"Because of the times we’re living in there are a lot of strong feelings and opinions flying around..." - hmv.com talks to Jamie Webster
Liverpool-born singer-songwriter Jamie Webster had spent a decade working as an electrician before his take on 'Allez Allez Allez' - a slice of 1980s Italo-disco recently adopted by the fans of his beloved Liverpool FC - grew so popular that it became the football club's unofficial anthem to their 2019 Champions League victory.
The song's viral success gave Webster an opportunity to follow his dream, signing a record deal and release his debut album We Get By in 2020, which reached No.6 in the UK Album Chart. Less then two years on, Webster is back already with a follow-up. Recorded at the storied Rockfield Studios in Wales with producer Dave Eringa, his new album Moments arrived in stores on January 28th and, in the wake of its release, we spoke to Jamie about his strange journey from the football terraces of his home town club to the stage at SXSW in Texas...
Your debut album arrived late in 2020, and here we are barely 18 months later and your second album is already out. When did you start working on the songs for this new one?
“Basically straight after the first one, because when we realised that gigs probably weren’t going to happen again for a long time, the only thing you can do as a musician to connect with people is to put music out there. I had a chat with the label and my management and we came up with a few different ideas, there was talk of doing a couple of EPs just to keep things ticking over, but in my head I’d just done a debut album that went into the Top 10 and I just wanted to move forward.
"Because of the times we’re living in there are a lot of strong feelings and opinions flying around, so I thought I’d just get writing and document what’s going on, write about how people are feeling and try and connect with people, you know what I mean? Make them feel like they’re not alone in a time when we were probably all feeling a bit alone. I always write from the heart anyway, so it just a case of getting a guitar in my hand and getting back in the demo studio with the band and working on new things. It’s been non-stop, really. There was a period of frustration where we were wondering if the momentum was still going to be there after all the lockdowns, but luckily I was able to tour just before Christmas, which gave me confidence that things were going to keep moving."
Are you somebody who writes a lot? Are you sitting on a stockpile of tunes?
“No, I’m not really that sort of person who sits down writing a tune every day, or six tunes every day, or 20 tunes a week or whatever it is. What I tend to do is write a batch of songs and then spend months developing perspectives on topics to write lyrics about, making notes on my phone or in the back pages of little notebooks, I scribble things down as they come to mind. I’ll sit with a guitar and get a few hooks together, hum out a few melodies and record them, then go back and look through the topics I’ve noted down and assign them to each song. I’d be lying if I said I’ve always got a guitar in my hand, but I like my songs to really connect with people so I don’t want to just sort of fire out pointless songs, I want really define what I’m on about. That’s my process. I think it’s better to live in the world for a bit, where things are going on, then write about those experiences later."
Did you have a clear idea in your head for this record, in terms how you wanted to build on what you did with your debut?
“Yeah, definitely, that was always the plan. With the first album, because I come from a sort of football, rough and ready background, it needed to sound like it had come from my bedroom, if you know what I mean, or from the terraces. I thought if we’d have done everything with a full-on band, who I was might get lost a bit, and I think people might not have related to it as well as they did.
“But I’ve got a great band playing with me now and for me it was a no-brainer that I should try and use the best of them in the studio instead of just doing everything off the back of drum loops with a guitar. We all love a lot of different music from times gone by and you can probably hear that a little bit more on this album, there’s a bit of 60s and 70s, blues, rockabilly, a sort of west coast sound almost in some cases. It was always my intention to use more of the influences that I love on the next record and luckily I’ve got musicians who who have such good ears for different sounds, they’re so well-rounded and experienced that it’s just so easy. Not to sound big-headed or anything but we’re just really enjoying it. We never find ourselves at each other’s throats or at a crossroads about things, we just get through it."
You’ve worked with Dave Eringa down at Rockfield Studios in Wales – how did he get involved? Was he someone you sought out?
“Yeah. I mean, I love Parr Street in Liverpool where we did the first album, and we worked with great producers, but I’ve wanted to go to a residential studio ever since I saw the Rockfield documentary, I really wanted to go there. It’s surreal, really.
“Dave just got me straight away, and he’s just an amazing person as well as being an unbelievable producer. We knew that we were going to get on with him. When you spend a few weeks with somebody in a confined environment you’ve got to make sure you’re on the same page as people, as well as musically. It was just a massive bonus being able to go to a studio like that and work with somebody like him, and I think it shows on the record. He’s worked with people all the way from Manic Street Preachers to Tom Jones, and The Who in the middle. It’s a phenomenal track record and his mixing is absolutely incredible, it’s second-to-none. I’ve never heard mixes so good.”
Are there any particular musical reference points or influences that have informed the new album?
“I think growing up in Liverpool obviously The Beatles were always going to be a massive influence, but I think that’s something that’s developed more as I’ve got older. The La’s were a massive influence when I was a young lad as well, but my Number One really is Bob Dylan, always has been. In the songs and the way that he writes lyrics, that’s always spoken to me, even from when I heard it for the first time when I was about 15. It was just like: ‘wow’. What a lesson as well, that you’ve just got to be true to yourself and speak your mind. He’s influenced all sorts of things from afar, really.
“More recently I’ve been big into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, especially Déjà vu, which I discovered in lockdown. From start to finish it’s just an unbelievable record. Also I’ve been getting into George Harrison and Paul McCartney’s solo stuff a lot more. I’ve always been a fan of John Lennon’s solo stuff, but I’ve been delving into George and Paul a little bit more, and getting into a lot of other classics like The Band and Credence Clearwater Revival, stuff like that. Some of the best of the best, really. David Byrne from Talking Heads has also become a massive influence as well over the past 18 months as well, which maybe doesn’t show in the music but in terms of his lyrics, and just being an incredible frontman, that’s something I’ve probably tried to emulate a bit.”
Both your albums have been released post-pandemic – have you had the chance to play live as much as you like? Have you road-tested any of the new material yet?
“Yeah, I mean thankfully we started dropping singles around August last year, so by the time the album was ready to come out there was already four tunes there that people knew from when we were on tour before Christmas, and now coming into this tour the reception for those tunes has become a lot bigger, everyone singing every word. We’ve dropped a couple more new ones into the show as well, but it’s been a really great reception to be honest.”
What are your touring plans looking like for 2022?
"We’re going to SXSW in Texas, which will be great, in March. I’ve played in America before, doing LFC-related things, but to be out there with my own tunes and my own band will be incredible. After that we’ve got a little run of dates in the UK and a support slot with The Lathums in Blackpool, which will be a great gig. It’s sold out and I’m good mates with them so it’ll be nice to knock about with them for a day. Then after that we’re looking to hit the festivals. I think we’re going to hold off Europe for a bit, but I’m just looking to do as much as I can. I’ve already written for another album so I think a trip back to Rockfield will be due at some point this year as well. I’m not the sort of person to to wait around, I just want to keep making music. It worked for The Beatles, didn’t it? They didn’t hang about. Not saying I’m anywhere near their level, obviously. But if it was good enough for four lads from Liverpool in the 60s, it’s good enough for me now.”
Moments is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store.