He’s an old blues soul buried in the body of a young British man. He wears a planters hat – a gift from his sister – and overcoat everywhere he goes, evoking images a certain kind of man from of the Civil War-era South.
“My whole view on being a musician and writing songs is, I think you start out copying who you love and inevitably not being as good and failing,” he tells Radio.com. “But I think you come up with something new, you know? If I look at my sound, in my head it is just a patchwork thing. I was always drawn to blues and swamp music, from a very young age — when I came over to America, when I was about 7.”
Jamie cites the O Brother, Where Art Tho? soundtrack, Everlast’s Whitey Ford Sings The Blues and Moby’s Play as formative influences that got him into blues music, but places them alongside his love for the guitar work of Jimi Hendrix and John Martyn. With a voice reminiscent of Steve Earle and heavily influenced by the blues, his Rumble and Sway EP features an old-style murder balled titled “The Preacher.” Inspired by a true story, Jamie walks the line when discussing the political implications of a killer man of the cloth on the loose in his song.
“I saw a news article about a preacher who killed his wife and had hidden it and was still preaching to a large congregation,” Commons said of the inspiration for “The Preacher.” “I think he was down South where he was [head of] a pillar-of-community kind of church. It was very interesting to me, how we give advice to people. It doesn’t have to be religious or anything – everyone gives people advice, but then everyone’s got problems themselves and no one’s perfect so is any advice legitimate? I tried to put it in a way where [the song] sees both sides of the argument.”
Making music that strongly harkens back to an older time doesn’t mean Jamie N Commons are using older methods. He hooked up with Alex da Kid, a British producer who signed Jamie to his Interscope imprint label – KIDinaKORNER – and is best known for his work in the hip-hop world with artists like Nicki Minaj, Eminem and Rihanna. Kid, however, has been diversifying his sound and also signed and produced Imagine Dragons.
Jamie’s first taste of exposure has been decidedly modern as well, through placement in the promos for season three of the Southern zombie thriller series, The Walking Dead.