21 July 2022

Jamie T on how he got his music mojo back: “You’re in a game where I suppose there’s a lot of ‘yes men’, so you have to have your wits about you”

After a five-year hiatus, Jamie T is back with a new album and he’s feeling chatty, he talks to HUNGER about everything from pre-show nerves, Beyonce fans and the body positivity moment that inspired him to rip his t-shirt off at Glastonbury and tell the world to "fuck off".

It’s been well over five years since we’ve had a new album from Jamie T and when you’re a super fan that’s a very long five years. There was a little respite when the singer-songwriter re-issued his Mercury-nominated album Panic Prevention earlier this year to celebrate its 15th year in existence, but that only just added fuel to the desire of wanting to hear new material. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long for the first single from the new album, ‘The Old Style Raiders’, which was released to much acclaim from critics and fans alike and has the full-blown anthemic qualities we’ve come to expect from a Jamie T banger. The super-charged ‘Between the Rocks’ and the beautifully melodic ‘St George Wharf Tower’ followed, illustrating the delicious mixed bag of tunes that the new album, The Theory of Whatever, has in store. The HUNGER team have been privy to a few early listens and we can confirm that it has something for everyone, from punk fans to hip-hop lovers, with lush ballads and floor-fillers in between. In essence, The Theory of Whatever is likely to give the excellent musical predecessors from Jamie T a run for their money. 

Fans got a first listen at an intimate gig in West London in May and then an explosive headline performance at Glastonbury’s John Peel tent last month. The show, which clashed with Paul McCartney’s set —the most popular slot of the weekend — was so busy that it spilled out of the tent. The stand-out performance knocked the south London artist back into the public eye, so much so that when his arena tour went on sale a week later, it sold out in just a few hours. Hunger’s editorial director and Jamie T super fan Devinder Bains sat down with the singer that same day to speak about what’s looking like a legendary comeback… 

DB: You were up against Macca at Glastonbury and for those of us who swerved the Beatle we were rewarded with an electrifying, energy-filled gig. It was without a doubt one of the highlights of the weekend. How was it for you to go from a live music hiatus to such a huge gig?

JT: It was amazing, I had a wonderful night! Obviously, as you said I haven’t played in a long time, I was really nervous but yeah, the whole thing just felt great really. Most of the anxiety I had was in the weeks before leading up to it – it couldn’t come quick enough! I started getting nervous about it about a week and a half before, I was fully on tenterhooks for ages.

DB: You’ve talked about your nerves ahead of gigs in the past, like throwing up ahead of the intimate London gig earlier this year. Do you feel better as soon as you step on stage or do you ease yourself into it?

JT: It depends, most of the time I feel all right, and I get better and better as I go on. But sometimes, at first, I’m a wreck and then it starts getting easier the more songs you get right and don’t fuck up! By the end you’re elated. In the end, I had a great time at Glastonbury.

DB: The crowd were going wild and then you were joined on stage by Hugo White (formerly of the Maccabees) and they really lost their shit, it was reminiscent of Glastonbury 2015 when you came on with the Maccabees which was a great show. You and Hugo have been friends for years and you’ve been working with him on this new album, how important is it to have somebody you trust and someone who can be honest with you, working with you?

JT: You hope everyone you work with is gonna be honest as it were, but you know, you’re in a game where I suppose there’s a lot of ‘yes men’, so you have to have your wits about you really. But between Hugo and Tom Dinsdale from Audio Bullys and a few of my other friends who are in indie music, I was able to kind of get good advice. Ollie Burden of Prodigy fame was really helpful as well. So yeah, it was imperative really.

DB: You’ve mentioned that you sort of got sick of asking other people, such as your manager, their opinions on your work. Had you lost confidence in your own opinion?

JT: Yeah, I think maybe. That time was a funny part of my life because I was working incredibly hard. Working a lot on a laptop on my one… and I just kept quiet. I became a bit of a lap dog — my fault not theirs. I would ask: ‘What do you think of this?’ What do you think of that? And it kind of took me about a year or so to get out out of that, so I did a lot of stuff for a year that just didn’t sound like me in the hope of moving forward. There was this whole obsession at the time with artists moving forward. I remember it as a big thing, they start dressing differently and ‘move forward’. You know that’s more like a band asset than a solo artist asset, and I think it did me wrong really because I couldn’t keep up with it. And I got really unhappy about it. 

DB: How do you get yourself out of that situation?

JT: I found ‘Old Style Raiders’, which is maybe the second tune on the album. I found that and was like,‘well, I know what I’m doing now’ and I didn’t feel the need to ask anyone their opinion again. I just went through a funny period and I just don’t have that in my mind anymore. It’s not an issue but for a long time it was an issue and I can’t quite explain why but it just happened. Yeah, I just lost my confidence in what I was doing.

DB: I do feel like there’s pressure on people to keep changing all the time for the sake of changing…

JT:  That’s what I mean! And in reality, I found that you are changing anyway and you always naturally do change. I’m not going to write the same songs as I wrote when I was 17, and forcing it — as I learned from that experience, it’s not a thing you should be doing.

DB: And sticking with what you know is obviously what the fans want, I mean your tour sold out straightaway this morning — that’s quite a response! Were you surprised that the fan base is still so loyal and solid?

JT: Well, I got a text this morning from the boss of the record label saying ‘well done on the sell out’ and I was like ‘of what?’ I’m that far away from it, and he didn’t message back so I was like ‘of what?!’ And then I got a few other messages saying ‘well done’. I mean, I don’t know, this is madness to me! I keep myself away from all this stuff, because I know I’m not very good at it but what a wonderful way to wake up today.

DB: Unexpected then?

JB: Yeah, totally, totally unexpected, mainly because I thought they’d been on sale for two weeks already, so I was really worried that no one had spoken to me about it! [laughs]

DB: It’s amazing considering the long break! And I know you do have long breaks between albums, so were you just writing during that time or was it like a conscious break? 

JT: No, I was just writing is the honest truth. I know it sounds stupid as it’s only 12-13 songs, but it just does take me that long to write good songs for the record. And how long is it, five years? I’ve done that a couple of times before, I think. Honestly, I wish there was another dramatic reason but no, it just takes me that long to write.

DB: A new album and sold-out tour means you’re about to be back in the limelight. How do you deal with fame?

JT: To me, fame is something that comes as part of doing something good, a kind of positive notoriety. I think that’s good but fame, in general, isn’t, I don’t like fame.  Like this last week, after Glastonbury, everywhere I went, someone knew who I was and I’m not someone who’s very identifiable from the way I look, and people were lovely but it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like it. Performing at Glastonbury was like a switch being turned on – I didn’t pay for drinks for like a week!

DB: That’s not so bad [laughs]. Actually, just talking about Glastonbury again, one of the things that got the biggest cheer was when you took your top off towards the end of the gig, saying you didn’t give a fuck about how you look, referencing how your body has changed, it felt very liberating. Are you body conscious and what’s your stance now on body positivity and the like? 

JT: Oh, yeah. I am body conscious, like everyone is – I’ve had it my whole life. If I put on a bit of weight, people will mention it. I’ve had it in the past, I was on some medication years ago and one of the side effects was that I put on like fucking three-stone in weight. And you know, everyone wants to talk about it all the time. And it’s made me very body conscious, you know, fuck all of you. It was on my mind and so I decided the best way to deal with it was to take my top off and tell everyone to ‘fuck off’.

DB: I loved it [laughs] it got a big cheer! Ok, we better talk about the new album – have you got a favourite track or tracks?

JT: I  like ‘The Old Style Raiders’, because I like the hope in it, I like the positivity in it. I like ‘50,000 Unmarked Bullets’ a lot too, which is kind of strange for me, I don’t quite know how I pulled that one off. It’s a song that’s kind of about Kim Jong-un it’s like me taking the piss out of him but also in a fun kind of musical way.

DB: That’s kind of your style, touching on politics but in a roundabout or maybe like jovial way…

JT: Yeah! I’m not really a political artist, I grew up on political artists, I grew up on Billy Bragg and others like that and they are very good at what they do and I’m not, I’m not good at stuff like that. 

DB: But you’re very good at what you do! I’ve had quite a few listens of the new album and it’s brilliant, lots of Jamie T anthems, lots of melodic numbers and some great energy. I really like it — what do you think of the new Jamie T album?

JT: I haven’t actually got a physical copy, I got a (digital) copy sent to me just two days ago and it’s the first time I heard it and I’m proud of it. Yeah, it’s good! It’s the end of my record label career, It’s my fifth album – I’ve been on a contract since I was 19 years old and this is the last of the five-album deal, so it means a lot to me. My life completely changes after this, or maybe doesn’t – I don’t know what the future brings, it’s an exciting kind of moment to turn a page. I’m very proud of it and everyone’s buying tickets for this shit and it’s very exciting.

DB: And you brought the album release date forward, is that because of how well the Glastonbury performance went or pre-sale orders or something?

JT: The record label called me up and said we want to move your album back a week or forward a week because Beyoncé is releasing an album that week, so I’m now out on the 22nd of July – a week earlier.

DB: That’s because you have the same fans as Beyoncé right and then they would have to choose?

JT: Yeah, that’s right [aughs out loud]. I would love it if I had the same fans as Beyoncé, I like the idea of that! I think they want the album to get as high up the charts as possible before Beyoncé is out.

DB: So, why should we buy the Jamie T album rather than just wait for Beyoncé?

JT: I think you should buy it because I’m proud of it and because it’s good! I think it’s good!

DB: I totally agree, I pre-ordered my copy a few weeks ago!

The Theory of Whatever by Jamie T is out Friday 22nd July, pre-order now here

A few extra dates have been added to the sell-out tour and a record shop tour has been recently announced too, buy here.

  • Writer Devinder Bains

Related Content