Jamie Lawson, the critically acclaimed singer songwriter who took the world by storm with the international hit, ‘I Wasn’t Expecting That’, a song that has been streamed over 250 million times, and an album that was number one in 26 countries. Since then, he has won an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Best Song Musically and Lyrically’, toured stadiums with Ed Sheeran playing 52 dates throughout Europe before lockdown. He was famously the first signing to Ed Sheeran’s label, Gingerbread Man Records.
In May, he will be hitting the road again on ‘An Acoustic Round Tour’ which will place him on stage with three other super talented music makers who will each perform a song, followed by the next act, chatting about the songs and the way they were written. It’s a popular format in Country Music but is rarely seen in the UK. It’s a hugely personal and revealing way to get under the skin of the music and the song writer and enjoy a great gig at the same time.
Joining Jamie on stage will be Gemma Hayes, a highly respected Irish singer songwriter who won Best Female Artist at the Hot Press Awards and a Mercury Prize nomination for her debut album ‘Night On My Side’, released in 2002. Since then, she has released 4 studio albums and is constantly in demand for film and TV work. Who can forget her version of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ from the huge TV series ‘Pretty Little Liars’ which has streamed near 18 million times on Spotify alone. The show will give Gemma a chance to showcase news songs to be included on her hotly anticipated new album.
Alongside Jamie and Gemma, will be Richard Walters, who has released five critically acclaimed albums since 2007 and has had music featured on shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Tin Star’ and ‘CSI:Miami’. Richard has worked with Grammy winner Joe Henry, icon Alison Moyet and Oscar nominated actress and singer Florence Pugh. Currently, he is one third of LYR, a band that includes current poet Laureate Simon Armitage and Patrick Pearson. Richard has amassed over 100 million streams for his work collectively.
The final part of this impressive quartet of artists will be Laura Zocca, who is a 26-year-old singer songwriter originally from London, who began making music at 14 and gathered a following on YouTube and Soundcloud, posting originals and covers. Since then she has accumulated a stunning 40 million combined streams and will very much represent the way that music is consumed at the moment.
The chance to see these four brilliant artists and learn a little about what inspires them, how they approach music making and then see them perform their songs is a chance too good to miss and I was lucky enough to get to chat with Jamie Lawson about the show, what he’s been up to and what he’s looking forward to. It was also a chance too good to miss, and I hope you enjoy the chat and that it inspires you to check out the artists and the show.
EP: Hello. Hi Jamie. Great to speak to you. So, the acoustic round shows that you have coming up, the tour of those, very much takes its inspiration from the rounds popular in Country music. For me, it’s such a collaborative format. I bet you can’t wait to be on stage, at last, with Gemma, Richard and Laura.
JL: Yeah, quite right, and you’re right, it’s a very common thing in Nashville to have kind of songwriter rounds where the writers of hit songs will get together and do one song, each after the other. I’m not sure if it’s been toured this way in this country or not. It probably has, but I didn’t see it, so it’s nice to be a part of it. And yeah, I’m very much looking forward to getting to hang out with the others and, and listen to them play each night for sure.
EP: The CMA, the country music association, do a songwriter’s round gig every year as part of the Country2Country festival. It’s the gig that traditionally opens C2C, the Thursday evening before the festival opens on the Friday. They generally get four song writers together. I’ve been to those before, and it’s fantastic to hear the stories behind the songs and how the songs were born, the structure of them. When you’re putting the set together, Jamie, do you discuss the set list so that the stories and the songs will fit together or do you envisage it as a more spontaneous kind of less scripted thing than that?
JL: I think it’ll be a little less scripted. I certainly like the idea of maybe doing different songs on certain nights so, you know, I don’t really know as yet how it’s gonna go, but we’re gonna meet up in a couple weeks actually to go through a few things so we’ll find out then but I’m, like you, a fan of hearing how songs came about, and I’ve been a fan of Gemma’s for a long time. I’m a recent fan of Laura’s over the last couple of years and Richard and I have worked together before. So, I’m certainly looking forward to hearing the stories of how their songs came about and as a songwriter it’s interesting how differently things come together so I’m sure it’s going to be a big, inspirational kind of tour as well.
EP: I guess, yes because the difference between your style of song writing where you might be inspired by your life and things that go on in it, couldn’t be more different from Laura, who is quite young and seems to be more inspired by the sort of current trend in social media songs, if you like, and songs that are designed to appeal to social media platforms.
JL: Yeah, I mean I think she has a slightly different style of writing for sure but that trend, I suppose, that’s how writings going isn’t it? I mean it’s the difference between songs that I wrote, maybe on my first record, which might have had a third verse after a middle eight which you wouldn’t write anymore. You’d be lucky to get anywhere near a third verse on a song these days, so these things just evolve and differ as radio does, and I suppose radio is influenced by the social media stuff too; keeping songs shorter, perhaps, or getting to the chorus quicker.
EP: It’s interesting, I think, how songs have gone back to that much shorter format, that two and a half, three-minute format.
JL: It’s like 60’s songs, like early Beatles stuff or something. Straight in, there’s no intro anymore, short first verse and you’re into the chorus within forty seconds or something stupid like that. It’s really interesting to write those sort of songs. It’s also interesting to not worry about it too much and still do what it is that you do. So, I kind of fall between the two really
EP: I guess, from the point of view of the tour, that’s going to be great because obviously, I know you’ve collaborated with other writers before, but it will be an interesting way for you four guys to sort of bounce off each other and become better songwriters.
JL: Well yeah, I’m sure, because there will certainly be some interaction between the four of us on stage. I’ve written with Richard before via Zoom over the last couple years which is an interesting process, and a different process to writing in person. I’m sure we’ll all actually get to write together as well at some point. I’m sure there will be some waiting around and whether that’s what we want to do or not is another matter. But, yeah I’m certainly hoping to pick up a few tricks.
EP: With your reference to the Zoom song writing, obviously the pandemic affected everyone in such different ways. Do you think it gave you a chance to take stock of your song writing process and spend more time writing without the pressure of EP deadlines and album deadlines and tour deadlines? It could be a more, I guess, organic process because you didn’t have to worry about having to fit into other people’s deadlines.
JL: Yeah. I think ordinarily that would have happened. However, my wife and I had a baby at the beginning of the lockdown. So, our lockdown has been a bit different I suppose because we’ve just been consumed by the boy. It being lockdown here, we didn’t really have much outside help and we’re first time parents, so it’s been a bit of a strange couple years for that reason. Time has become very precious. So it’s not like I had suddenly all the time in the world to write because I couldn’t go anywhere. I had, you know, a couple of hours here while he was asleep or a couple of hours there while he was doing something else. So, I started writing these kind of different songs just out of a very pressurised time, which again throws up different ideas and throws up different obstacles I suppose.
EP: You’re critically acclaimed; you’ve won prestigious awards over the years and you’ve had a worldwide hit with ‘I Wasn’t Expecting That’. Now, as you get older, has it changed the way that you gauge success because, as we said before, music is consumed in such a different way in those bite-sized pieces. Has it changed the way that you gauge the success of your song writing. Have you gone away from thinking that it’s maybe not all about sales as it would be difficult to top that huge hit album and single, and more about the quality of the output?
JL: That’s a good question because I think in the short time, the six years since the Jamie Lawson album came out, things have changed massively. And, in some ways I feel a little bit left behind because, for instance, I don’t do TikTok, I probably should. I probably should be putting up clips on TikTok and I’ll probably start doing that soon enough; sharing clips of new songs or covers or something. Music is consumed differently now; people don’t necessarily listen to albums all the way through. That being said, that’s kind of what I’m a fan of and I think I probably have an audience that is similar in that they like to put a record on and listen to it all the way through. So, I feel like I can still make that kind of long player record, and there’s an audience for it. So, I guess I’m quite lucky in that regard. These days, I think I see success in terms of “am I still busy?”, “am I still able to do what it is that I dream of doing, which is writing songs and getting out and playing them to people?” Obviously, I’ve not been able to do that in the last few years, not through any fault of my own but because the world changed. Also, I think that maybe people are a little nervous about coming out again, so I’m hoping by the tour in May those nerves have gone a little and people will come back out. I think the atmosphere at these shows that we’ll do will be very relaxed and hopefully very calming and very welcoming. So, I think it would be a good first gig back for anyone that is worried about these things. I understand the worry for sure. But yeah, you’re right. I mean things have changed and success is an odd thing. I don’t sell millions by any means but as long as I can still make music, then I think I’m okay.
EP: Yeah. I was listening to an interview with Frank Turner this morning and he’s got his 9th album out and it’s looking like it might be number one album and he was saying it’s a really weird place to be where you’re seen to be peaking with album number nine. In a way, you’ve had that feeling in reverse with the ‘Jamie Lawson’ album being such a huge success that it must have been very difficult to follow, sales wise, and it must be difficult not to want to judge yourself by those sales alone because, for me, the song writing on the albums that followed ‘Jamie Lawson’ was extraordinary and brilliant but it doesn’t always translate into sales, does it and so I was curious to see how you would gauge success because, for me, the albums get better and better despite the sales figures but then it would be almost impossible to replicate that previous album’s success. Have you ever considered, or have you written music in the country music genre because your style would really lend itself?
JL: Well, thank you. I take that as a big complement. I’ve certainly got some Country-esque songs and I’m a big fan of the Americana type of Country. I would say, you know, even on the last album, ‘The Years in Between’, there are a couple of songs that definitely do that sort of thing. As for making a full-on Country record I suppose it would be more of a cross between Country and Folk. I think maybe the record I’m making next, that I’m working on, is probably the closest I’ll come because whilst I don’t think it’s country by any means, it’s certainly more Roots, acoustic based, folk based on the songs I’m writing at the minute.
EP: Those lines are very blurred aren’t they? I think Country has moved closer to Pop and Pop has moved closer to Country. When you look at the way that Taylor Swift is reworking her albums, there’s definitely a more Country feel about those with her new versions of her albums?
JL; Yeah, I like the fact that those lines blurred. I think probably streaming has made that happen more and more so that people aren’t really married to a genre anymore. They just kind of like whatever song they like and I think that’s probably broadened that a bit, if that makes sense.
EP: Absolutely, I think that there are many things in the way that music is consumed now which is a shame, and one of those is the fact that albums don’t have that first side, second side story telling quality about them. Music is cherry picked more but, as you say, on the flip side of that, it does mean, I think, that the consumer tends to not feel the need to put themselves in a box. Maybe it all is essentially pop. For a songwriter, I guess that makes it more exciting for you because you can write anything.
JL: Yeah, you probably could. Similarly, what you said there about the stories, I like a record to fit, to have a unified sound, I suppose. So, that’s kind of what I work towards; almost a Jamie Lawson sound. I don’t know if I ever hit upon that but I still work towards that each time and sometimes you go away from it because you’re playing with some other idea, maybe you get more towards Pop, maybe you get more towards Country, but it’s always you. It’s always your thing because its born out of you.
EP: Absolutely. I know you’re excited to get back out on the road and play live again but are there plans for an album this year?
JL: I would hope so. I don’t know if it’ll get made but I have the songs ready. I’m still writing for it but I have songs that I’m very happy with so it’s just a case of working out how to do it really. So, I’m optimistic.
EP: I guess from that point of view, will you use the rounds tour as a way to play some of those songs and see what kind of feedback you get?
JL: I do intend to play some new songs on it and road test them. It’s one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to it and, again, why I’m looking forward to watching Richard, Gemma and Laura because I’m pretty sure they’re the same and they’ve got new songs that they want to try out too.
EP: Yeah, I’ll be great. And, as you say, especially if you can play different songs on different nights. It’ll keep everything very fresh on each night. Well, it’s been an absolute joy chatting to you Jamie, you’re a personal hero of mine. I’ve loved your music from the early stuff and I wish you every success for the tour and for the new music that I will look forward to hearing. I think you’ll have an absolute blast working in the round. I think it suits your style very well. I will look forward to seeing you in an Americana festival soon.
JL: Brilliant. Thank you very much, Steve, I appreciate it. It’s very kind of you.
EP: Take care. Jamie, Good luck with the music, the tour and of course, parenthood.
An Acoustic Round Tour Dates 2022
16th May Manchester Stoller Hall
17th May Birmingham The Mill
18th May Milton Keynes The Stables
19th May Exeter Phoenix
20th May Wimborne Tivoli
22nd May Cardiff Tramshed
23rd May London Union Chapel
24th May Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion
25th May Bristol St Georges Hall
26th May Bury St Edmunds Apex
Get tickets here.