Check out our column Huzzah! Featuring: Sue Aston, Leza Mesiah, Carlos Nuñez and Solas.
The phenomenal Welsh singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Jamie Smith talks to The Celtic Music Fan about recording, performing and singing for the first time in an album.
Jamie Smith remained a mystery for years to the Celtic music circle. His accordion playing is electrifying. He possesses great showmanship when onstage. He is charismatic. With his band, they fill out venues as live performers. Late last year was the release of their much anticipated third album called Windblown. I noticed that they are exploring new avenues of musicality.They also seem to posses that relaxed attitude in playing live and building their online presence to their listeners.
As a band, Jamie Smith’s Mabon captivated the imagination of everybody. They also brought with them the mystical sound of Wales. At the same time, they worked in fusing that sound with other styles from any Celtic nations.
As an individual performer, Jamie Smith brings something special to the music culture. I think it is his passion and also the way he abandons himself to the music that he plays. This in turn gets into the audience and the sincerity of it all is the core of his artistry. He has a strong presence in the recording and live performance. It is hard to explain and you have to own one of their albums to understand.
Before the end of 2012, we talked about creating this interview. At that time, his band was on tour so it was a busy month. But true to his word, he made it here. So here he is, Jamie Smith!
Hi Jamie, your band formed in 1999 with your father Derek, Iolo Whelan and his brother Gareth. You must have learned a lot after being exposed to many live performance at a young age.What are the things you have observed in the Celtic music scene, in terms of releasing albums and performing the songs live?
One thing I have learned is you can always improve on what you are doing. It’s amazing to look back down the years since the early days of the band and see how we’ve gradually transformed over time. I think it’s important to keep moving or else you can stagnate and lose interest. Another thing I have observed is that the tracks the band likes best and are most proud of often aren’t the ones the audience likes the most!
The new album is a pleasant departure from the previous ones. You did vocals for the first time! And you made a great job singing. Your voice is such a fantastic instrument that can move between haunting deliveries to a more pop rock kind of style. Who encouraged you to finally take the mic?
I’d been thinking about it for a while and my wife, Gráinne, gave me the extra push to actually go for it. It’s good to have new challenges and we’re looking forward to working on more new songs this year. I have been singing for many years, just never in Mabon. I have become more interested in songs within the Celtic/folk genre over the last few years, which is partly what led me to want to try writing songs for the band.
How’s the whole experience making Windblown? Anything to share about your own experiences and also the quirks that happened during the whole songwriting and recording process?
Making an album is a strange and often obsessive process: you spend a long time working on it and constantly thinking about it, then when it’s done you quickly put it to one side and look forward to the next challenge. I’ve hardly listened to the album since we got the final copies back! We had some great moments in the studio and a lot of fun experimenting with overdub ideas, some of which made the final mix.
What’s your favorite track off this new album and why?
I don’t think I can pick out one track sorry! Something that has pleased me since releasing the album is that everyone seems to have a different favourite track. It’s fair to say Caru Pum Merch has got a lot of fans, because it sounds so different, but quite a few of the others have been singled out as favourites by listeners too.
If a young person asks you for an advice about the best way to maintain a creative working relationship with a band, what would you tell him/her?
Enjoy playing together and try to do it often! If you are all enjoying playing music together then it should be easy to be creative.
What do you like about being a musician and also being in a band?
I like entertaining people by playing music and being in a band is more sociable than touring on your own! Apart from the making and performing of music, the next best thing is getting to travel to so many different places both home and abroad.
You are also part of Barrule which is an amazing band based in the Isle of Man. How do you maintain a balance between working with the Barrule project and JSM?
Barrule’s in its infancy still so it’s not too bad at the moment, although recording albums with both bands back to back was a mammoth undertaking. If it does become more difficult, at least that means we are all doing well!
What are the other talents you have apart from those we already observed?
For more updates visit: http://www.jamiesmithsmabon.com/
Jamie and the gang will kick off their March tour and here’s the list: http://www.jamiesmithsmabon.com/concerts/
Welcome to the second part of this blog which is the chatty part. Yes it’s called Huzzah! Which is also one of the track titles in Windblown by Jamie Smith’s Mabon whose lead singer is our featured artist this week. Yes yes I will talk about anything and be natural as much as I can. Now those of you who are following my facebook page have already seen this video by Cornish violinist Sue Aston. For those who are new to her music, she is actually based in Penzance Cornwall. She is both influenced by Classical and the folk music. What’s fascinating about her is that she writes and plays everything. She also runs her own record and media company. To quote American singer/songwriter Jim Wearne regarding this video: “Wonderful tune, and beautiful Cornish scenery, not to mention a Cornish fiddler who’s easy on the eyes. Celtic festivals? Are you listening?” Yes like Jim said are you listening festivals?
About the video: Dedicated to everyone who has lost someone special to them. Taken from my album ‘Inspirational Journey’ written for my Dad and Nan who I miss everyday. Sue
Four days ago I launched a discussion thread via Linkedin. I’ve been with linkedin for heaven knows how long and it became so boring I stopped visiting. Then, while perusing through the links four days ago, I found a group called Irish Music. Bam! Things just started taking off. I now have a reason to go there everyday. I met wonderful people from that group includingvocalist Leza Mesiah. Here’s a link to her songs: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lezamesiah “The back story on my Ren ‘Character’ is your generic African Musician Princess living in Scotland, having fallen in love with a Scot.”She said.
Great news about the amazing Galician piper Carlos Nuñez
I stumbled upon this through his site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/feb/03/carlos-nunez-philip-pickett-globe My fascination with his music went back to early 90s when Windham Hill started releasing albums worldwide. Celtic albumswere hard to find at that time. But compilations made it possible. So my big thank you to Windham Hill and The Chieftains for introducing this amazing artist to me!
With Celtic band Solas making it on the same page as Beyonce just goes to prove that Celtic music is BIG in the United States http://soc.li/CXRcSvD
So do you have any Celtic music buzz to share? Feel free to comment on the thread and post your own. Yes this is open for all and ideas are welcomed. This is what I learned lately: When you are in the world of marketing(that includes independent musicians and writers) playing nice really helps. We don’t live in a vacuum. And we create things not for our self but for the audience. Being ‘accessible’ and ‘community minded’ do help. Good luck everyone 🙂