it deserves. Unapologetically raw and deeply vulnerable, this song is at once a moving eulogy to a loved one who has passed away, and a means of keeping his memory alive.McKenzie’s brother Marcus McKenzie and his friend Tye Richo lend their vocals to the song’s background harmonies, together with a choir of Stevens’ friends from all over Melbourne’s music scene. She describes this communal effort as a big supportive hug, “like all of these people were carrying me through it and holding my hand,” and certainly the power of their collective contributions speaks for itself.

The truth is they didn’t disconnect
They kept going along with it
I just ask too many questions
Tell me you’re gone
Tell me you’re gone
And I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw



At the heart of this song is one artist who is no longer with us, and another who is carrying on a piece of his legacy in her own.

“Despite the pain this song evokes for me, I am grateful for it,” Stevens tells Atwood Magazine. “Recording and releasing this song felt important to me for many reasons; this is my way of keeping his memory alive. I have lost a lot of people in my life, almost all to suicide; I have an overwhelming fear of forgetting them. Especially James. Not only was he a beautiful, hilarious and kind human, but He was also an incredible musician and writer. Due to his anxiety and nerves, only a handful of very lucky people got to experience his songs. I am very grateful to his family for giving me their love and support to share a little piece of him on this album.”

“The importance of this song can’t be overstated, but its essence boils down to making sure I keep telling his story in a way to keep him alive. To keep the conversation around mental health alive. Community care is more than a one off day a year where we check in with each other. Having frank conversations about mental health more consistently and without judgement is the way we sew into the fabric of society the de-stigmatisation of normalising and supporting people with mental health issues.”

And I think that I finally let you go
And I think that it’s starting to show
And I know I should’ve cut my losses
When you told me to
But I just couldn’t get over you
So as I say goodbye to this city again
I can hear the South calling my name
Guess I’ve just never really been
That good to me
I can’t help but think that this might be
The last time we speak
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw



Big Worry - Bec Stevens
Big Worry, Bec Stevens’ sophomore album, is out March 17.

All aboard the bleeding heart, hot mess express… This record is all about hope. The light at the end of the tunnel. Though it may be dim, it’s there somewhere and most importantly, it’s ok to ask for help to find it. Finding the glimmer of hope is a big reason why I’m still here.

Stevens poured her heart and soul into every inch of BIG WORRY – whose other singles thus far include the cinematic, eruptive title track, and the equally explosive “A Stranger” – but nowhere is she quite as intimate, as vulnerable, and as raw as she is on “James’ Song.” When she sings, “Tell me you’re gone, and I’ll let the bad thoughts in,” her voice rings out full of strength – she’s a beacon of hope, even as her lyrics dwell in darkness; even as she lets the bad thoughts in.

This is a true ode to staying power; a testament to the unabating strength of the human spirit.

Atwood Magazine dove deeper into this achingly beautiful, uplifting, and inspiring song in a candid heart-to-heart conversation with Bec Stevens. Learn more about “James’ Song” and BIG WORRY below, and get lost in the power of this deeply special song.

BIG WORRY is out March 17, 2023 via Damaged Record Co.

I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
Guess I’ve just never really been
That good to me
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I can’t help but think that this might be
The last time we speak
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
I’ll let the bad thoughts in
Stream: “James’ Song” – Bec Stevens



Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw

A CONVERSATION WITH BEC STEVENS

James' Song - Bec Stevens

Atwood Magazine: Bec, thanks so much for your time! First, I was hoping to know a little more about your friend James if you at all feel comfortable sharing; how you knew each other?

Bec Stevens: James and I met about 12 years ago when I was about 17 or 18. He started working at my local pub, The Royal Oak in Launceston, Tasmania. The Oak played a big role in the formative years of my musicianship. I spent the better part of 2+ years just playing shows in the front bar and drinking excessively, James being a key member in a lot of those memories.

It wasn’t until I moved to Adelaide at the end of 2013 that we became a lot closer. Our relationship morphed in many ways over the next 6 years, above all we were kind of just a safe place for one another to be a bit miserable. We both had our own demons, both had quite poor mental health a lot of the time, and were both navigating our early twenties, which is obviously a hellscape for the heart and brain. We would just chat candidly about that. Free from judgment or expectation.

How did you go about capturing James’ song in your voice? What was that experience like for you, and did you make any conscious decisions from a sonic or instrumental perspective as you went about recording it?

Bec Stevens: I think trying to sing James’ songs has always felt quite natural as we have always had similar tastes in music and a similar style of performing and writing; we had also been sharing our songs with each other for years. When it came to this song, I learnt to play it almost immediately after losing him.

I am incredibly attached to this song. It’s not the only song of his I have, but it quickly became a cornerstone of my set and my life. This song exists in the same capacity as a photo of a loved one, carried around in your wallet. We spent a lot of time chipping away at this song when it came time to record it. Naturally I felt an overwhelming amount of pressure to get it right. As with any song, I could have probably kept picking it apart forever, however, one day Jono and I sat back and listened to what we had and were both just like.. That’s it.

The very last thing we did, which will always be my favourite part of the final product, was managing to add James’ actual voice to the very end of the song. I said in passing to Jono, “How special would it have been if we were able to use some of his actual vocal from the audio I have of him and add it to the song.” Jono spun round slowly in his chair Dr. Evil style and said, “That’s not a crazy idea…” then went full mad scientist for the next hour trying to isolate James’ vocal from the very poor quality recording we had of him. After a lot of finessing, it was done and we had this perfect harmony between James’ and my own vocal singing, “I’ll let the bad thoughts in.

During the pre-production stage of the record, this was The Big Scary Song that Jono (my Producer) and I kept avoiding til the end because we wanted to make sure we did the song justice. Funnily enough, this ended up being a great call because by the point we started working on the song, we had found the voice of the record as a whole and needed to bring this song into that world.

Jonathon “Jono” Tooke: After a lot of playing around, we landed on the static guitar riff that carries the verse and the song just seemed to unlock itself. I wanted the song to carry all the weight of our favourite emo bands but also have this stadium size to it, so a huge thing was having elements in the arrangement that tugged at your heartstrings, but also keep each part kinda minimal so we could do a mile of layering off those simple parts to get the size.

A huge moment in the recording process though was picking the take that has the big high note in the song. Bec was worried it’d come off sounding amateurish to pick the one where her voice snaps in half, but to me that captured the pain of the song. It took a bit of convincing but I’m so glad we landed on the take we did.

Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw



These lyrics really cut to a visceral, vulnerable core. I was left breathless the first time I heard this song too. How do you interpret them?

Bec Stevens: Heck, where do I begin? All of James is in this song. I’ve known him for so long and I just feel like he’s done such an incredible job to explain himself in the lyrics. I’m not sure if that makes sense to anyone else. I guess it’s just really hard to find the words to explain a feeling, even just in life let alone a song, and he’s hit the nail on the head. The line, “It’s not raining inside for once and it’s nice,” is one of the best lyrics I’ve literally ever heard. He’s a genius, though he probably didn’t even think twice about it at the time.

Like any song, you can interpret James’ song in many ways. Context is everything. For example, the context of when I first heard the song, which was maybe a week after the last time I saw him, paralleled with listening to it again the day I learnt we had lost him, was starkly different.

What do you hope listeners take away from this song?

Bec Stevens: This question is tricky because I don’t really know. I want People to hear his song. I want the people that need it to be able to connect with it. I want people to know that everyone has a story, and every story matters.

This is the beauty of music and creating and writing. For every reason you write a song and every word you pen, that can manifest itself differently in every listener. The content can be deeply personal, however related to any individual who attaches those words to their own experiences.

Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw
Bec Stevens © Ian Laidlaw



How does this song capture the energy and emotions of BIG WORRY? How do you feel it teases the album?

Bec Stevens: All aboard the bleeding heart, hot mess express! Jono has done an incredible job to help me make an album that stays true to what I’m feeling and saying but flows smoothly and isn’t too jarring to listen to. This song is maybe the bow that ties it all together. It encapsulates so much of the record in it, sonically, instrumentally as well as the lyrical content, mood and tone. This record is all about hope. The light at the end of the tunnel. Though it may be dim, it’s there somewhere and most importantly that it’s ok to ask for help to find it. I guess that’s what I did with Jono for this record. Asked for help.

Finding the glimmer of hope is a big reason why I’m still here. I think maybe without realising, hope is what I was and still am wanting to share with others. Lyrically I didn’t change any part of “James’ Song,” but we did re-structure the song, ever so slightly. I felt like I needed to evoke that feeling of hope in the last half, and with the memory of James in mind, I think he would’ve loved it. Penultimately and at the risk of sounding cliché, every time I play this song, especially the last half, I feel him with me.

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Stream: “James’ Song” – Bec Stevens



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