Name: Jamie Lawson
Occupation: Singer, songwriter
Current event: In May 2022, Jamie Lawson will embark on a very special tour with fellow songwriters Gemma Hayes, Richard Walters and Laura Zocca. The quartet will take turns on stage – a “tag team of traditional singing troubadours” as the press release puts it. For Lawson, the performances will be the culmination of an intense and remarkably successful period which started when he signed on to Ed Sheeran's Gingerbread Man label in 2015, scoring a huge streaming hit and a number one full-length in no less than 26 countries.
Buck tickets for An Acoustic Round here. This is the current itinerary of the tour:
16 th May Manchester Stoller Hall
17 th May Birmingham The Mill
18 th May Milton Keynes The Stables
19 th May Exeter Phoenix
20 th May Wimborne Tivoli
22 nd May Cardiff Tramshed
23 rd May London Union Chapel
24 th May Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
25 th May Bristol St Georges Hall
26 th May Bury St Edmunds Apex
To check out his new single "Freedom", go here.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jamie Lawson and would like to find out more, visit his official homepage. Stay connected with Jamie via Instagram, Facebook, and twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
The impulse to create comes out of a need to do it.
I’ve realised over the last couple of years being in various lockdowns with a baby that time is very precious. I noticed that not being able to create, write and sing made me feel anxious and tetchy. Somehow writing is a release for me, even if it’s not writing about what it is I’m going through or thinking about, just the act of writing is cathartic.
Those points of inspiration definitely play a part, but if you don’t put the hours in they’ll all come to nothing. Whatever that quote is about it being 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration is completely true.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I tend to find that songs lead themselves, the thought of ‘concrete’ ideas are more than likely going to leave you stuck, you have to follow the song.
For instance just because you want to write a rockier, upbeat song, doesn’t mean you’ll end up with one. You may find that those chords you’re hammering away at will feel nicer and more inspiring plucked, or played in 3/4. It’s always good to try different options to see where the song sits best.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
The only preparation I can think of is clearing the time, making sure I have a few hours free and try not to be interrupted. I don’t have any tools as such apart from an acoustic guitar and an A4 notebook.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I’ll always have a cup of tea, and I’ll always take plenty of tea breaks, that gives you a little space away from the song and lets the mind wander a little bit. Often the line you’re stuck on will come to you whilst you’re away from the desk doing something mundane.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
I’ll start by strumming or plucking, or finding a chord pattern on the keyboard and singing nonsense over that. I’m relying on instinct to come up with a melody or a line that makes me sit up and take notice, something of interest, something that moves me. If I can find that then I might be in for a good day.
How difficult that is can be a very hard question to answer, sometimes it’s there immediately, sometimes it’s not there for days and I’ve never ever known which it’s going to be.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
More often than not they grow together, one inspired by the other. I’ll have notes I’ve made in the past or I’ll refer to a long list of song titles that I have in my phone to see if one of them will suit the piece of music I’m working on. I can have a title for years and then suddenly a certain chord sequence will make that title make perfect sense.
The song “Don’t Let Me Let You Go,” came from the title first.
I had a list that I showed to Amy Wadge who I wrote the song with and she went for it. That title was originally meant for another act but they didn’t turn up to a writing session, luckily I got to keep it for myself.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Believability. Does the singer believe what they’re singing? If a singer sings, “I love you,” and believes it, it can be the best line ever written. If they don’t then it’s the worst.
These days I’m aiming for imagery. Thoughts and objects that shouldn’t go together but somehow for whatever reason make sense because of the melody or chords. I love odd connections. I find it quite difficult and have to wade through a lot of rubbish first before my mind gets to it.
I wrote the song “Always Be There,” after my wife needed an early scan in her pregnancy. Luckily everything was fine, but seeing the beating dot that would become our baby for the first time was both weird and wonderful. This is the second verse, and it makes perfect sense to me.
“Now you’re inside her, barely a given
Holding a lifeline, beating a rhythm.
You’re floating somewhere in outer space
Swimming in the jet stream, surrendered in grace.”
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I’m definitely a follower, let the song speak up.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
You’re always allowed to come back from an idea, to write a whole new chorus and then say, “I think the chorus we had before was better.” Chase all the ideas, the best ones will soon stand up for themselves.
A lot of times what you thought was a great chorus might suit better being a middle 8 so I never throw an idea away.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I have to look at it as work otherwise I haven’t done anything with my life. It’s a job, and it’s the only job I’ve ever wanted and the only thing I’m any use at. But it’s definitely, and brilliantly, work.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
That’s a tough one to answer. Bob Dylan would tell you that they’re never finished, that the recording you’re listening to is just one version of many. I like that answer, I like the idea that songs can continue to evolve, that way they may still take you by surprise from time to time.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
For me it’s very important. The way I’ve been working recently is to record my songs at home and then send those recordings to my producer friend Tim Ross (Cashy Cash) who messes and mixes them up to a whole new level, far beyond what I could take them to. His role is vital in making sure my songs get heard.
There’s a horn part on the song “All Because Of You,” that was all Tim, and it always makes me smile.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I think the way I work seems to be pretty continuous. Just because certain songs didn’t make an album doesn’t mean they weren’t good songs, more that they just didn’t fit that particular project. I always feel (assuming I’ve written enough songs) that I’ll have some songs to be starting on the next project with, almost a head start.
The song “Letter Never Sent” was recorded for the Jamie Lawson album but never made the record, instead it went on the next one. I think “Don’t Say You Don’t If You Do” was the same.
For whatever reason they didn’t quite fit, but they worked brilliantly on the Happy Accidents album.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Well, once a great cup of coffee is gone, it’s gone. With music you can listen to it time and time again. Perhaps your relationship to it will change over time. It’ll grow up beside you or you can leave it behind as a memory, but it’ll always be there, and that’s beautiful.