By Ysabella Monton
On the first night at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, Sept. 30, Jamie N Commons rested back against the venue’s outside wall, periodically taking puffs of his cigarette. His relaxed demeanor reflected the way he’s going about this tour, as discussed in an interview with WSN.
Said Commons, “This tour is an acoustic thing, just me and a piano player…this is basically breaking down the songs into their rawest form[s] to see where they fly and see where they fall.”
“It’s gonna be very open and a little bit rough and ready, but hopefully there should be more magical moments because of that,” he added. Continuing, he noted, “It’s almost like a choose-your-own-album-adventure.”
A native of Bristol, England, Commons was raised in Chicago from ages 6 until 13, where a lot of his musical influences began.
“My dad, he was really into old records…when we moved over here, he was pretty much only listening to Hank Williams, Steve Earle, Johnny Cash in the car. It indoctrinated me from an early age,” Commons explained. The spectrum of his influences only grew.
“At the time, I was really into the whole indie-rock thing going on, like The Libertines, and obviously follow that back to The Clash,” he said of his beginnings. “Just kind of punk, that kind of live-energy craziness, drinking mayhem that you’re really into anyway at my age.”
However, he’s still learning as he goes, particularly in working with Interscope producer Alex da Kid. “With him, it’s all about the flow, whereas before I was more about the density and the understanding of the lyrics,” he continued. “You can do a lot with the emotion of the voice and letting that do the hard work of the extra sentence you were gonna put in there.”
So how, then, does he decide how to economize with his lyrics when he’s writing a song?
“It’s what gets you emotionally,” he explained. “Tom Waits always had a great way of saying it where basically, it’s like fishing: you just gotta sit there as soon as you got the rod in the water, you just gotta wait until the fish comes along. You don’t know what fish it’s gonna be until you pull it out and it’s on the boat, compared to Sam [Harris, lead singer of X Ambassadors] who’s throwing dynamite in the water, which is just another way of fishing.”
Having collaborated with tour and label-mates X Ambassadors on the song “Jungle,” the song is thematically about life in a city, but lyrically had a different meaning for Sam than it did for Jamie, but it worked out. “Also,” added Commons, “having Jay-Z on the track was crazy.”
Along with featuring on Eminem’s latest release, Commons has experienced other big moments. “I supported Bruce Springsteen once in Europe…the idea of sharing a stage with him was mind-boggling to me,” he said.
However, the big names and shows are not the most important thing to him. “Just playing for people and people caring, that’s the main thing for me,” he explained. “We’ve sold out this venue tonight and neither of us has an album out yet, so the future’s unwritten, but it’s just amazing to see that it matters. It’s the best.”
Ysabella Monton is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org