‘He never got to see any of it and that’s pretty sad’ – Jamie Lawson opens up about losing dad, success, failure, Ed Sheeran and a previous life at Tower Records
As the first signee to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records label, English singer/songwriter Jamie Lawson had the eyes and ears of the world at his disposal, and it was no surprise when his self-titled debut Gingerbread release (his fourth studio album), hit number one, and the single ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ went on to sell over a million copies worldwide.
Another album, Happy Accidents, followed in 2017 and now Lawson is in the throes of his own tour on the back of his latest album, The Years in Between. The latter has not reached the dizzying chart heights of his self-titled album, however, and the definition of success is something with which Lawson says he is still grappling. When you have a number one album it sets an almost impossible precedent.
“Each record is a bigger failure than the last [compared to a number one],” says the 43-year-old star. “I’m still getting my head around that stuff. Success is changing. The way people listen to music is changing. Records that I really love, that I like a lot, are not charting where they used to because of the way we buy and listen to music now.”
He’s honest about his disappointment regarding The Years in Between’s failure to follow the chart trajectory of his first album, although it did reach number3 in the iTunes singer/songwriter chart and has reached 2 million streams across all platforms so far.
“I certainly was very upset about this record not doing very well on chart release day but there’s not a lot I can do,” he says. “You just make the best record you can.” He mentions discussing with fellow English singer/songwriter James Morrison his similar experience following a number one record. Morrison has released his latest album independently. “He’s kind of taken control, making the record he wants to make,” says Jamie. “As long as you’re honest to what you do I think people will find you.”
Currently touring Europe and the UK, Jamie will play two dates in Ireland; Belfast on May 11 and Dublin's Vicar Street on May 12, with the latter wrapping up this tour. Whatever about the new album’s chart performance it has been warmly received by fans on the tour. “And it seems to be doing okay on the old Spotify,” he adds.
His aim with this record was to write 50 songs. He ‘failed miserably’ with just 46, he jokes. Some were written solo, others with collaborators Natalie Hemby, Ollie Green, Jamie Scott, Amy Wadge and Matty Benbrook. He rehearsed and recorded everywhere while supporting Ed Sheeran on his 46 date tour, from a house in Slane to South Shields, Berlin and the , and the La Frette Studios in Paris, where Nick Cave and the Arctic Monkeys have recorded. Everything came together at Dublin's Camden Studios with Grammy-winning producer Ruadhri Cushnan."
“He was really good to work with,” says Jamie, “Very calm, very relaxed and he was able as a mixer to make sure it all came together and sounded cohesive even though it was recorded in different cities.”
Sheeran’s involvement is, he says, like a “traditional A&R” role in that he would play songs for Sheeran on tour and Sheeran would “give little musical ideas”. Lawson just goes away “and do what I do” he says. On the whole it’s an upbeat album and moves at a pace, but there’s one song, the title song, which is a little more morose. The Years in Between is dedicated to his father, who died when Lawson was 19.
“I wrote a song called Sing to the River for Happy Accidents and it was kind of the first time I’d really sung about losing my dad and about how I grieved and what I did to kind of get through that period I guess. For whatever reason, even though he’s been gone a long time, it’s just started to come out in my songs. The Years in Between is me just thinking about that a bit more,” he reveals.
His father had what Lawson refers to as a “very small, terrible record collection” but one record stood out. “It was Rocky Mountain High by John Denver, that I still really love to this day. Maybe that’s the reason I started playing, subconsciously wanting to be a singer, a guitar player,” he says. “He never got to see any of it and that’s pretty sad.” Naming the album after that song is his tribute.
Lawson is no stranger to Ireland, having not only supported Sheeran here for his countless Irish dates, but also having lived in Dublin for several years in his early career. He first came here on the suggestion of songwriter Mark Dignam, who he met in London and who told him, “They’ll love you over there”. Lawson paid the bills with a job at Tower Records on Wicklow Street.
“I used to play my own album in the shop late at night if I was doing the late shift and I pretty much sold a copy every single time!” he recalls. “I always thought if I could just get people to hear my songs they may buy them but it took a long time for people to hear them.”
Lawson first released ‘Wasn’t Expecting That’ from his album of the same title in 2011 and, championed by Today FM, it peaked at number three on the Irish chart. Sheeran said the song made him cry the first time he heard it. It was later re-released in 2015 on the Jamie Lawson album and peaked at number 6 in the UK.
“After Wasn’t Expecting That was picked up by Today FM everything changed,” says Jamie. “I’m grateful to Ireland. They still welcome me back every time. I feel the embrace.”
Jamie Lawson plays Ulster Hall, Belfast on May 11 and Vicar Street Dublin on May 12. Tickets from Ticketmaster.