Jamie Scott launched as a solo artist in 2004 with his single Just.
Since then he’s fronted Jamie Scott & The Town and been one half of Graffiti6. In 2010 he started turning his attention towards songwriting and in the past decade he’s become one of the UK’s most successful songwriters writing for the likes of Enrique Iglesias, Rag N Bone Man and One Direction.
With a new solo album, How Still the River, due in September, Jamie has released new single Friendly Fire today. You can watch the lyric video, which we’re premiering here on Entertainment Focus, below and then read our interview with Jamie where he talks about his new music, his career and much more…
You’re making a return to your own music with solo single Friendly Fire today and you’ve got a new album coming later in the year. How did that all come about?
I had a few songs lying around on my hard drive that I have loved over the years that I’ve written with artists like Birdie and Hurts. I decided that if nothing happens with these songs I just wanted to make my recordings of them because I just love these songs. I feel like I’ve known them for so long, I just wanted to get them out there. Friendly Fire is one of those examples. I wrote it with Theo from the band Hurts and it just didn’t fit their album. It was actually a piano ballad and he didn’t want any more piano ballads on the record. I took the song and I thought I’d change up. I started smashing the drums and I was like, ‘OK, this is kind of cool’ and it started feeling like Fleetwood Mac and had a cool groove to it. I went with it and that became the first song that I ended up recording for the record.
The record is How Still the River, which is coming out in September. What can you tell us about how it came together?
There’s no concept to the album as a whole. There’s no story theme that runs through it like I have written on a few of my last records. The last 10 years has had ups and downs so capturing one concept over the last last six or seven years as a solo artist wasn’t gonna be possible. It’s a body of work of songs that I’ve written over the last five or six years. Some I have written by myself and some I’ve co-written with artists that I love. The reason for the title, How Still the River, is dedicated to my late friend Toby Smith. He was my mentor really and he was in Jamiroquai. He was a massive part of that band and he died three years ago. He was my mentor in music and actually my last record, My Hurricane, I recorded at his studio Angelic Studios. He was just a big part of my life musically so when he died, that left a massive hole musically for me. The album, and the title of the album, is dedicated to Toby and there’s a song on the record called Song For a Friend, which I wrote about him. It’s a reflection, and how things can seem very different without someone being around that means a lot to you.
You must have accumulated a lot of material over the years as a songwriter. Was it an easy process to chose the songs to include on this record?
You know what, the longer you leave it, the easier it becomes because you just know what songs you love. I’ve got a song on there called Emily that I wrote with Hudson Taylor and I’ve got a song called This Time Lucky that I wrote with Birdie, and they’re just songs that I’ve had around for four or five years. I’d be driving along or I’d be in the gym and one of the songs comes on and I was like ‘oh my God, I just love this song’. The idea of waiting for an artist to put it out or whether it’s make this record, I was just like, ‘you know what? I’m going to turn these into how I do them and I’m going to release them’.
You’ve been doing a Story Behind the Songs series on social media taking fans right back to 2004 with your debut single Just. Since then you’ve been a part of so many huge songs. What kind of emotions has doing that brought up?
It’s cool. Every time I talk about it, it just seems like such a long existence in the music industry. I suppose it’s been over 17 years now but at the same time, I just it also feels like yesterday. It’s quite weird. It’s just flown by. The music industry is one that that’s very intense and record deals that last for two or three years sometimes, if they’re not going great, feel like they’re lasting 10 years. Then if it’s going well and you’re touring, like I was in Graffiti6 and when I signed to Capitol, two years can feel like two weeks. It’s such a whirlwind. That’s why I felt it so important to make this album dedicated to Toby because Toby was the first person I ever worked with and did Just. Going back through my stories on Instagram, any moment that was a significant moment for me was involved in Toby. He wrote and produced Just for me. It was one of those things when you look back and you start looking at it, and someone’s been through the cycle of your music career with you. It’s quite a weird thing.
In one of your posts in the Story Behind the Songs series you mentioned that you were reluctant to write songs for other artists. When was the moment that changed for you?
I don’t want to take away the romanticism, the writers but I think you get older and you just realize that you actually need a career. The first thing that happened to me was I was reaching the age of 26/27 and I suddenly thought to myself, ‘what if no one ever buys enough of my records to make this into a career?’ This was before streaming. With streaming you can build a career right from the start, but I think before that, you were heavily reliant on having a big record deal and radio playing your stuff and doing big tours. It was very strategic before in terms of how you could really make a career out of being an artist. I just came to the point where I thought, ‘I can’t bank on this anymore. I should probably start writing songs for other people’. I knew that writing songs, the publishing and owning songs is longevity. I actually did it more because I thought it was something I should do. Then it became an absolute love, almost like learning another art all over again, and I became obsessed with it.
Enrique Iglesias was the start of your songwriting journey but things really exploded for you with One Direction. What was being part of that bubble like?
Words will never be able to describe what that was actually like. I’ve just never experienced anything like that in my life. I think a lot of very famous pop stars won’t even experience something like that. It was a phenomenon and I imagine it was like traveling with The Beatles when they first came out or N’Sync or Backstreet Boys. It was something that was just incredible. You can’t really describe it. It was just absolute love for five guys. It was walking into a car park at two in the morning, trying to get away from fans on your way back to your hotel and having 5,000 people waiting outside the gate in case they got a glimpse of you. It’s the maddest thing I’ve ever been part of and seen. You still can’t really fathom it because it was just so epic.
There is still a lot of stigma around working with acts that come from shows like The X Factor. Did you have any reservations about getting involved with One Direction?
No. By the time I came to work with the guys, the first thing that they cut was a song that I wrote for Enrique Iglesias and he didn’t end up cutting for his record so One Direction cut it. By the time that it got to them cutting it, I had not only completely come to peace with the fact that I wanted to now be a songwriter more than an artist, or at least focus on this as well as being an artist, but I was really, really, really up for the challenge. I’d basically come to realise that pop songwriting is a game and probably the hardest game there is. People think that writing songs of 9 or 10 minutes long that are obscure where you can get musicality out and everything you can do in in artistic music, people think that’s the hardest thing to do. I would say having been part of bands that have been credible, part of bands that have tried to make pop records and someone that has written pop records like Story Of My Life, Skin and Cold Water, the hardest thing to do, from a commercial point of view, is to sit down and write a song in three and a half minutes that touches people’s souls enough they want to invest in it and buy it and it connects with them. That’s the Holy Grail. I became obsessed with that and the journey had started before One Direction. By the time that came along, I wanted to work with anyone that could get my songs out there and give me a platform to write songs on a global scale.
I can always tell when you’ve been involved in writing a song just by listening to it. The first time I heard Niall Horan’s This Town, I knew it was you…
That’s a massive compliment. As an artist as well, it’s really nice to hear. I’ve heard that before and I suppose you do hear that over the years. I got a call when we put Too Much to Ask out on the first Niall record. That’s a really amazing compliment because that means I’ve got my own style of writing and I stick to my guns. I don’t really travel with my writing so whoever I work with has to come to me. I let it be that it is what it is. Whatever I’m involved in, as long as I’m enjoying it, I’ll try and write my kind of music with people and I’ve never really stopped that. It’s really cool to hear someone say that actually.
I remember coming to your show at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood back in 2014 and you performed your version of Story Of My Life with your co-writers. It struck me how instantly familiar the melody was but how much like one of yours songs it actually sounded…
Sony just put out on Instagram, this thing called Lockdown Sessions and I just recorded a video for the first one that came out and it was a black and white video version of me doing Fool’s Gold, which is a One Direction song. The version I’m doing in my studio is literally how I wrote it with Mozella, who is an amazing American writer. I actually wrote a song with her last night on Zoom trying to get into the new lockdown way of writing and we’re still referencing that song together saying, ‘I love that song, we should write something in that kind of vein’. When you go and listen to Fool’s Gold by One Direction on the record, it sounds like a big, big pop record with big production. Whenever you write a song, you’ve got to tailor it to who the artist who records it. Cold water, when I did that with Ed Sheeran and Benny Blanco, that was written as a an acoustic duet. It wasn’t a big Major Lazer dance track. Lots of songs start in a different way. One Direction made that completely their own, they owned it, and it changed their trajectory for a long time. They own that track massively, but it started off as three guys picking up a guitar writing a folk song.
You mentioned you’ve been writing in lockdown. Have you found it creatively inspiring or stifling?
Well, it’s funny you say that because probably actually since we last did an interview (which was 10 years ago) my life has gone pretty crazy. There’s been setting up a record label, setting up a publishing company and now I’ve got a new record label that I have with my business partner Rick Wilson and and a very well-know industry figure called Colin Barlow and we’ve got a record label called BSW. We’ve got our first artist that’s just come out on that called Beau Anderson who comes through Interscope and Universal Germany. With all these kinds of things, you get very little time to actually work on what it is that got you in the music industry in the first place. For me that was songwriting, whether it was for me or an artist, it was the art of songwriting and just sitting down and writing a song by myself. The funny thing about lock down is it’s the first time I’ve done it in probably seven or eight years – just sat down and started writing by myself.
The album, How Still the River, we had pretty much finished it and there were 3 or 4 songs left. dwarfs We had pretty much finished it. What I wanted to do with How Still the River was basically just have an album where there was no massive thought process going into it. I just wanted to record the songs, how I had them. I played everything on the record apart from a couple of instruments that we then had to get other musicians to play because once we went into lockdown, I didn’t have the instruments at the studio at my house. It’s been a bit kind of freeing for me in a way being locked down because I’m just here with my kids, my wife and my studio. I managed to build a studio, and I finished it about two weeks before we went into lockdown. I was just randomly building one at the house because I’d thought to myself that maybe one way that I can start writing more by myself is when I leave my main studio and I come back home. If my wife goes to bed or the kids are asleep, my pianos are in the house so I was like, ‘I can never make any noise’. I thought maybe if I built a studio out of the house, maybe I might get some more work done by myself. I’d literally start building it and about two weeks before we went into lockdown I’d finished it. I just had this brand new studio to kind of come into and work out of and it’s amazing. I’ve been here every day just writing by myself. It’s crazy.
Do you have any plans to do any more live streams around the album and the new songs?
I’m gonna potentially make that a bit of a thing with YouTube and have a bit of a regular thing. We’re talking about it now. I love talking about songwriting and I’ve been doing it long enough. I feel like it’s nice to give something back and talk about my experience and just give my feedback.
Jamie Scott’s new single Friendly Fire is out now and his new album How Still the River is due for release in September.