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Jamie Woon: “It’s about getting closer to the potential”

Whilst interviewing Jamie Woon prior to his performance at the O2 Institute in Birmingham, one of our most insightful conversations concerned the role of different artists in shaping his musical identity.

He outlined the initial influence of Radiohead (“I thought I wanted to be in a guitar band and then they did Kid A and I was like oh shit, guitars aren’t cool anymore”) and Jeff Buckley before getting “into more soul music” like Marvin Gaye. Watching his set, it’s easy to see how his music operates at an intersection of these influences: embracing the emotional ache of Buckley’s voice, the R&B of Marvin Gaye, and the electronic experimentation of Radiohead. Woon’s ability to link a wide array of styles is clearly something he prides, saying that part of making a record is “about having a wide palette of sounds you’re exposed to and that you like.” A point of greater pride, though, should be that these influences never eclipse his originality as an artist. Artists are often weighed down by taking too much from their idols, but Woon’s ability to both embrace and sidestep them hits me constantly during his performance.

Woon embraces Buckley’s emotional ache, Marvin Gaye’s R&B, and Radiohead’s electronic experimentation.

Some of the highlights of the night included Woon’s 2010 single, ‘Night Air’, and his collaboration with Willy Mason, ‘Celebration’. According to Woon, ‘Night Air’ works so well because of the way he and co-producer Burial complement each other; Jamie is “always thinking about the guitars or vocals,” whereas Burial “has a good mind for that kind of conceptual mood” that “was really inspiring”. Thanks to a great sound system and an immensely talented backing band, each flourish of the song, including Burial’s amazing kick drum samples (“stone cold winners”), had its full impact on the audience. The same can be said for ‘Message’, which is effective through how smoothly different components are added and taken away – most notably the backing piano. As for ‘Celebration’, Woon’s voice has never sounded better, and it’s testament to the charisma and talent of his backing singers that they were able to do justice to Willy Mason’s part, and even add something extra.

“Trying to reach the potential; you’ll never get there, it’ll always be a bit shitter than that…”

Our conversation continued to expand across a variety of subjects, including a drunken Thundercat story and the niche genres that people attempt to place his music in, such as “post-dubstep”. Most significantly, we discussed both his process of making music and his progression as an artist from Mirrorwriting to Making Time. Woon nicely sums up his mentality in making a record, saying that it’s all about “Trying to reach the potential; you’ll never get there, it’ll always be a bit shitter than that…but it’s about trying to get closer to that, and I did get closer to that with this record.” When a show is so succinctly and effectively pulled off, with the increased sophistication and nuance of his sophomore album on clear display, it’s hard to argue that Jamie Woon only continues to reach his potential as an artist. For me, “you’ll never get there” is testament to the fact that Woon will always strive to be better, so here’s looking forward to what he does next.

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