With a number one single in Ireland, and a Youtube channel boasting well over half a million views, Jamie Lawson is an artist that is going from strength to strength. As well as his own sell out tours, Jamie has shared billing with the likes of Damien Rice, Ben Howard and James Morrison to name but a few. Jamie is currently performing to arenas across Europe as the support act on Ed Sheeran's tour. Here he discusses his songwriting tips.
- Do you have a daily songwriting routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike? My only routine is to play as often as I can, even if it's only for 10 minutes a day. It keeps all the creative thinking cells open. I tend to find if you have to do other things away from music it takes longer to get back in to the process of it and the initial songs you write after that time away wont be particularly good.
- Do you have any tricks to get the creative juices flowing? Not really. I do like watching films or TV programmes, they can often put you into a certain mood that can be useful to write from.
- Do you find you normally start with a melody or lyrics? I generally just play the guitar and sing nonsense over the top until a line or melody comes through that I like and then I can play around with that. Very rarely do I have a lyric first. An idea for a lyric maybe or a title but more often than not the melody and lyrics are entwined.
- Do you think that melody is the most important aspect of a song? Umm.. maybe. I was always drawn to music with a strong sense of melody when I was young; The Jackson 5 and Motown songs, The Smiths, The Beautiful South, Crowded House, R.E.M. all have a great way with melody but they're also brilliant lyrically, so words became very important to me too.
- How long does it take you to write a song? I've written songs in one go where only a few lines needed changing and I've taken years. It's a songwriting cliche but I never try and force a song. It'll come when it's ready.
- Could you explain a little about the writing process behind a few of your songs? I have a song called The Quiet Man that came about one morning after my girlfriend asked me why was I so quiet - which I can be sometimes. I wanted to write her a song that could be of comfort but the song had other ideas and came out in a more stalker-esque way. Haha. Sometimes they do that, songs like to go their own way and you have to let them. Wasn't Expecting That came around after someone literally said "I Wasn't Expecting That," to me. It struck a chord and I wondered about what wouldn't you be expecting. "It was only a smile…." the song pretty much wrote itself all up to the last two lines. I had to fight for those a little. I was a bit shocked when they came but it made complete sense. It was originally written over different chords but the way I was playing it made it sound like No Woman No Cry so I had to shift it around a little. I was always chuffed with the Em to E major change on that one. I wrote the song A Darkness on a very sunny day after watching an episode of Neighbours. I don't think those two things are related but I started playing this guitar chord/riff thing that suddenly put me in the mood of something disturbing. I wrote a song about a person who loves someone so much they kill them, but as if they don't know what they're doing, like a Boo Radley character. The idea for Cold In Ohio came after seeing the singer Kim Richey play in London, we were walking back to the tube station and a friend asked Kim, "Is it cold in Ohio?" The line popped straight into my head, "It's cold in Ohio, so I'm not going there." The next day I started working on it and got the chorus, researched other places where it was cold and I wouldn't want to go to and places I might but the rest of the song didn't really happen for me. About 3 weeks later I was writing with Kim when I told her about it and together we got the rest of the song. Kim's brilliant at really sticking to an idea and coaxing it out, teasing the best lines through. She came up with the line, "Love is always shifting sand, not much to believe in." I thought that was brilliant, love is shifting sand, such a great metaphor.
- What songs that other people have written do you particularly admire? That's a tough one, I'm always drawn to songs that move me that doesn't mean they're clever or brilliantly written songs, or maybe, because they moved me it does. I'm a big Ron Sexsmith fan, I think he writes both clever and emotional songs. Average Joe, Strawberry Blonde, Gold In Them Hills. I love those songs. Crowded House, Neil Finn songs. I think Together Alone is amazing. R.E.M.'s Find The River and Country Feedback. The song 'Walking far From Home' by Iron & Wine is fantastic as its just a list of things, no chorus, no bridge and its still fascinating.
- Do you think that a technical knowledge of theory is important or does it get in the way? I have no technical knowledge. I learnt guitar at Primary school and everything else was just picked up along the way. I would have thought, and I don't know this for sure, that knowing the theory means you can't make a mistake, and mistakes are where the magic is, but who knows?
- Do you tend to revisit your songs and rewrite them? No, not really. I write them and move on, they have served whatever purpose I was looking for and if not I write another.
- Do you write songs with a view to being commercial and following current trends? My bank balance says no.
- Have you done much co-writing, and if so what do you see as the benefits? I've done a little and I enjoy it although sometimes it can be difficult but some of my favourite songs are co-writes. Cold In Ohio is a co-write with Kim Richey who's a great country/americana singer. Someone For Everyone I wrote with Tim Ross, a producer I know in London. We used to write a lot when I lived there.
- Who do you view as great songwriters. Who has inspired you musically/ lyrically? I've already mentioned them, Ron Sexsmith, Neil Finn, R.E.M. Mark Eitzel of the band American Music Club was a huge influence on me and never seemed to get the success he deserved.
- Do you feel that when there's conflict/struggle in your life that it inspires better songs? Maybe it used to but not anymore. I think writing songs was probably born out of a need to release emotionally and connect to people. These days I can say hello and write about other things that aren't necessarily my thoughts.
- Do you have any idea where you ideas come from? Yes, I work on things everyday therefore I'm open to being creative. I work at it.
- Do you have any advice you'd like to share with budding songwriters out there? Write, listen and study. Thats the best advice I can give. But then what do I know?
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Click on the following to find Jamie on the web.
Click on the following to find Jamie on the web.