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Mitch James opens up on living rough in London

The Project logoThe Project 14/09/2018 Newshub staff

Kiwi songwriter Mitch James has opened up about how he ended up homeless in London.

The '21' singer played 230 gigs while busking in Europe, but it was tough - sleeping on the street for eight weeks and getting robbed twice.

But the hard work has paid off. Boasting 30 million Spotify streams, the Dunedinite is now one of New Zealand's most popular artists. He underlined that last year with a 'Best Pop Artist' nomination at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.

On the eve of the release of his long-awaited debut album - recorded at Neil Finn's Roundhead studios - James spoke to The Project about his career, including opening for Ed Sheeran when he played in Dunedin earlier this year.

"He's just like everybody perceives him to be, he's an absolute legend," he says. "Down to earth, great guy - can't say anything bad about the man.

"He was the first person I sent the completed album to, so it was a cool kind of full-circle thing. He emailed back and said he loved it."

Mitch James opened up about how he ended up homeless in London. © The Project Mitch James opened up about how he ended up homeless in London.

He took The Project audience on a tour of his tattoos, including an image of London to commemorate the time he spent homeless in the city.

"I'd busk every day, so Monday to Thursday I'd have enough money to sleep in a hostel. But when the weekend came around, all the tourists would be looking for hostels - so the prices basically doubled.

"I found myself more times than not on the weekends sleeping on the streets or in Hyde Park. It was not fun."

He says the tattoo reminds him to work hard, as does the image of UFC fighter Conor McGregor's face he has emblazoned on his arm.

"It's not because he knocks people out, it's more because of his mindset - law of attraction. Basically just a guy coming from nothing and taking over his respective field, which I take inspiration from."

James also revealed he gave up a promising baseball career, for which he used to train twice a day.

"I was good enough to get a few scholarship offers from the States, but I didn't academically qualify so music sort of overtook it at the right time."

His self-titled debut album is out on Friday.

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