Jamie Lawson, an English singer, songwriter and musician, chats with Kevin Cooper about his lockdown grooming habits, his views on streaming services, wining an Ivor Novello award and the release of his forthcoming EP Moving Images.

Jamie Lawson is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He first picked up a guitar aged eight when he was given one for a Christmas present. Beginning his music career when he was still at High School, from the age of seventeen he began performing in pubs and bars around the UK and Ireland.

Lawson released his debut album, Last Night Stars on Allotment Recordings in 2003 and when he moved to Lookout Mountain Records, he released his second album, The Pull Of The Moon in 2010. A follow up album, Wasn’t Expecting That, was a re-release of his second album.

His single, Wasn’t Expecting That, was originally released on YouTube in 2011 and became hugely popular after it was played on one of Ireland’s biggest radio stations. In March 2015 Ed Sheeran announced that Lawson would be the first artist to be signed to his new label, Gingerbread Man Records. The single, Wasn’t Expecting That was re-released on 3rd April 2015 and it peaked at number six in the UK singles chart and was certified silver in 2015 by the British Phonographic Industry.

In 2015 Gingerbread Man Records released Lawson’s self titled album which reached number one in the album charts, and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry, denoting shipments of 100,000 copies. In 2016 he won the prestigious Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, beating Ed Sheeran to the award. This was followed by two more albums, Happy Accidents and The Years In Between, and between 2002 and 2013 Lawson also released four EP’s.

Whilst busy promoting his fifth EP, Moving Images, during the Covid-19 Lockdown, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Jamie, how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin; how are you today?

All is as good as can be considering everything that is currently going on in the world thank you, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s not a problem at all; in fact it’s my pleasure, so thank you for wanting to speak to me.

And just how are you coping with the lockdown?

(Laughter) interestingly that is a weird one for me to answer because I was, in fact, taking the time off anyway. I was intending to take off the past few months and take a rest from touring; simply because I felt that I had toured quite a lot over the past few years. Plus, as you no doubt already know, we have just had a baby back in early February, so that has changed my life beyond all recognition, and on top of all of that we are currently in the middle of this pandemic which means that you simply cannot go anywhere, you can’t see anyone, so for me it really has been an interesting time (laughter). I personally feel that we have been quite lucky in terms of not having to tour which means that I get to stay home, be around and do all those sorts of things. So, I am doing okay, thank you for asking, I am doing okay.

And just how is the lockdown beard coming along (laughter).

(Laughter) the lockdown beard is coming along quite nicely thank you. Having said that, I have in fact had to keep mine in check because I am doing quite a few live streams and videos to put out, so I have been doing my best to keep myself in check, although I have to be honest and tell you that the hair is now starting to go a bit wild (laughter). I don’t seem to be able to keep the hair in check as well as the beard so yes, the hair is starting to go a bit now (laughter).

Here we all are in lockdown together and the one thing which people seem to be becoming obsessed with is getting a haircut (laughter).

(Laughter) I know, it’s an interesting thing isn’t it. Vanity has come out to play (laughter). Is it vanity or is it self-respect, I really don’t know which it is?

Could it perhaps be a bit of both?

Perhaps you are right. I think that just before the lockdown came into being, I did go for a haircut and I have to say that I regretted it immediately (laughter). As he was cutting my hair, I kept having a peep in the mirror and I thought ‘this is crazy, his hands are over me’. Anyway, I got talking to the barber and he told me that his wife worked in a hospital and she was basically on the frontline, and I started thinking ‘what a stupid mistake I have made here’. So yes, I am really surprised that is what people want to go and do, but I am actually starting to understand it because my hair is starting to go out of control. But, at the end of the day there are always hats (laughter).

I had thought about shaving my head but knowing my luck we would be given the all clear to go back out onto the streets tomorrow (laughter).

(Laughter) I had actually been thinking something similar myself. I thought ‘should I just give it a little shave’ but then I remember that I did it once and I looked absolute awful even though it didn’t last that long (laughter).

Now that we have collectively rectified the nations ‘bad hair day’ we really should talk about your forthcoming EP Moving Images which has a release date of Friday 29th May. Are you looking forward to getting it out there to the fans?

Yes, I am, I really can’t wait. It is starting to feel as though She Sings For Me has been out for quite a while now, which was received really well. We are well on the way to achieving two hundred thousand streams on Spotify which really is amazing. I am well chuffed with that. We have just released Closure last week and that has received a great response too so yes, I am looking forward to it, and finally getting to hear just what people think of it, and what tracks people are drawn to.

I have been told that you have a more personal interest in these songs than any of your previous songs. Is that correct?

(Laughter) just who have you been speaking to (laughter). Yes, I have as this is the first selection of songs that I have produced. I have recorded most of it here in my home studio, so it is probably the most direct version of the vision that I have of what I do.

Well I have to say that I have been playing the EP for the past few days now and I think that it is a great piece of work.

Thanks Kevin, I’m glad that you like it.

My favourite track at this moment in time is A Perfect Year; I think that is fantastic.

That is so cool, I am glad that you like that track as it really is one of my favourites too.

Where did the inspiration come from for that particular song?

(Laughter) it actually comes from a bit of a blunder, I guess (laughter). I actually wrote that song for my wife as a first wedding anniversary present, which in all honesty is a little arrogant, thinking that you could write a song for your wife. However, I had ordered another present which hadn’t arrived, and I was going to be, how do you put it, up shit creek (laughter). So, I very quickly, the day before the wedding anniversary, which being year one was paper, I very quickly wrote a song for her and gave her the lyrics on our anniversary as well as the song which I had managed to write and record within two hours. That is pretty much the version of the song which we now have (laughter).

I had most of the parts already worked out, the string parts were originally for the guitar, but that was expanded by adding a string arrangement. That is the simple reason as to why that song exists (laughter). In all honesty I never expected anyone else to ever hear that song, it was just for Catherine’s ears, but I quite liked it and I was hoping that others would like it too (laughter).

That just goes to prove that finding yourself under pressure can, sometimes at least, pay off.

Yes, that’s right, at least in some instances (laughter). It’s not until December so I have time on my side this year (laughter).

Are you always writing?

I’m so pleased that you have asked me that because I have to tell you that I have to do something. I start getting a little twitchy if I am not creating; if I am not working on something. Since our son arrived it has been my biggest time away from working in that way. It is the longest that I have gone without playing a guitar and let me tell you, it is beginning to feel odd. Having said that, I have since written a new song about ten days ago, plus I have been working on a lot of homemade video type of things with my band. We are all playing and recording different parts which I am now putting together. I like to have something to do, that’s for sure and I would like to get back to writing now. My head is now back in that space. You have to realise that a new-born does not really equate to making music (laughter).

Now that you are a father, do you feel that will affect the manner in which you write and also your subject matter?

What a great question and the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t really have an answer to that question as yet. Who knows, it must do, mustn’t it? I would think that it will change my views of the world at some stage or another. I am assuming that it will, but I am yet to put it to the test.

Why are you releasing an EP rather than an album; is it simply down to the fact that you can get your music out there quicker?

Yes, it is, it really is essentially down to that. It feels to me that the music industry has changed, and therefore as an artist you are almost required to have a presence twenty-four hours a day, but I have to say that is totally impossible for me. Having said that, there are certain artists who are magnificent at it. They are constantly posting things, keeping in touch with their fan base, and understandably their fan base grows because of it. However, I personally don’t have that train of thought, but I do my best. So, for me, the idea really is to try and get out less music more often, and that way I can keep up my profile, I guess.

At least, that’s the idea. It’s a shame as I really do enjoy making albums. I am personally a big fan of the album, and my thinking behind the EP is that maybe two EP’s will make a vinyl album. Who knows, I am hoping to release another EP later this year, and hopefully this is how we keep things rolling, and maybe I will be able to tour sometime next year, depending upon if live music is back doing what it does by then. To be totally honest with you, at this moment in time I don’t know if that is going to happen again for quite a while. Would it really work, having people sitting two metres apart at indoor gigs? It is going to be odd, but we are all going to be odd together if you know what I mean.

Maybe we can get through it in that way, I really don’t know. What I will say with a degree of certainty is that there will be no tours this year. Another problem is, just how are musicians going to make a living. Plus, what about all of the crew guys who would be out on the road as we speak. They are all self-employed so just what are those guys going to do? It is a really tough time for the music industry; it is going to need a bit of support.

Do you think that the music industry will ever recover and are we now looking at the dawn of a new era for the music business?

Yes, and yes to both of those questions. We are looking at a new era, and that is how we will recover. What you must remember is that people will always need music and songs. I personally would hope that we must restructure the way in which artists get paid from streaming sites. That is the main thing for us now, which is how people are listening. They can’t go to live gigs; music isn’t being played in shops because all the shops are closed, so basically the streaming sites need to be paying the writers and the artists more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just down to the streaming services, it is also down to the record labels and how they distribute the music.

Are you personally anti or pro streaming services such as Spotify?

The lack of payment really would be a good enough reason to be totally anti streaming services, but the good news is that they work brilliantly. People out there can discover your work; the sad thing is that they simply do not pay us enough. I’m not against it; I would just like it to be fair, the same for Google and the same for YouTube. The problem is that at this moment in time they all pay pretty badly. There is a guy, Tom Gray, who was the vocalist and played both the guitar and keyboards for the band Gomez who is currently doing a brilliant thing on Twitter. If you check Tom out at #brokenrecord you will see that he breaks down all the revenue from streaming services and how much a writer might get and let me tell you, it is absolutely shocking. He shows you just how many streams you need in order to make a living. It is almost unattainable. Something most definitely must change; something has to give.

There are lots of noughts on the cheques which you receive from the streaming services, but they are currently on the wrong side, they are on the left and not the right.

(Laughter) I like that; they are on the wrong side (laughter). I think I will use that.

You have now been in the professional music business for twenty years. Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

Yes, I have to say yes. Although, having said that I would have to say that it was certainly very difficult during the first fifteen years. There was a little bit of success during that first fifteen years, which came in around the ten-year mark I guess, but that seemed to go away again. Having said that, to be honest, the last five years have been a blast. They have come and gone so fast. My life has changed in such a dramatic fashion. I have managed to get to do some of the things that I never dreamt that I would ever do and never dreamt of in a way. For example, I got to play at Wembley Stadium, and let me tell you, that was never on my list because why would it be, I’m a singer songwriter from Plymouth and that is never going to happen (laughter).

However, it did happen, I got to play Wembley Stadium. I got to travel a lot, I got to sing on some big TV shows, I had a number one album, and I won an Ivor Novello award. Things were a bit crazy for a while, but they have certainly calmed down once again. As a roller coaster it has been extreme.

Would you do it all again?

Of course, yes.

Do you have any regrets; is there something which you would do differently?

I can’t really say that I would do anything differently only because I am currently in a good place. I’m happy, I have a very good home life, and I am making the music that I want to make which is what I have always done. I have been very lucky in that sense, because overall I have made the albums that I have wanted to make.

You have briefly mentioned the Ivor Novello award which you won for Best Song Musically and Lyrically in 2016. That must have felt special.

It really did feel amazing. That really was a great day. It was four years ago a couple of days ago now, so it is the anniversary of that. Winning that award certainly made me feel very validated for keeping at it, and that I had something to give and something to offer. I always had belief in that without any proof. Winning the award was proof from my peers and that really was a big statement.

And beating a certain Mr Sheeran into second place; did that make it feel even sweeter?

(Laughter) in a way yes, but for both of us. Certainly, for me it was fun for me to be able to show him the award but for Ed it was proof that he could pick a good song. He picked out an Ivor Novello award winning song and decided to put it out into the world when no one else would. That, to me, showed that he had the right instincts. So, I think that for both of us it was a great thing.

You are now back with Lookout Mountain, your previous record label before you signed for Ed’s Gingerbread Man Records. Does that feel like a better fit for you; is it like going home?

Yes, I suppose that it does a little bit. I am now back to the team of just me and my manager, and we are now trying to reach my fans more directly. I am now doing a few streaming gigs every Monday, putting out EP’s so that there is more music more often, and I am trying to bridge that gap between me and the fans and become more one on one with my fan base rather than going through the major label. Being honest, it has its perks, but it also has its downsides.

Putting you on the spot, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

That would have to be winning the Ivor.

You have mentioned that you have found yourself in some big places and some strange places, just how the hell did you find yourself performing on the set of Neighbours (laughter)?

(Hysterical laughter) I have absolutely no idea (laughter). I’m guessing that my Australian record company may have had something to do with that in some sort of strange PR twist (laughter). It was an unusual day to say the least and not one that I will forget in a hurry. It was one of the stranger days in my life (laughter).

On that note Jamie, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great. Bye for now.

Thanks Kevin, it was great getting to speak to you once again, it’s always a pleasure. You stay safe and hopefully we will speak again later in the year.