"When it comes to singer-songwriters, Jamie Marshall takes some beating.
"Jamie Marshall is a new shining light in acoustic music." ~ folking.com
"[He has the] ability to pen songs that instantly hook with melody lines aplenty
"vastly underrated... he has the presence, personality and stage craft to fill any size venue." ~ Get Rhythm
"It beggars belief that Marshall is not an adult rock icon." ~ Time Out
"a consummate entertainer, and in the same breath a songwriter and singer of thought and conscience ... extraordinary talent " ~ Michael Mee, Tweedale Press
"a voice to break hearts" ~ Terry O'Brien, Playpen Club and Manager of Jim Moray
"So pure your ears will perk up thinking he's singing just for you.
Photos: Gary Williams
An interview from rootsmusic.co.uk by Ayo Bamidele
I first came across Jamie Marshall during a performance at the 12 Bar club in London earlier this year. I was astonished at how this solo performance had captivated the audience so completely and also that members of the audience had travelled a long way to see this "unknown" artist. It was obvious: really dextrous guitar playing, great vocals and good songs - it was rootsmusic.
We interrupted Jamie's live schedule to get a few questions answered.
How are things, you seem to be playing live almost constantly these days, do you still get the same enjoyment from it?
"Absolutely! I draw energy and strength from playing live. I love the immediacy of connecting with people."
You are among several performers who have made an artform of performing solo, I'm thinking of Richard Thompson, Glenn Tilbrook and Billy Bragg among others. What's the secret of your success in this area?
There's no secret. Get out there and do it. The more you do it, the more you become aware of what you are able to do. I learn something new every time I play. It's so important to interact with the audience, I try to present the songs very much as a single entity as opposed to the two separate elements of playing the guitar and singing.
You've received a lot of critical praise for your guitar playing, when did you start playing and who are your influences?
My Mum and Dad bought me a guitar for passing my "Eleven Plus" a few years ago! I was influenced by the pop music of the day in particular The Beatles and The Beach Boys. I didn't play much through my University years (I got too involved in Rugby and the usual social activities that go with that particular sport). I re-discovered the guitar in my mid twenties packed up my job and became a musician.
As far as influences are concerned, I listen to singers who are also guitarists as opposed to guitar players per se. I listen particularly to how their playing and singing compliment one another. As far as individuals go, John Lennon (a fantastic rhythm guitar player), Richard Thompson, Clive Gregson, James Taylor, and John Martyn are all fine examples of this. That said, I listen to all sorts of music from Hendrix through to Bossa Nova. I also enjoy great guitar players like Django Reinhardt, Jimmy Nolen (James Brown's guitar player), Steve Cropper and Martin Taylor (British Jazz guitar ace and member of Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings).
Listening to your current album HereAfter, I can't help but be impressed by the quality of songwriting especially the lyrics, where does the inspiration came from?
Words are so important to me and inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Sometimes songs just come along and you pick them out of the ether and work with them - both John Denver and Keith Richards (how's that for opposites) have made this comment and I believe it to be true. I'm a very sporadic and lazy writer, I can go for months without writing, though this panics me a little.
Sometimes I'll just sit down with my guitar and play any old rubbish until something that I like appears, other times it can be that I've overheard a phrase in conversation in a shop or on TV and this can become part of the basis of a lyric. I very rarely think "Right I'm going to write a song today" and certainly I've never done the Nashville dentist appointment thing where two or more writers sit down together and try to write a song in half an hour and then go to their next appointment and try to do the same again.
One of my favourite songs is Vagabond Heart, for the imagery it evokes, what was behind that one?
I'd been reading an article in Q magazine about Robbie Robertson, who at the time was recording an album with Daniel Lanois in an old house in the French quarter of New Orleans. The feature was full of anecdotes not just about the city, but also about events in his life and some of the people he has met. It conjured up some very vivid images to me. Images that were also reflected in part in the Mickey Rourke/Alan Parker film "Angel Heart" and I began to write the song that eventually became "Vagabond Heart." There are naturally references to music, to Voodoo, and to the people and the mystique that the old part of New Orleans has for me. I tried to capture the essence of these influences in the lyric.
I met the blues musician Walter "Wolfman" Washington, a New Orleans native, in a club in Basle where my band and I were playing and we'd gone to a party in a student squat somewhere in the city after the show. Two downstairs rooms each with a petrol generator. One for the sound system and one for the fridge stocked with beer. We had a couple of drinks and he shared a few stories about the city with me. The song was recorded more or less live, I wanted to give the impression of a group of musicians playing after hours in a smoky cellar club somewhere. The audience has left and only the band remain drinking, relaxing, and playing the music they love.
The guitar solos were recorded live with Micky (Moody) and I sat opposite one another playing off one another. Micky used this wonderful old wooden bodied Dobro guitar from the 1930's and I played my considerably younger Takamine EN20 C.
It's a city I've always wanted to visit but so far I haven't made the journey.
Tell us about your career to date what do you consider to be the highlights so far?
I began playing "professionally" when I left my tedious 9-5 suit job. I wasn't made for that kind of career. My first paid gigs were in Wine Bars in the West London area. In 1981 was in someone else's band for about 10 days, we were going to be big in Denmark! The reality was that he was a jerk, we rehearsed on a pig farm, lived in the back of a Transit and people in their late teens and early twenties weren't ready for a crap Elvis impersonator from Croydon! I LEFT!
Playing live at The Festival Hall to 3500 people was pretty special. I've also played on Top Of The Pops with Don McLean which I guess is one for the scrapbook. The first time I played the Telc music festival in The Czech Republic was magical. I love playing the 12 Bar as well, and I've had some great nights at The Half Moon in Putney (in the days when it was run by someone who cared more about music than selling bottled lager).
Are you enjoying the independence you're experiencing now?
I love this life! Leaving the supposed security of a career was the best thing I ever did. I can't imagine life without performing and want to be doing this until I drop. I have this wonderful vision of me and a few mates aged 70+ still making an ungodly din!
Are you optimistic about the opportunities advances like the Internet, digital TV and radio could offer to independent musicians?
In time, the Internet will become the biggest influence in the way music is accessed, sold and promoted. It's especially appropriate for artists like myself who essentially "niche market." I have my own website wwwjamiemarshall.com and I view it as a bridge between me and my present and potential audience. I see it more as a resource than a vehicle to sell records. People who visit the website cannot only check out my musical history but also find out where I'm playing on any given day in the week. They can even access maps for the gigs or find out what strings I use (if that's their thing)!
Radio in this country is not very friendly towards artists that don't record for major labels (real independent labels-as opposed to major companies vanity labels don't have the same clout) if you don't have a single to promote, neither Radio 1 or Radio 2 (the most listened to music Radio station in the UK) will play your recordings with any amount of frequency - getting play listed is very tough. Local Radio takes a much more sympathetic view - I recently played on a daytime show on Radio Wales that gets 100,000 listeners. Better yet, I played 7 songs in the space of two hours! I wouldn't get any thing like that from National radio. Paul Jones at JazzFM is another of the good guys.
I'm not sure how many people watch Digital TV but I guess any exposure has to be beneficial.
What about the current live scene?
It's pretty buoyant, there are some great acoustic clubs throughout the country. In London The Kashmir Klub, The Playpen and The 12 Bar are all great venues for singer/songwriters. Long may they run!
What are your plans for the future?
At present I'm promoting my current album HereAfter. Longer term I want to keep playing, writing and recording and to reach the audience that is undoubtedly out there for my music.
Raising a storm of the right kind (from the Berwick Advertiser, by Michael Mee)
JAMIE MARSHALL BARRELS, FRIDAY MARCH 2
OH NO this won't do at all, Jamie Marshall has been a full-time musician for nearly 20 years, yet he demonstrated why the heady heights of superstardom have so far eluded him. The one basic fact that has eluded him is that in musical terms bland is this year's black.Writing songs with insight and perception, performing them with as much skill as he does will never lead to the Porsche dealership or the adverts for Lear jet, one careful owner, Tel. A. Ridgeley.
What he did do and do brilliantly was entertain a rapt audience and banish any thoughts of the snow outside. There, I knew I wouldn't be able to write this without mentioning the weather.
In reality there were two Jamie Marshalls on stage. The first was a very amusing raconteur, he is a naturally funny man and the life of a musician at the sharp end is an interesting one to say the least, rehearsing in a Danish farmhouse with an Elvis impersonator does not appear on every CV. He prefaced each song with its history - sometimes funny, sometimes just setting the context. His flow was interrupted only twice, once when he was telling a tale which included implants, (don't ask, you had to be there) and a wag in the audience stopped him in his tracks, a fact he was gracious enough to acknowledge; well done Robin it's rare to hear a crack form the audience that is actually funny.
Secondly, and more poignantly, as he gave the history behind The Train a song about train-surfing in Sao Paulo, Brazil, young boys ride the tops of the trains with dire consequences, it was obvious that he had been greatly affected by the story. The song had taken only ten minutes to write but drove home Marshall's intense feelings about the senseless waste of life.
In those two extremes lie the essence of Marshall, a consummate entertainer and in the same breath a songwriter and singer of thought and conscience.
Marshall the musician is quite something, live his subtle, smoky voice adds a new dimension to numbers like The Judas Tree and yet he displays a steel edge when the pace quickens as on Which Side of the Line. The couple of covers he played display his love of the best in music: Marvin Gaye's I Heard It Through The Grapevine, What's Going On as well as Every Kind Of People were given a vocal intimacy. He is no slouch as a guitarist either, powerful when required he displayed a deftness and delicacy as he rounded off the night with the audience-requested Vagabond Heart.
He is at his best with his own material, the honesty in revealing his life is so sincere that at time it becomes almost intrusive; it takes guts to share your life with a bunch of strangers. For a music fan, however, there is nothing better. But it's not all personal revelation, he is a man who cares deeply. Troubletown, the subject of which is obvious, contains the breathtaking line "If God is such a holy man how come he takes sides?" Makes you stop and think a bit.
The previous day he had described Barrels as his favourite-ever gig, praising the atmosphere, but that is an organic thing between artist and audience and apart from a couple of minor wobbles, each played their part - the mutual respect made for the perfect evening.
During the course of the evening many of the songs were recorded for an album which hopefully will include some of his back catalogue as well as the live section. My humble suggestion is that some of the "movers and shakers" get a copy and discover some "real" music.
One incident sums it all up best. A fan had travelled from Liverpool that morning specifically for the gig and pronounced himself well-satisfied afterwards. Given the conditions, that says everything about the drawing power of talent.
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