Wooooh. Damien Rice eh? We know each other Jamie so let's me this a bit more informal. So how the hell did that come about? One minute I'm talking to you online and you are packing to go to Switzerland and the next there's photos of you and him performing on the grass like a pair of hippies, and then footage is upped of you singing Hallelujah with him.
Not a bad day for you?
Helloooo! Not a bad day at all.
I was invited at the start of the year to play at the Blue Balls Festival in Luzerne in Switzerland in July - Luzerne is incredibly beautiful - and I’d been excited all year about performing at it.
It’s a definite highlight in my career so far as the line-up included Damien Rice, Elvis Costello, James Morrison, John Legend and a host of acts from around the world who are considered to be at the breaking artist level.
I was certainly in some esteemed company.
It’s the sort of opportunity that comes along and you have to grab at it.
The festival itself turned out to be a wonderful experience.
An event that’s full of real heart and soul.
The energy of the place is amazing and it just felt like the real deal.
I was singing on the KKL Plaza Stage just outside the Concert Hall in Luzerne.
I was on for three hours in fantastic heat on the hottest day of the year so far in Switzerland - I think it was about 35degrees.
The reception from the audience was fantastic. The Swiss are really appreciative and very giving with their attention.
Then during the third hour of the set I saw Damien Rice in the audience watching and I was understandably wowed at this as it wasn’t just a case of him casually walking past.
After I had finished I received a text message from his management asking me if I would like to go backstage and then join Damien on stage at his concert.
I think he was actually almost late for his concert as he was watching me.
I didn’t have to think about how to respond to that.
So after agreeing I was led backstage to his concert and it just felt like I was in a film.
Maybe it’s just me, but I often feel that life often does when it’s at its best, the most real moments feeling rather surreal for their brilliance.
I really did feel that I was viewing myself playing a part in a story.
He came backstage after a fantastic rendition of ‘The Blower’s Daughter’ and asked me if I’d like to join him on stage - inviting me to sing one of my own songs before duetting on Leonard Cohen’s classic ‘Hallelujah’.
Strangely enough I wasn’t nervous at all,
In hindsight I should have been, but I wasn’t.
I’ve done many many hundreds of gigs and performances, all hugely varied in style and space but with this one it just felt so right, so absolutely right and I felt incredibly fired up after singing for three hours earlier on in the day, not phased, not tired or nervous, just thinking that this was absolutely a perfect moment, and it really did feel like it.
For Damien to invite me to sing at his concert is something I’ll always be incredibly grateful for, it was a wonderful experience and his audience were hugely appreciative of me.
To sing with him was an absolute joy, I thought our voices blended very well and I just felt out cloud 9 at the time, I still do.
After the concert we relaxed a wee bit backstage before going outside of the concert hall to speak to people, it felt absolutely brilliant, I felt like I’d been brought into something very special and the energy in the air was electric ( or highly acoustic ). We took a walk down to the local park where we performed his songs together, my songs together, improvising on each and making up new songs completely as topics and themes were suggested to us by the rather lovely group of people who had gathered with us in the park that evening. “ Have you seen the moon” was one completely new improvised song we came up with taking turns to come up with verse and melody and it was a brilliant experience to have Damien sing with me for my song ‘All I Need in Life’, there’s footage of it on You Tube and I think our voices are actually brilliant together.
Can you imagine what it would be like if I had listened back days later and it was terrible.
It doesn’t bear thinking about, but I like it.
I really enjoyed improvising, and I think it’s a big part of my nature, so to be playing music, singing and improvising with Damien Rice was a pure joy in itself.
It was just great fun rather than it being a taxing or nervy experience.
The man himself is brilliant and was great fun to be around.
I genuinely couldn’t say one negative thing about him.
A lovely guy.
After the show we went back to the hotel for his reception and then partied into the night in the grand surroundings of the Schweizerhof Hotel.
There was nothing exclusive about it and it was brilliant to party with some new found friends who had been at the concert and the park gathering.
So the festival as a whole was a bit of a blast?
The festival was absolutely brilliant it really was. The staff are all volunteers and my artist liaison Nik was brilliant at showing me around Luzerne.
It sounds like a cliché, but I really did meet so many lovely locals who have become new frinds who I will be keeping in touch with.
Was this connection with Damien a one off, or are there plans for anything else?
We’ve been in contact since the festival and whilst there are no concrete plans to collaborate officially just as yet I’m sure that our paths will cross again on a nearby shore at some point.
When situations like this come up you must be thinking in the aftermath that pretty much anything is possible? Then in the cold light of day reality probably bitch slaps you as find yourself looking for a coffee with only change rattling about in your pocket. Would that be a fair perception of it?
I’d have to say I strongly agree with your first point and strongly disagree with the second point, if there’s anything I’ve truly learned the value of appreciating over the past few years it’s that anything really is possible for me and that nothing should be discounted as being out of bounds in the realms of possibility.
I’ve always known inside that good things were going to happen, I just wasn’t sure exactly what or with who.
The events of the past few years have really reinforced that feeling of self-belief and forging a real sense of the self-fulfilling prophecy within me. I believe we can all do things which truly rock our worlds and that we are only limited by our imagination and our own apathies.
I do believe that vision, focus, positivity, talent, application and desire form a big part in achievement as opposed to it being a case of chance or ‘luck’ or even good fortune. I think you can make yourself considerably more likely to enjoy particular things if you really drive towards them with an open heart and an open mind. Little in life is set in stone but if your resolve is firm and you know in your heart that you want to do certain things in life well you’ll find your way won’t you?
So when you are in the cold light of day with just enough change to get a coffee, then there’s always the coffee to be savoured, and the sun and the memories.
It’s all good.
I’m not a complete dreamer though. I’m a realist to an extent to, but I think we have to be realistic about what that even means. I just think it’s important to believe in yourself, yet be quite self-aware and be honest with yourself about what it is you want to do, or where you want to go.
That self-realisation is a big part of any journey and surely plays a role in all the best journeys. The cold light of day reality in my mind is that things have never been more exciting, things have never been more possible, and I’ve never been more positive about life than I am right now.
It works for me. I never knew when I was younger that I would share stages with people who I’ve looked up to for such a long time but I would never have said it definitely won’t happen. I think being open to the possibilities in life is key.
So onto more positives. You have something lined up with Admiral Fallow don't you? That's got a quality stamp on it hasn't it? Do you see it as another stepping stone towards something special on the horizon?
I’ll be playing my next adventure in Glasgow on Friday 13th September at Broadcast as part of the No Mean City Festival. I’m looking forward to it for sure. I think the gig in October with Andrew Roachford in Edinburgh will be a real high for me to, I love that man.
Speaking about special things on the horizon. Where's the album? How long have you been promising me this? It feels like you told me that you were recording an album as far back as in a past life. I would need regressive hypnosis to go back far enough to recall exactly when you first mentioned it.
It’s been a long time in the making, maybe too long, maybe there’s no such thing coming at all. (Joking)
I feel like it’s been important to me to have had this journey that I’ve had so far before doing this, as if each experience with the music has been a part of the patchwork of me that I’ve needed to get together before I do it.
I’ve been writing songs as I go through the past few years and I just wanted to be really sure I had the songs, the right ones for the album.
I think I’ve been promising you the album for quite some time now.
I just want to make sure it’s really good and I’m absolutely ready, and now I am ready.
I’ve picked out the places where I want to record it and I’ve the musicians in place. I don’t enjoy recording studios all that much and have vouched to record in a number of different places, interesting places that inspire me or ones I’m hugely comfortable in. I don’t find recording studios to be that comfortable a space.
They’re often way too clinical and I don’t feel especially relaxed being boxed in.
It's been a funny old trip hasn't it. From supporting JLS to The Secret Sisters. Opening for Joan Armatrading and playing with Damien. When you focus on the high points it's not been too bad has it?
It’s fantastic man, absolutely fantastic, blows my mind in fact, and this is just the beginning of the beginning. I’ll be singing my whole life and I will one day look back and the adventures and experiences of right now will still be part of the beginning.
If my career is a long road then I’ve just laced up my boots and taken the first couple of steps.
I know I’m going places, I don’t always know exactly where, but for sure I am. There’s so much possibility and scope so why not!
So what's happening next. You finally going to go on the road and tour. A real tour either as a supporting act or a headliner. Is that the plan?
Once this CD is done I’m going for it. My hope is to join a tour basically. Be a support to an artist that I can feel connected to.
That’s one idea and I think it could be the next step. I’m contacting a few people just now.
I have a dream team of people I would like to work with in terms of management and in terms of record label and in terms of going on the road with and I aim to follow these roads of possibility as far as they will go. Dream a little dream hey.