Last week British Airways hosted a #BAListenUp launch party at Villain in Brooklyn; the evening featured musical performances by a whole SLEW of dope acts, my favorite being Jamie N Commons as I actually had the chance to speak with him before he took the stage. Having grown up in both the UK and in the US, I asked him about the differences between the food scenes in each one, as well as about how he maintains his sanity in transit back and forth between the two for present-day business purposes. We also talked about how he’s got a track with X Ambassadors on the Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack, and we got into an extensive Oregon Trail discussion because we are children of the floppy disk era and WE CAN DO WHAT WE WANT. Read up on all of that below, follow Jamie on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news, and keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming LP, which he’s working on in Nashville as we speak! HERE WE GO:
So how long are you in town for? Just for this?
Yeah, I’m here for about two days, and then I’m off down to Nashville to finish a record.
Amazing! How far along are you with that?
I think it’ll be three weeks and it’ll be done; I’ve just come off the back of two weeks in LA, so I’m here to do this, and then we’re going to Nashville to record with Brendan Benson, and then back to LA to finish up everything else there and get it sent off to mixing. The end is in sight, which is very exciting.
I bet! And do you have any idea about when that will be released or is it still pretty tentative?
I’m literally just focusing so much on the creative at the moment that I’m leaving the business things until later. I’m not sure at the moment, but I’d imagine it would be end of this year or start of next.
Sure. Now, are you the type of person who likes to go into the studio with things fairly finished, or do you like to leave them open and see what happens?
Open. Completely. It always sounds more alive if it’s created in the moment as it’s being recorded.
Right, right. Now, I heard (on a separate note) that you’ve got a song coming out with X Ambassadors on the Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack? Is that right?
Yeah, it’s kind of bonkers. [Laughs] Sometimes songs have lives entirely outside of what you thought they were written for. It’s exciting that it’s going to be reaching so many people.
Oh absolutely, it’ll be great; I’m not a HUGE fan of the first one, but I think I might be the only one…almost everyone else I know is obsessed, and I know they’re all super excited for the sequel, so you’ll for sure be drawing a lot of new fans.
“We’re back pitches” is the tagline as well. Nailed it. [Laughs]
Now, I know that you grew up in England, moved to Chicago around the age of six, and then moved BACK to England when you were a teenager, so I’m just kind of interested how that back-and-forth treated you specifically from a food perspective; I feel like (although I’m not a guy) I was just eating the junkiest shit as a teenager, and Chicago is kind of the mecca for that sort of gluttonous “cuisine” (between, you know, pizza, hot dogs, etc.) whereas in England you’ve certainly got fish ‘n chips, full English, loads of sweets and all that, but it just seems like going from one to the other would be tough at that age.
Yeah, it’s very different, though England’s food scene the last few years has really gotten amazing. I think the delivery game in England is still not quite at the level of America, but as far as restaurants and everything we’re on the same level as far as quick and easy but quality stuff, you know?
Absolutely. I’ve been fascinated by watching some of those Vice featurettes on chefs in London and Bristol etc. that have come out recently; everything seems super on-point from these up-and-coming chefs you guys have got over there.
Oh yeah, we’ve got all the food trucks and stuff like that now as well. I still think the best one is Portland, though. Have you been up there? Those two big squares where everything is just incredible?
I have, and I agree, it’s incredible! I haven’t been for a few years but have been meaning to go back. Now, back to the tunes and sort of establishing yourself during the formative years, I read elsewhere that your early influences were, you know, Moby Play, the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, etc. And those are amazing, but was there anything more along the lines of “guilty pleasure” that you would consider to have been highly influential? Or were you just always that cool? [Laughs]
Yeah there were loads, obviously! I’m trying to think of the most embarrassing one for you…do you want one from when I was a kid, or from recently?
Well, I’ve been listening to a lot of Hall & Oates recently, which is pretty cheese-ball, but it’s fucking amazing.
Completely! I mean, it definitely feels like a time right now where the idea of “guilty pleasures” has sort of faded out as well.
Yeah, I don’t think there’s any gangs left in music, like the punk guy or whatever, where you can’t listen to certain things because it’s considered sacrilege. There’s less of a divide.
I would like to thank the Internet for that, actually.
Yeah, it’s good and bad. It means that nothing means as much because it’s not as intensive, but at the same time it’s good, because you have a lot more in common with a lot more people.
Right. And for me it’s hard to know how to feel about all of that. I mean, you and I are the same age I think, and we kind of grew up with feet in both sides of it, you know? Like the “old ways” and the “future”. I can still remember going to computer class and learning about the internet, but that bit was boring, you know? I just wanted to have at the floppy disks, play some Oregon Trail.
Oregon fucking Trail! “You have caught dysentery.” Yeah, that shit was hilarious. Ford the river and all that.
I used to always like the hunting part, but I’d always shoot too many things and couldn’t carry it all with me in the wagon. That’s what’s wrong with America today. Desensitization to wastefulness via virtual reality time travel.
Heartbreaking. Did you ever complete it?
I don’t think that I did.
Was it possible? I suppose it must have been.
I mean, now that you mention it, I don’t remember speaking to anyone who has. I’ll have to ask around now, because that’s going to bother me not knowing. But I feel like that’s a thing you’d wear with pride, you know? Bring it up at parties all the time, like, “Remember Oregon Trail? I beat it.”
Maybe the Portland food trucks would have been able to use all the extra meat from the hunting trips if you’d ever gotten to the end.
Exactly! Okay, now apart from this show (and being in Nashville) what else have you got coming up show-wise? Because you’re based in England primarily, yeah?
I’m kind of going back and forth, so it’s a bit of both. But shows-wise, I’m just focusing on the record at the moment. There’ll be few shows here and there I think, but as far as playing, it’ll probably be late summer before we start doing anything. We do have a few very exciting support ideas, which I can’t go to names, but it should be really fun towards the end of the year. The whole year after that will be non-stop.
Well speaking of non-stop, since this is a British Airways event and since you are so back and forth all the time, what helps you get through the traveling process with your sanity intact? Because personally I can’t stand being stuck on planes.
I try to not sleep the night before if it’s a long-haul flight, because then I can just pass out. When I went to LA this time to do the album, the night before was the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight, and that was on at 5am in England, so I stayed up all night doing that and then went straight to the airport (kind of amazed I made it onto the flight, to be honest) and managed to sleep for ten of the twelve hours. So it was good. Just don’t sleep the night before.
Solid advice. And finally, do you have any #HashtagsOfWisdom to impart before we wrap up?
Yeah, I actually have a phrase that I’m going to coin and write a motivational book (and I Googled it and no one’s done it before, so maybe this can be the moment of the coining): #BusinessIsBusiness. (So busy-ness is business.) And it’s true! The more you do, even if it’s not intentional, the more payoff you’ll get in the long-run. Keeping active and doing things leads to other things. Business is business.