His first track ‘Wasn’t expecting that’ was a world-wide hit on his No. 1 album. Now, Jamie Lawson is back with his new record Happy Accidents and is on the quest to win the ears of listeners once again. We Talk about how he finds Ed Sheeran as a boss and his drive to continue creating music.
Tell us about your original path into music?
It feels like music has just always been there for me, really. I got a guitar when I was eight years old. I kinda started singing, and I started writing songs when I was about 14. And it’s pretty much like music kept hold of me, rather than me deciding what to do with it. It just kind of told me what to do. I never kind of thought it as a career.
Did you notice straightaway that you were quite good at playing the guitar or quite good at singing? Or was that something you noticed later down on the track?
I was neither. I’m still not a really good guitar player, and it was something I wasn’t necessarily good at it. I just felt like I had to do it. Like, it was a way of just getting through my day, singing helped a lot. And just growing up, it worked through any sort of weirdness you felt inside. You just kind of sang loudly, and it helped.
Growing up, was your career path different than what the other people you were hanging out with were doing?
At school we formed a band and there were four of us in it. So it always felt like I had a friend that knew what I did, and got what I did, and wanted to do the same thing as I did. And we hung out, and we played shows and stuff, and people seemed to appreciate it – whether we were good or not.
So after that experience with playing in the band, what was the next step for your career before things really started getting big for you in 2011 with the single ‘Wasn’t expecting that’?
Well, there was a period of about 15 years of moving around a lot, playing and living in London. I was playing in any kind of acoustic venue or folk venue that would have me. And hopping on tours with other bands. And it wasn’t until I wrote, ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ that it started getting any radio play. So there was a lot of in-between; that was quite tough.
‘Wasn’t expecting that’ was massive and you were eventually awarded an Ivor Novello award for it. How did that feel?
Well, firstly, having a hit in Australia and New Zealand was due to Ed Sheeran’s decision to release the song in Australia first. He kinda said: “if we can have a hit in Australia, it can be a hit anywhere.” So that was good planning on his part. And he was kinda right, because from there, we got a hit in the UK. And then we got radio play in Germany, and I got to do quite a bit of TV in the US and things like that. So it was good that this song, which had been around for five years, already was finally kind of getting the attention I always hoped it deserved. So, to win an Ivor Novello award really kinda just topped all that off, and made it feel very special indeed.
So you were the first person to be signed to Ed Sheeran’s label. How did that come about?
It’s a long story really. But we’d met once before doing our solo shows in the UK, in London. And we got on pretty well, but we didn’t stay in touch at all. So, five years go by, and then I get this call saying: “Ed’s doing a secret show, and can you come and he’d like for you to come and open up for him. Can you come and do it?” So I of course said yes and jumped on a plane and went and did that. Then he took me on tour throughout Europe and the UK. So that’s kind of how that came about.
So do you work directly with him on songs? Is there a lot creative input from Ed?
Mainly he just asks me to go and make the record I want to make. That’s the best thing about having Ed as a boss. He has a lot of faith in my songs, in what I want to do. This time around, for this record, we did write together, which was a really nice experience and good fun. We wrote the song, ‘Can’t See Straight’. It’s a nice kind of summer, bright, easy song. That’s been the first single over here. Which did pretty well. I send him a lot of demos and stuff; he never tells me what to put on a record, but he tells me the ones he likes best. He’s got a good set of ears, Ed. He’s very astute. He knows what he’s doing.
So, ‘Can’t see straight’, is on the new album Happy Accidents. Is there a direct reason behind the title of the album?
It’s really about things going wrong, and then good things coming out of those things that went wrong. So it’s mainly about how I met my wife, and how she was trying to see a comedy show. She walked into the wrong room and into where I was playing. And then she sent me a message saying that I wasn’t very funny, but I was quite good. So, “Hooray for happy accidents,” is what she wrote. That’s where the name came from.
On the album, you sing a lot about love. So obviously you met your wife, which is great, but the rest of the songs on the album… are they happy love songs or are there sad moments behind some of them?
It’s a weird little record. There are songs about the kind of early stages of love or falling in love and meeting the one that you think you want to be with. And then there are songs about the very end of love, of having spent your life with someone and someone passing away. There are sad songs on there, I don’t know why that’s come out on this record. But those are the songs I wrote. So that’s all you have. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of bit in the middle.
Listening to the album, it sounds amazing as a whole piece. And you should be very proud. So what drives you to be creative and create those songs?
In all honesty, the main drive is that I wanted to make another record. And I wanted to get a record out as quickly as possible.
In terms of finding inspiration from your work, obviously you mentioned earlier about happy accidents – meeting your wife. But where else do you find the inspiration?
Writing songs is kind of 10 percent inspiration, and 90 percent work. If you’re not in a mode of writing songs, if you’re not in the process of, kind of, just working on things every day, then you’re not going to be able to make the most of that inspiration when it hits you. So you just have to keep working. And it’s a fine line between inspiration and just constantly trying things. I guess in some ways they obviously work together very closely. But you do have to keep doing it. You can’t just put your guitar down and wait. You’ve got to keep going, keep going – and then hopefully something will come that is inspiring, and you can really jump on it.
So where do you want to get with your music? Obviously you’ve already done amazing things, getting on the charts. What does the ultimate success for you look like?
Oh it changes. It changes all the time. I mean, I had a No. 1 record with my last album in the UK. I wanted to have that again, and it hasn’t happened. So now do I think I failed? To some extent, yes. I do feel that. But at the same time, I got to make another record, and my career is in music doing something I love. And that’s really the main success. Success really, it’s just kind of doing what you love doing. And making a living out of it – it’s an amazing way to live. To have your life, doing something that you truly love. ‘Cause it never feels like work. So I hope I just get to keep playing. I hope I get to keep travelling. And I hope I get to keep making music.
What advice would you have for others who are starting out?
You’ve got to love what you do. If you can believe in yourself when it appears that nobody else does, then you’re going to do okay, I expect. You just have to have faith in what you do. So that’s my advice. You’ve got to be 100 percent in love with it.
And so, in terms of advice, is there a piece of advice you would’ve loved to have given to your future self?
Wow. Yeah. Talk to people more. I’m quite shy. I’m not very good at what they call networking.