The Magic Lantern
I have been speaking with The Magic Lantern...
about his new album, To the Islands, and what sort of themes/stories inspired it. He tells me about the music he grew up around and when he took up music; the albums that are most important to him and which rising artists we need to get behind.
The Magic Lantern talks about his future and reveals what tour dates are coming; if he gets time to chill away from music and what he wants to achieve next year – he ends the interview by selecting a great track.
Hi, The Magic Lantern. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m pretty good, if a little hectic, and just about to go to a rehearsal. Last week was great, if slightly strange. My new album, To The Islands, has just came out so I’ve been in the Post Office quite a bit sending records to various far flung corners; but I’ve also had a little time on my hands before the majority of the tour starts. It feels weird; I’ve been so focused up to now that having any free time makes me feel like I’ve forgotten something really important!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Jamie Doe and I’m an Australian singer-songwriter living in London. I perform under the moniker of the ‘The Magic Lantern’ and To the Islands is my third album. My music doesn’t fit too neatly into any particular genre but reflects my curiosity.
I love the harmonic and textural openness of Jazz and the directness of Folk music and really believe in the power of the song form to convey emotion and ideas. My hope is that if the music works, it both allows me to express myself while allowing the listener to find expression in it for themselves too. To create in some quiet but powerful way, a sense of solidarity - which we could all do with more of right now.
To the Islands is your new album. Are there particular themes that inspired the record?
The album is a lot about memory and hope. About three years ago, I was lost. I went back to Australia for the first time in nearly ten years looking for the foundation myths that I had carried around with me and which I thought had made me who I was. I didn’t find them and, in some cases, I realised that I must have made them up. It was a dislocating experience and coupled with a ridiculously acute heartbreak, I came back to London feeling pretty fragile but with a bunch of ideas for songs and a book - To the Islands by Randolph Stow, given to me as a parting gift.
Around the same time, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so memory and what it means; how it shapes our sense of self and our hope for the future, naturally evolved into a key theme that I was exploring through these songs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kasia Wozniak
How did you get into music? Was there a particular moment you knew it was a path you had to pursue?
We sing as a family whenever we get together. It’s always the same bunch of songs (a mix of workers songs, ’60s classics and the odd hymn) and we still only ever remember a few verses for each one but, ever since I was a kid, we’ve been singing. My mum also used to play the organ as a kid so we got a piano when I was young and I started learning. I remember when I was eleven my mum got me Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and a live record by Keith Jarrett and, right then, I decided that all I wanted to do was play piano like that and play cricket for Australia. It hasn't turned out exactly like that, but that’s where it started.
Can you give me a sense of the artists you grew up around? When did music come into your life?
My sister would make these amazing mix tapes for long car trips. They were mainly my mum’s favourite tunes from the ’60s so lots of Beatles, Neil Sedaka; The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel; Sonny and Cher etc. Still, when I hear anything like that it makes me think of driving along the South Coast near Batemans Bay on a hot day and the fish and chips we’d get when we arrived at the beach.
My dad has always been a big Paul Robson fan so there was a lot of this rich voice blaring out from this study.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
As many walks with my dad and Mick the dog as possible.
Do you already have plans for 2019?
To get a job (that earns actual money). I had to borrow quite a lot of money to finish the album and, while my kneecaps are safe for now, I can’t pay my debts in critical praise alone.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Going to buy my guitar with my dad twelve years ago. I went to the Spanish Guitar Centre in London three or four times and had my heart set on this one guitar. I was just starting out in London trying to get gigs. My dad came to visit me and I told him that this was what I wanted to do. There wasn’t much to go on at that stage, but he said he believed in me and we went back to the shop and got the guitar I’d been eyeing up. It’s still the guitar I play today.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
This record changed my life. It was one of the first Jazz records I got and the sound, the mood; the confidence that comes off it, like they knew that this was important, entranced me. In particular, Bill Evans playing on the track Blue in Green had me listening to it sometimes twenty times in a row on repeat.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kasia Wozniak
Penguin Eggs - Nic Jones
When I was a teenager, I got introduced to the great folk guitarists of the ’60s revival such as Bert Jansch, John Martyn and Davy Graham and I loved them. I loved how they made the accompaniment as important and beautiful as the song. They also made it seem effortless. But, it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I came across Nic Jones and his seminal album, Penguin Eggs. His story is pretty tragic - a motorcycle accident in his thirties really robbed him of his ability to play - but when you listen to him play on those early records, it’s clear that he was the cream of the crop. The absolute best Folk guitarist and an incredible singer. He still sets the standard.
Chet Baker Sings - Chet Baker
I got given this as a present on my fourteenth birthday. Without noticing, I would sing along as I listened and, pretty soon, I could sing the whole album; mimicking his style, word for word and note for note; singing along to the trumpet solos too. Years later, when I started writing my own songs, people would come up and say they thought I sounded a little like Chet Baker and, over the years, I came to see how big an influence he was on my singing. I love this record. It’s a safe place.
As Christmas is coming up; if you had to ask for one present what would it be?
A slot on Jools Holland!
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I would support Sam Amidon, Sufjan Stevens or Randy Newman - all three are musicians who I really love and admire. I don’t like to eat before I play but, afterwards, a beer, some good fried chicken and a hang listening to records would be a blast.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I watched a documentary about Bill Withers where he urged people to ‘take a look around, as this might be as good as it gets’, which I think it pretty good advice and not at all what it might appear. That’s to say, that while drive and ambition are important and useful motivators, you’ve got to enjoy the process and what you’re doing and making right now, in front of these people, in this room. There is no gig more important than the one you’re actually doing.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kasia Wozniak
Do you have tour dates coming up? Where can we catch you play?
Yep. I’m on tour in the U.K. right now through to mid-December promoting the album. Come and say hi!
17 November - House Show, Birmingham
18 November - The Bicycle Shop, Norwich
21 November - The Lighthouse, Deal
23 November - Pindrop Sessions, London
24 November - Unamplifire Festival, London
28 November - The Prince Albert, Stroud
11 December - SET, London
12 December - The Tap Social, Oxford
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I’m a big fan of Snowpoet, Dick Wag; PicaPica, Alabaster dePlume and Seamus Fogarty. They’re all good friends making music in London and, between them, the most inspiring musicians I know. While they’re all very different, they are each in their own way doing incredible things. Have a listen.
IN THIS PHOTO: PicaPica
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I’m not very good a switching off, but I’m a big cricket fan. I set up a team (Clapton & Oval C.C.) with some friends in East London eight years ago and it’s one of the great joys of my life. We've made the middle of the North East London’s league table our own. What we lack in top order batting we make up for in team spirit and bad puns.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
I Wish I Wish by Sam Amidon
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