Holding Hands was written during a moment of desperation, Jamie having traveled half way across the world only to run out of road. Strung out and alone, he found himself writing this song for the true love he hoped to meet, as much an act of faith in their existence as a beacon to guide himself home. Originally written for voice and guitar, it was after hearing Bjork’s ‘Anchor Song’ late one night that Jamie decided to arrange the song for saxophone trio. The timbre of the brass, the groove of the band, The Bad Plus style piano solo – it is an arrangement that brings together some of Jamie’s key influences which he describes as “the lyrical directness of folk, the harmonic openness and improvisational freedom of jazz and the craft of great songwriting. It’s a good example of how much more confident I have become as an arranger”.
In this interview spotlight, we chat with The Magic Lantern about influences, the latest project, challenges and much more.
Full Q&A along with links and the video for Holding Hands below.
Let’s dive a little deeper into You, the artist and your music. What attracted you to this genre(s) or style(s)?
I don’t remember what first attracted me to music, but I remember the day we first got a piano. It seemed so big and it made all these sounds. All I wanted to do from that day on was to play it.
I couldn’t easily tell you what genre my music is – I think these days it’s becoming harder to define genres as more and more artists grow up surrounded by wildly different musical influences from all over the world – the iPod made musical magpies of us all. But my music is based around songs – i love the song form, and I think it’s a hugely powerful device to connect with people and express yourself.
What led you into this journey with music? And further, what drives you to push it out to the public?
My family love singing. We’ve been singing the same 4-5 songs my whole life. I don’t know why but we’ve never learnt new ones and we still only know a few verses to some of them. They’re a funny bunch of methodist and catholic hymns, union songs and a few 60’s classics my mum loves. That’s where the journey started.
Why I choose do this with my life, I think is that I never feel more at peace than when i’m performing. Everything else around it, all the many things that make up my musical life, some I love, some I could do without, but half way through a song, in front of an audience, I stop thinking and just am.
Who or what influences your creativity? Have your tastes in music changed over time?
Creativity is funny beast. Noodling is pretty key. I can’t decide to ‘be creative’ this afternoon. It’s more of an enviroment. I need make space in my head to just play and be playful – which isn’t always easy as I judge myself pretty harshly a lot of time, and that is the enemy of creativity.
As for musical influences, I have a lot. I love the harmonic lyricism of pianists like Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau, the rhythmic phrasing of West African griot music, the simplicity of Chet Baker’s singing and incredible folk finger picking of guitarists like Nic Jones & Bert Jansch. Somewhere in all of that, whilst learning classical piano and briefly trying to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix, I settled on the classical guitar as the instrument I write songs with.
My taste in music has broadened as I meet more and different people, friends and musicians. My wife Rhia is an amazing recorder player and through her i’ve been listening to the most amazing recorder music which i never knew existed!
Were you trying to accomplish anything specific on this new project? Creatively or otherwise?
The songs on this new album relate in various ways to memory and our relationship to it. A big portion of the album was written during and just after I’d been back to Australia for the first time in nearly a decade. It was an eventful trip where I resisted a lot of places and people from my childhood. At the same time, memory and it’s loss is a big part of life and my families life right now, so I think the songs, whilst not explicitly linked, are connected by this thread but also strung together by hope – I may be a born worrier, but I’m also a highly organised optimist and I think we’re going to be ok, if we work at it.
Musically, it’s been great working with a new ensemble for this record. I knew that after the last album which was completely solo, that I really wanted to work with a bigger sound. I had the musicians in mind while I was writing the songs, and it’s been a joy to explore these sounds and textures and hear the musical world come to life.
What was the last song you listened to?
Carlow Town by Seamus Forgerty
Which do you prefer? Vinyl? CDs? MP3s?
I probably listen to most music on my computer, but I love taking the time to listen to a vinyl. Listening to music becomes the main event, rather than the background.
How about this one…. Do you prefer Spotify? Apple Music? Bandcamp? Or something else? Why?
I love Bandcamp as a platform for connecting with fans – I use it to sell physical copies direct to fans. I’m torn over streaming sites and what their ultimate effect will be music and musicians, although if I had to guess I would say that artists will stop releasing albums and just continually release singles or EPs. I think the streaming services are an unbelievable resource – to have nearly the whole history of recorded music at your fingertips is insane – but it’s made playlist curators at those sites the new gatekeepers. They are the key influencers now, more than radio, TV or print.
Other than the digital era overwhelming us with access to an abundance of music, what is the biggest challenge you face when trying to connect with or find new fans?
It’s a catch 22. If you don’t have a manager, you can’t get an agent, but most potential managers won’t look at you if you don’t have an agent already. Without an agent, finding and affording good venues when there is minority of good promoters, is getting harder and harder. If you can’t get a decent tour together, you’re not going to be able reach new fans.
Where is the best place to connect with you online? Discover more music?
The best place to follow what I’m up to is at my website which is www.the-magic-lantern.co.uk or on social media, come say hi!
Anything else you’d like to add before signing off?
Don’t wait until the everything is perfect to start. Just start. Also, it’s never finished, but at some point you just have to stop.