Ellie Jamison is a singe songwriter from Oxford now resident in Suffolk. She has been writing for many years and sung with Baka Beyond but now she has released her own album “Thi Time Around”. We spoke with her about her music and
I’ve been listening to your album and I really, really like it. And of course I’ve seen you play live, I’ve photographed you but I know very little about Ellie Jamison the musician, tell us about yourself.
Well… I’ve been singing really since I was a kid. I started writing songs… well I was really into music since I was about five years old. My Mum bought me my first records, Mum & Dad were really into music so I’d “steal” their records and listen to them on vinyl.
So what was your first record?
The first record I ever heard was Supertramp, when I was about five years old. I used to listen to one song then put it back and play it all the way through again, I just loved how it made me feel – that was about my earliest memory. Then when I was about eight I listened to Adam and the Ants. My favourite record was Musical Youth they did Pass The Dutchie.
I had a sort of obsession with music and then I started singing in front of people when I was nine but it was completely random! My brother was a guitarist in a band called the Greenlights, in Oxford. There was a couple, a guitarist and his wife, a singer, in the area who got talented kids together each year and got them playing live on stage. My brother was playing lead guitar at a rehearsal and I turned up with my Mum to pick him up. The singer, without saying anything else looked me straight in the eye and said “You are a singer.” She printed of the lyrics to one of her songs said “There you go, your brother knows the song, go and rehearse that!” Two weeks later I was performing in front of 300 people along side her singing her song. That was my first experience of performing live.
Did you find that scary or did you take to it like a duck to water?
Oh I just loved it, I was nervous but I just loved the buzz of it. As soon as I was there on that stage singing it was like… the greatest feeling. So no, I wasn’t scared, but she had this energy, and a really powerful voice and was so inspiring. Sadly, a couple of years later, she passed away. But her inspiration carried on through her husband who nurtured my talent. He had an analogue studio, so me and my brother would go around and record all the time – actually we still have those recordings.
It went on from there, I continued performing and writing songs. I started writing properly when I was twelve then at eighteen I joined Baka Beyond.
You are originally from Oxford, so how come you ended up in Suffolk?
I needed a change in my life and I had close friends here. It came at the right time in my life! I fell in love with Suffolk and haven’t looked back since.
Moving forward then, 1st March you released your début album “This Time Around”, tell us about the album.
I’ve been writing songs for a long time but I hadn’t been performing them. I sang with Baka Beyond and a lot of solo artists who became good friends. They kept saying that I should get my own stuff out there but it was always something I did on the side and I was a bit apprehensive to do it I think. Then I met this awesome lady in Oxford and we sang together for a bit. She also ran a great project called ‘The young women’s band project’ and I helped out with the group every now and then. It got me motivated to finally get on the case as a solo artist so nearly ten years ago I started to push my own stuff and it built from there. I had songs I had written years ago as well as new stuff that I was working on and I found that some of the songs really stuck with people and others didn’t – but that’s just the way it works, so you kinda drop songs as you go along!
I got quite fascinated with song structures, what made them interesting and everything that I had learned throughout the years with spending time with different song writers, artists and musicians, especially Baka Beyond. I spent a lot of time in the studio with Martin (Cradick), he was really good at structuring songs and building dynamics. I started naturally applying what I’d learnt to my own songs. I would listen back and think, yeah, that’s all right but I could hear that from the listeners point of view it needed work to keep it interesting. So I started chopping my songs to bits, taking out verses and putting in little dynamics where it worked.
When you go through that process. Starting with the original idea, refining it, fine tuning it so that, as you say, the dynamics work – do you ever lose any part of the original idea?
No actually, what I feel is that it brings out all the best bits. So when I am first writing a song I will go through ideas and pick out the ones which I think, ah that’s going to work and that bit doesn’t. And also, I may well write three or four verses and really it only needs two! So I’ll take out the lyric or the melody which I think sounds best and feels right – its all about feeling really. So no, I don’t think it does lose anything. If it is a good song, if you have a good idea you work on it until you bring out all the good bits and chuck away the ones that don’t work.
The title “This Time Around” what is behind that?
My songs are a life journey I guess, some of the songs I write are written through other people’s experiences. “This Time Around” the song that the title track comes from, I guess it’s my way of saying that ‘this time around this is what I offer to the world’. I’ve been a session vocalist and done a lot of different things over the years so this is like, my turn, my story.
The one track that took be a little by surprise is “One More Day” because it is a Reggae track. Have we got a bit of a Bob Marley fan here?
I absolutely adore Reggae, I have so many records and CDs of Ragga and Reggae! In my teenage years I used to listen to it a lot. Funnily enough, what inspired that song was not necessarily Reggae.. At the time I was listening to Fiona Bevan quite a lot. There was something about her songs that were cheery and interesting and it inspired me. One day I picked up the guitar and ‘One more day’ just kinda came out. When I have tried to write uplifting and cheery songs before they haven’t worked, but for some reason this one really did.
The arrangements on the songs are just beautiful, how difficult is it to achieve that sound in the recording studio?
Because of my stripped down sound, both Amy and I agreed that we didn’t want to take away from that slightly raw feeling. We wanted to add to it so that it brought the best out of the songs so they didn’t sound over produced. It just kind of happened – it’s one of those things where you don’t really plan it, you just go with what feels right. Before I went in the studio I did all of the guitar and vocal arrangements including BV’s. I have on my iPad an eight track studio app thing which is really handy, its called DAW in case anyone is interested, it is really easy to use, but it just allowed me to record the guitar down and then get the song structure right. Then I layered the harmonies on top before I went into the studio. Call it a ‘rough sketch’ if you like.. We did a few little tweaks as we went along, but mostly the song was pretty much done before I went in. Then Amy would work her magic…
This is Amy Wadge we are talking about who has a little bit of a track record with a certain Ed Sheeran…
Yes, it was quite crazy! when I first met her, she had already worked with Ed, but she had just written Thinking Out Loud with him and she couldn’t believe it when Ed told her it was going on the album. She showed me the recording on her phone and I’ve watched the journey – going to number one and then winning a Grammy! It was really cool to see and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.
I have a confession to make. I have seen you do a cover of “Thinking Out Loud” and I prefer your version! (Check it out on Soundcloud here folks..)
My version!! Really??? Wow!! That is a compliment and a half, thank you! . It was the hardest song I have ever covered. I heard it and I thought, I’ll give that a go, but actually learning it is really quite hard because you have to get the message of the song across as well as keeping that rhythm which is not easy to play and sing at the same time.
Here is an earlier recording of one of the songs from the album, “Feel No Pain” – you can order a copy of “This Time Around” direct from Ellie’s website, click here