“I first became aware of Jamie Lawson a few years ago, after hearing his track “Wasn’t Expecting That”. I very rarely get emotional over a track, but that song stopped me dead. He manages to put across such raw emotion within his work, and I knew immediately that I wanted to work with this guy in some way. Having decided to start my own label ‘Gingerbread Man Records’ with my label Atlantic Records, the first artist I had to sign was Jamie. Starting Gingerbread Man Records means I can put music I love out there on a huge platform, and Jamie seemed like the perfect choice for my first release” – Ed Sheeran, July 2015.Growing up in Plymouth, Jamie was introduced to music by his older brothers. Early on, he’d go to school singing lyrics by The Smiths and The Housemartins that he didn’t fully understand, and then Thriller introduced him to Michael Jackson, a singer he still admires. ‘Looking back on it, he had no real experience of what he was singing about – he never had those kinds of relationships – yet you always believed he felt every single word, that he understood how you were feeling.’

Later, he found Natalie Merchant, and bands like 10,000 Maniacs and REM. He joined a band at school, and they rehearsed diligently through their mid teens, playing locally.  ‘I wanted to be Michael Stipe for a while,’ he laughs. ‘I even had the hat!  But that’s your way in, I think.  You try to be someone else, and eventually you find yourself.  I wanted to be Eddie Vedder too, but my voice wouldn’t allow it.  It took me a while to let it do its own thing.’

He moved to London and started playing on the acoustic circuit, honing his songs and developing a distinctive style of his own. He quickly gained a reputation, playing support to Martha Wainwright in some of her first UK gigs, and later opening for his hero Mark Eitzel, who has remained a huge influence.

At various times, Jamie played on the same bill as Turin Brakes, Lucy Rose and Ben Howard, even Ellie Goulding. When Damien Rice came over from Ireland to play, he would sometimes crash at Jamie’s place. ‘I was with him the day the O album went gold in Ireland, right at the beginning.’ Later, he played a gig in Balham on a bill that included a young singer called Ed Sheeran, who had just signed to Atlantic.
‘He’d been doing the same circuit and we had mutual friends, so although we hadn’t met before, we’d heard of each other. His songs were great, and he was a nice guy.  We exchanged numbers, but just after that he took off and became massively famous, and I just watched, thinking, “There’s another one gone!”’

The next happy accident came when Ed Sheeran noticed his poster in an Irish pub, and remembered their earlier meeting. He was playing the prestigious Ruby Sessions in Dublin the following week, and asked the promoter to invite Jamie to play too.

‘I got a text late on a Sunday night, saying Ed Sheeran had asked me to open for him,’ recalls Jamie. ‘I had to book a flight that was more than I could afford, but you’re not going to turn that down!’
The two men connected again instantly, with Ed telling Jamie he’d listened to Wasn’t Expecting That while writing his own song, Afire Love, and was aiming for a similar tone.  Later Jamie went to see Ed’s show at Leeds Arena, and Ed invited him to open for the rest of the European tour. ‘So in a week I went from playing a weekly open mic night in Manchester to 30-40 people to playing to a crowd of 10,000 in Birmingham!’

By the time he invited Jamie to join him on the Australian leg of the tour, Ed had decided to start his own label, Gingerbread Man, with Jamie becoming its first signing. After that, things moved fast. Soon after arriving in Australia Jamie was in a studio, recording a new version of Wasn’t Expecting That. On the 17-date tour he played to a total audience of over 175,000 people, and by the end of it, the track was moving up the charts, peaking at number 3.

On his return to the UK, he went straight into a residential studio in the Oxfordshire countryside, tasked with putting a new album together in just two intense weeks. He worked with Ed’s producer Will Hicks, whose other credits include Lily Allen, James Blunt, Professor Green, Plan B and Bastille, and recording quickly has allowed the songs to retain an emotional immediacy, an intimacy, that often gets polished away in longer sessions.

If you’re looking for comparisons, think early, Moondance-era Van Morrison meeting the poppy accessibility of James Morrison, with perhaps a tip of the hat to Damien Rice and Ray LaMontagne. But there’s a reason he has decided to title it simply ‘Jamie Lawson’. From the fragile, tenderly lovely ‘All Is Beauty’ and ‘Cold In Ohio’ to the reassuring optimism of ‘Someone For Everyone’, this is an album that showcases a writer and a singer who is comfortably, confidently and completely himself.
‘I wanted to create something with warmth and love that was a bit like a nice blanket, a good cardigan,’ he says.  ‘That couldn’t be less rock ‘n’ roll could it?  But I hope it can help and comfort people, and that they’ll feel certain songs are there for them when they need them.  I like that idea, because that’s what music has always been for me.’

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