Courage Under Fire: Jamie Isaac Interviewed

Modestly ascending…

Unusually for a young electronic musician and producer, Jamie Isaac’s inspirations are not the hip contemporaries you may expect but, rather, jazz pianists and film score composers.

“I’m really influenced by Bill Evans,” claims the young Londoner. “I really love that kind of melancholy, solitary sound that he had and I really wanted to make music like that, but more song-based.” He’s certainly been successful in harnessing that very sound across two critically acclaimed EPs, ‘I Will Be Cold Soon’ and ‘Blue Break’.

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When I was younger, the first job I ever wanted was to be a film composer…

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An attendee of the prestigious BRIT School, he was sure from an early age that he wanted to be involved in the performing arts. “When I was younger, the first job I ever wanted was to be a film composer and to do film soundtracks. I always wanted to make music that was really cinematic and spoke to you. But at BRIT, music was always what I wanted to do. I went there for that. When I was a school I used to sing in a choir, so I always had a real love for classical and choral music.”

It’s no great surprise to hear this, as the complex harmonics in his compositions are suggestive of long-standing musical traditions. “I wanted to put those two together: classic songwriting, but with that kind of jazzy piano element, real mid-bassy piano sounds and then have these angelic, floating vocals in the background, to make it really ethereal.”

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‘She Dried’

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While he acknowledges that the piano is his greatest inspiration and his first love when it comes to composition – “For me it’s the best instrument ever, it is the most versatile instrument” – the disparate influences he feels are drawn not just from instruments or other musicians, but the place where he was born and raised. He believes the geography of a place is equally important to the artists it produces and cites the south London scene as a catalyst for his writing.

“There’s definitely a feeling around the area that we know that we’re onto something special. We know that we have a great art scene in south London. It definitely influences you; being surrounded by friends who make music, it keeps it rolling and your ideas are constantly flowing. It just grows really naturally and organically.”

His writing style has progressed considerably, even in a relatively short space of time. The heavy washes and reverb that were fast becoming his signature sound appear to be decreasing. He agrees that this is a conscious streamlining process as a result of his burgeoning confidence.

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This is what I want to say, this is what I’m writing about, and this is my music…

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“That’s 100% right. I’m almost stripping it down to basics. There are very simple drums now; before I always thought percussion was a really important aspect and that I had to make it as technical as possible. But now I’m just, like, a simple kick and snare can be all you need. Because I’m getting a bit more confident in the way I’m singing and I’m a bit older now, my voice is changing and maturing. This is what I want to say, this is what I’m writing about, and this is my music.”

His confidence, however, hasn’t yet extended to his live performance. While he’s enthusiastic to be headlining a Clash-hosted River Island live session (report), he admits: “I’ve never done anything like this.” He also gets unbelievably nervous before a gig. “I start getting sweats, my band mates are like, ‘Chill out,’ and I’m like, ‘Nobody likes me, no one wants to listen to the music!’”

Though it’s nice to know that, as a performer, he’s driven by talent rather than ego, the growing legions of fans for his soulful electronica would be sure to disagree.

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Words: Anna Wilson
Photos: Lee Whittaker
Fashion: Lee Trigg

All clothing provided by River Island. Full photo set and fashion credits available in issue 99 of Clash magazine

Jamie Isaac online

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