If there’s an opposite to overnight success, then Jamie Lawson would be your dictionary definition.
So when fame finally found the Plymouth native, it was appropriate that it should be with a song called Wasn’t Expecting That.
Since becoming the first act signed to megastar Ed Sheeran’s own label, Gingerbread Man Records, Jamie’s career has skyrocketed after years of toiling away in relative obscurity and false starts.
His self-titled album has hit number one in the UK charts and is certified as selling gold since its release last October, while the single Wasn’t Expecting That also went top 10 and won its writer a prestigious Ivor Novello Award. He’s supported Ed on an arena tour and been at the eye of the storm that is One Direction when he joined them on their 2015 tour.
And now he’s headlining his biggest solo tour to date, with a date at Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday.
WOW247 caught up with Jamie on a rare day off. Has everything from the past year sunk in yet?
‘Not really. It’s been a busy year to say the least, with some amazing moments in it. But then you kind of move on to do the next thing, it’s hard to take it all in.’
Considering that Jamie did his first proper paid gig at age 15 – he’s now 40 – it’s not surprising he’s keen to make up for lost time.
‘Yep, absolutely,’ he agrees. ‘I was just saying yesterday, I’m making the most of it while I’m here.
‘I’m only on my third album, I probably should have made a lot more by now - I’m about the same age as Ryan Adams and he’s made like 16 or something, so I’m a bit behind.’
I can see how fame is attractive to people, but I don’t really have any desire for it myselfJamie Lawson
Has Adams been an influence on him?
‘I don’t know about influence, but I am a big fan. I pick his albums up when I can and I certainly like the idea of that sort of output, and I hope over the next three or four years I can make three or four records. That would be nice, just to keep on that sort of track and keep people interested and keep doing it.
‘I’m trying to write all the time while I’m on the road. I don’t think I’m as prolific as him. I’d need to be a robot, but I hope I can do an album a year.’
His self-released 2006 debut Last Night Stars didn’t trouble the charts, while its 2010 follow-up Pull of The Moon scraped to number 70, but got to number nine in New Zealand.
However, Jamie says there was never a point where he considered jacking in the music and getting a regular day job.
‘There wasn’t really, oddly enough. There were certainly times when I was frustrated, and maybe worried about it, but I never thought I would stop, and I never got close to thinking: “Well, what else can I do?” Because I can’t really do anything else. I hadn’t really given myself a plan B,’ he laughs.
In 2011 Jamie posted a video on YouTube, a live version of a new song – Wasn’t Expecting That. Rather unexpectedly it got picked up by radio in Ireland and became a big hit.
‘At that point I thought the success of the song would travel and translate everywhere else, but it never did, so again I thought maybe I had missed my opportunity. But thankfully Ed Sheeran came along.’
Jamie had supported Ed at one of his early gigs.
‘I only did one gig then, but even from that night, I remember pretty clearly, I had not long since written Wasn’t Expecting That, I ended the first half and got a really great response from that song. I was feeling good and the room was buzzing. Then Ed got up and stole the show, he really did.
‘It was quite obvious that he had the talent, I think he played (Ed’s debut hit) The A Team that night and a Bob Dylan cover, I spoke to him afterwards and he was really sweet, really kind. I think he was 18 or 19 at the time and four months later he was number one. It was obvious he had ambition.’
When Sheeran set up Gingerbread Man Records he had remembered Jamie, and the older performer had clearly made an impact on him.
‘It was a massive confidence booster, especially when he said I don’t really want you doing anything different to what you’re already doing, we just have to get it out there and people will listen.
‘It was a big confidence boost, him saying that the songs were good enough and I was good enough to do it, and it just needed to translate in some way.’
Despite his newfound success, Jamie has been able to keep his feet firmly on the ground. And he says that he’s been able to carry on his life much as it was before.
‘I don’t really feel like I’ve had any unwanted attention. I’ve been in the paper a few times, but it’s only been about the music stuff. I’ve not had the paparazzi on my doorstep or anything like that.
‘I can walk around anywhere I can wish. I could probably walk around with a big sign saying: “I’m Jamie Lawson,” and people would probably come up to me and say: “Do you know when Jamie Lawson’s playing?” That kind of thing.
‘I can see how fame is attractive to people, but I don’t really have any desire for it myself. Maybe that is because I am a bit older.’
But when it comes to fame, he got a ringside seat to fandom at its most extreme when he supported boyband One Direction on the UK and Ireland leg of their worldwide On The Road Again arena tour late last year.
One Direction, with their legions of young female fans, and singer-songwriter Jamie Lawson might not seem the most obvious of touring companions, though.
‘That was a great reason for doing it,’ says Jamie. ‘It’s a whole new audience for me, and I probably wasn’t on their radar, but they know Ed.
‘By the end of those shows, I had a lot of those One Direction fans singing along with me. It was certainly a brilliant experience. I went to number one over the course of that tour, so I’ll never forget it. And a lot of those fans have stuck with me. They’re very loyal One Direction fans, but they now follow me too.’
Did he get to spend much time with the 1D lads, or were they totally in their fame bubble?
‘There was a bit of that, and they are so famous they can’t really go anywhere. But Harry was very kind and spent some time with us and watched us soundcheck and things like that. Niall was very kind.
‘They didn’t have to do the things they did for me, they put themselves out to do that, which was nice of them.’
Given the position he now finds himself in, is Jamie feeling the pressure of producing a follow-up?
‘I can only write what I write, and hopefully I can keep doing it. I don’t know if there’s pressure or not.
‘I’m in a position of writing songs for the next record and wondering either what they should sound like, or just letting them come to me and seeing what they are. We’ll see how it goes.’
And as to Wasn’t Expecting That, the song that has played a large part in getting him where he is?
‘It’s won an Ivor Novello, which is incredible.
‘You can’t really get a higher accolade for songwriting than that. I never thought it would achieve that. I never even thought it would get played on the radio in the first place. It’s pretty special, that’s for sure.’
n Jamie Lawson is playing at Portsmouth Guildhall on Wednesday, October 26. Doors open 7pm. He is supported by Calum Scott. Tickets £19.80. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk or call the box office on 0844 847 2362.