Image: Kmeron / Flickr

In Conversation with Jamie Lawson

Jamie Lawson’s Instagram is filled with ‘video selfies’. His invitation “say hello, Newcastle!” is heard over thousands of screaming fans, holding lights aloft. As he pans the crowd, Jamie seems to smile – perhaps taking a moment to digest the situation. In my interview, I ask him how he’s found his recent experiences touring with One Direction. “It’s been pretty crazy!” he says. “It’s really interesting as a solo act, just up there with a guitar, singing songs in front of One Direction fans. I’m probably not the obvious fit, but they’ve been really supportive, and the fans have been fantastic. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I’m really glad I did it.”

Of course, supporting One Direction is only a warm up for his own headline UK and European tour, “so it’s straight into it”, starting in November. I’m kind of nervous. It’ll be such a different set up and environment: obviously smaller venues, and people there just to see me. It’s going to throw me a bit at first but I can’t wait.” Speaking of his own support band, Paper Aeroplanes, Jamie recounts, “We got to know each other from the London circuit. I once supported them in Birmingham and it’s nice to return the favour.”

Jamie Lawson is the first artist to be signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label – Gingerbread Man Records

Also once on the London circuit was Ed Sheeran, who eventually crossed paths with Jamie at The Bedford in Balham. After getting on well and becoming mutual fans, Jamie jokes they immediately lost touch and that “Ed went on to be this big star!” A few years later, Jamie was asked to open for Ed’s secret show at The Ruby Sessions in Dublin. He describes being asked after such a long time as “surreal”, humbly surprised that “he’d even remember me… From there I went and met him, did the show, we had a great night and got on really well. He invited me on his UK and European tour this time last year. That’s when the whole record label thing came into effect. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least!”

Jamie Lawson is the first artist to be signed to Ed Sheeran’s record label – Gingerbread Man Records. We talk about Ed’s involvement, mainly in helping to choose songs for the record while Jamie was on tour with him in Australia, and setting up a meeting with Will Hicks, a producer who’d worked with Ed previously. “He thought that Will would really get what I do, and understand where I was trying to go forward. I wanted to make a really warm and open record that was very organic sounding, yet still able to get played on the radio. Ed just left me to it, which is brilliant. It meant I got to make the record I really wanted to make and he just supported it.”

You get a sense talking to Jamie that he was always determined to stay true to the music he wanted to make. We discuss how the thought of giving up never really entered his head: “A few people have asked ‘did you ever think about doing something else?’ I couldn’t really do anything else, and I was probably too lazy to learn! When people heard my songs, they reacted to them, so it was just a case of getting it to enough people. Ed thought similarly, especially that the song ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ should be heard – and that he could facilitate it. That’s exactly what he’s done.”

Ed just left me to it, which is brilliant. It meant I got to make the record I really wanted to make and he just supported it

Jamie says his self-titled album was “a lot easier to make” than its predecessors, The Pull of the Moon and Last Night Stars. “We moved into a residential studio in Oxford, slept and worked, ate and worked, met and worked and slept. It focuses you because you really need to get it done. In some ways, that really helped the record have a particular sound to it, and the same kind of feeling throughout. At the same time, it was quite stressful because we only had two weeks, but it was a really enjoyable experience.”

Image: Kmeron / Flickr

Image: Kmeron / Flickr

Jamie describes how some of the album’s tracks began life: “‘Ahead Of Myself’ came out of nowhere and I just started singing the first line – literally walking through my flat. I could hear the chords as I was singing it, so I just had to chase it. ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ came out of someone saying it in a conversation, and I was just playing around with chords and found the second line. Then you can make a map for the rest of the song.”

I say it reminds me of writing – finding fragments and pulling pieces together. Jamie’s process is like a challenging puzzle, him agreeing “yeah you’re kind of chipping away at it.” His favourite song off the album? ‘The Only Conclusion’. “I think it’s sweet; it still makes me smile to sing it, which is a nice feeling. I’m really proud of ‘Sometimes It’s Hard’ as well, because it has a good message about overcoming things, staying strong, getting through and knowing things are ok.”

His favourite song off the album? ‘The Only Conclusion’. “I think it’s sweet; it still makes me smile to sing it, which is a nice feeling”

Though he now makes a living out of it, music seems to be a hobby as well as a job. “Even in my down time I pick up the guitar. It feels hard to call it a job when all you do is play all day.” Jamie admits “falling” into it, without a career in mind, simply thinking “there’s not much point doing something else if you’re not going to enjoy it.”

Everyone seems to make the joke, “bet you wasn’t expecting that.” When I ask how he feels about how the album’s been received, he is “very chuffed,” especially with the response on social media: “It’s been fantastic, positive, beautiful and heart-warming. I was worried that it was a little upbeat for my fans, but people that know me and my other albums seem to like it as well.”

Jamie seems happy, admitting that first and foremost it’s important he can “be proud and stand behind it,” – with good reason as he’s risen to the top of the UK single and album charts. Yet when I ask what the most surreal moment has been so far, he chuckles; “do you know who David Hasselhoff is? He followed me on Twitter. Also, having Harry Styles listen to me sound check a few times. That’s quite strange when there’s 12,000 empty seats and Harry just sat there, watching…”.

Harry Styles has listened to me sound check a few times. That’s quite strange when there’s 12,000 empty seats and Harry just sat there, watching…

I ask about his influences, and what he listens to when he’s not working on his own music – apart from One Direction, obviously. He lists off Elbow, Irish singer songwriter Gavin James, The Jackson 5 and R.E.M. That is, if he has time to listen to music. Jamie’s next few months are chock full of gigs, interviews, and tours: We do Europe throughout November, and I go to the US in December for a radio promo tour which lasts three weeks. After Christmas and New Year off, I start rehearsals for my January tour.  Then I go to Germany and then back to the US to support Vance Joy for six weeks. That’ll be amazing.”

I mention that he’s going to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show as well.

“Yeah, isn’t that crazy? That’s like next week.” Crazy seems to come with success. Judging by the tornado past few months, there’s definitely more crazy to come.

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