"If I'd known they were going to play it from YouTube I'd have recorded it better in the first place."
Everyone knows the story by now. Ed Sheeran notices a poster outside a pub in Ireland, remembers a guy he saw playing a benefit gig a few years before, calls him up and next thing you know he signs him up as the first artist on his label, Gingerbread Man. That singer is Jamie Lawson, from Plymouth though he now lives in Manchester, and that call was as unexpected as the #1 hit single, Wasn't Expecting That, he'd scored in Ireland the year before.
"What was best about it," Lawson admits, "was that he knows I've been doing it a while and it didn't bother him. It was all about the songs and how good a song is. For him to think that these songs should be heard was a real compliment."
While the official discography says Lawson has released three albums before his self-titled Gingerbread Man debut, there's a story there.
"For him [Ed Sheeran] to think that these songs should be heard was a real compliment."
"The second album [2010's The Pull Of The Moon] was re-released in Ireland only and it got a name change but it's basically the same songs with a couple more on it. So that's kind of two-and-a-half, so the new one's the three-and-a-half album — that's how it feels."
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There was a debut album, Last Night Stars, back in 2003, which Lawson released on his own label, but the re-release/name change album was of course down to that song — Wasn't Expecting That — and there's another story.
"I put a clip of me singing Wasn't Expecting That up on YouTube and I had a friend who lived north of Dublin. He shared it with a few people on Facebook or something and one of them is a producer on [Dublin radio station] Today FM and they played the song on the radio off YouTube — the bad quality of it all, they played it — and the story is that he just played it, he was at home, and he didn't listen to it and he found his wife and her sister crying after listening to it and thought, 'I should probably check this out.' He did and he played it because of that."
Lawson then released the YouTube version, which was just him singing and playing acoustic guitar, because when he tried to re-record it "there was something wrong about it — it didn't quite work". He has now managed to record a studio quality version that he feels betters it. "If I'd known they were going to play it from YouTube I'd have recorded it better in the first place," he chuckles ruefully.
Like a lot of people, Lawson had a school band in his teens and that's when the songwriting started, because, as he says, "that's what you do — and they were terrible — and they stayed terrible for a long time too. Some might argue they still are. My first good song?" he chuckles. "Probably Wasn't Expecting That. There's something about that song that's very good. It's very clever yet doesn't sound it. I think some people think it's a bit twee — but they're wrong. But that's okay. I don't mind that. That might be my first and only good song, but I don't know. I think it probably took quite a while before I thought, 'Yeah, you can do this.' Performing for me was always the thing that was easiest. That was something I felt like I had to do and therefore I didn't think about it too much."
As for the new album, "When I was touring with Ed, I picked songs that I thought would suit a big space, so I had that in mind in a way when I recorded the album, and having done those songs it would have been a bit silly to record an album of other songs. So I had six or seven and then had to find songs that would fit with them best. And I think it really works as a body of songs and as an album to listen to from start to finish, 'cause I am of that generation where you listen to the whole album. And I still love whole albums."