Large Chats to Jamie Woon!
Jamie Woon live at Academy 2, Manchester.
Sunday 29th May 2011
By Kelly Greene
I caught up with singer-songwriter Jamie Woon ahead of his gig at Academy 2 in Manchester last weekend, where he tells me his passion for doing live gigs, his favourite festivals and the thought process behind his debut album Mirrorwriting.
The charming Londoner, with great hair I might add, was easy to converse with, talking quietly but confidently with a welcoming and endearing honesty. Already having supported the likes of Amy Winehouse, La Roux and Newton Faulkner, Woon is on his way up in the ranks, sliding in at 4th place for BBC Radio 1’s sound of 2011.
Jamie confesses, he hasn’t been to Manchester much, but has some fond memories of the city. “I’ve only ever been here a couple times, the crowds are pretty cool. There’s a huge music culture here, so the city is spoilt for choice. I always feel really southern when I come to Manchester “ He laughs.
“What I like about Manchester is that it has a really strong identity. A lot of people should be really proud to be from here.”
Having graduated from the Brit school in 2001, Jamie has taken his time to perfect his sound and style. “I went to University after I graduated from the Brit school after that I got into doing lots of live gig nights. I just wanted to have enough songs before I started on an album, and a style I thought was right.”
Growing up in a musical environment, Jamie believes his mother is a huge influence, along with his “heroes” Stevie Wonder, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead.
At a young age singing was “just for fun” for the soulful singer. Halfway through his teens things changed, “I started playing acoustic guitar myself, I got really into that, and writing my own songs.”
Jamie admits he is feeling “pretty good” about his first album, after committing four years of his life to creating it and being completely happy with his creation before release.
“I wanted it to be a calming record really and to have a studio feel about it. I wanted it to retain the intimacy of the live gigs I was doing, I was doing a lot of acoustic nights when I was making the album and I wrote all of the songs on guitar.”
I can safely say it really does preserve the energy and spirit he puts into his live performances. Whilst watching him perform, a simple set up with a few lights, smoke machine and a warm, welcoming crowd, you understand the real intimacy of his gigs. His interaction with the crowds, along with their enthusiasm to sing and clap along, creates the perfect atmosphere for his songs.
So how would he describe his songs? “The songs are about things that move me and the things I find beautiful, some of them are quite general but I think I got quite into atmosphere when I was creating it.”
“At the moment I’m really enjoying playing ‘Street’ with the band. It’s all about a beautiful day in the city.”
Across his four-year journey, Jamie has played some incredible gigs at some spectacular places. So which one stands out the most to him? A seconds thought, a quick readjustment to get comfortable and he’s off:
“South by Southwest was a really, really fun time, it was in Austin, Texas. Loads of people go from all around the world go, its mad, it’s a festival but right in the city so it’s basically down these two streets! Austin is a real music town.
It’s from first thing in the morning till late at night. We played like 8 times during that week. It’s almost like a music industry conference that you’re trying to catch the eye of American record labels or promotion companies. It’s great, the sun is shining and there’s lots of steak!”
It all sounds amazing, but Jamie admits it all hasn’t been an easy ride, and that he has had to face some “difficulties” along the way, to get to where he is now.
“I‘ve been skint and felt like giving up a couple times, but I chose to do it this way, I could have signed a record deal a long time ago but I don’t think I would have been that happy about it. I just wanted to things on my own terms, I felt I had earned myself the right to do that by taking my time.”
So are there any regrets?
“I feel I could have done it a lot quicker, looking back, but there’s no point regretting that now. The hardest part really was just being skint for a lot of it. I can be a bit of a control freak and I always had this idea that I could do it all by myself, and that there as no real deadline and I was working independently, finding everything independently. I’m really grateful for what I’m doing.”
There’s no stopping now though, as Jamie tours the country building his reputation, he can’t wait for the festivals to begin.
“Glastonbury should be wicked! I’ll be playing at West Holts, which used to be called Jazz world. It’s a really good stage, I try and go every year, and it’s a really special stage - it should be wicked.”
That’s not all we have to look forward to however. Woon hopes to get more collaborations under his belt: “I’m really interested in remixing and collaborating with other artists.”
It’s all systems go, it’s just up to you to keep up!
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