Port City Music Hall

98.9 WCLZ presents


Jamie N Commons

Tue, July 30, 2019

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Port City Music Hall

Portland, ME

$20 Advance / $25 Day of Show / $35 Preferred GA Seating

This event is 18 and over

Buy tickets in person at the Port City Music Hall box office (504 Congress Street) Wednesday-Friday 10AM-5PM, charge by phone at 800-745-3000, or online right here. PCMH box office will open one hour before doors night of show.

After five years, two albums (both number 1 in their native Ireland) and hundreds of millions of streams, Kodaline wanted to take some time off. “It was just meant to be a little break,” says guitarist and keyboard player Mark Prendergast. “But actually it was full of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”

They backed Ed Sheeran in front of 160,000 people over two nights at Croke
Park for a massive singalong. They recorded a hit single with Norwegian superstar DJ Kygo. Singer Steve Garrigan was flown by private jet to sing with Seal, Leona Lewis and Labrinth at Kygo’s show at the Hollywood Bowl. In LA, the band sat in on rehearsals by fellow countrymen U2, and watched Bono and co “practically blowing the walls off,” according to lead singer and guitarist Steve. “The whole thing was so inspiring.” “It was just like a taste, a reminder of what we are all in this for,” says bassist Jason Boland. “We couldn’t feckin’ wait to get back,” concurs drummer Vinny May Jr.

Irish quartet Kodaline return this year with their third album, quietly confident that it is the best of their career. “We took our time, we did our own thing, we made sure we got everything to exactly where it needed to be,” insists the soft spoken Steve. “We gave ourselves room to get out of our comfort zone and experiment, to try things we might have shied away from before. But the songs were always the foundation: the structure, the lyric, the melody. If you get that right, production can only make it better. It’s like sprinkles on top of the cake.”

Or, as the refreshingly plain spoken Vinny puts it: “You can’t hide behind shit.”
Kodaline formed in Swords, north of Dublin, in 2012, although chief songwriters Steve and Mark had known each other all their lives, and worked together since 2005. As a four piece, they achieved immediate success. All I Want, from their first EP, has clocked up over 46 million views on YouTube. Their 2013 debut album, Perfect World, established them as a highly emotional pop rock band with perfectly crafted songs in the anthemic vein of Coldplay. The follow up, 2015’s Coming Up For Air, gave them their second Irish number one, constant touring confirming their status as a growing force around the world. But it was taking its toll.

“Touring is actually the reward,” says Steve. “There’s no better feeling than just playing for a crowd and feeding off them. I’m so grateful, because how many people get to do this for a job? But it’s not quite as glamorous as it seems from the outside. The day to day reality is you're on a tour bus for eight weeks at a time, you go home for a few days and you go back out on the bus again. It can get a bit claustrophobic.”

“We had ups and downs, we had arguments,” reports Vinny, honestly. “We needed a bit of breathing space and do normal things for a while. It was like - let’s just bring it back to why we started this in the first place. We were friends and we wrote songs, let's concentrate on that.”

“We only took a few months off, but it felt like we took a couple of years out,” says Steve. The band returned to their home town of Swords. They finally got around to moving out of parents houses and setting up in their own spaces, and were quite surprised to realise they were still all living “within spitting distance of each other” as Vinny puts it. They found themselves hanging out, just for fun. “We are very tight,” says Steve. “We’re good mates.”

It wasn’t long before they were writing again, in each other’s home studios, gathered around pianos or acoustic guitars, working as a unit. “This album has been the one where we’ve all kind of been there for the whole time,” says Vinny. “Steve and Mark still come in with rough songs but we’re all contributing and shaping, throwing things in. It gives you more of a sense of ownership and connection. Four brains is better than one.”

“We wrote so many songs it wasn’t like a body of work, it was like three bodies of work,” says Steve. “And we slowly honed it down to the things that mattered most.”

“There was a lot of trust, a lot of patience,” says bassist Jason Boland. “We learned to treat the song as king and just do what's completely best for the song, which has always been the ideal but sometimes ego gets in the way. This time, we stuck with it.”

The collaboration with Kygo on hit single Raging in 2016 proved liberating. “I think sonically it opened up a lot of doors for us,” says Jason. “It was not music we would have ever made on our own, but people loved it, so it had an influence on what we think is possible. It made us question whether we were being too precious.”

Jason, who has a background in production, took a much more hands on role, creating loops for the band to play to, which in turn would push arrangements into new directions. “Jay can do performances with a laptop,” says Mark. “It's really weird to watch but it brings an electronic element that has an analogue feel, because it’s played live and it’s changing all the time.” “Everyone has the same synthesisers these days, the trick is not to make them sound like synthesisers,” notes Jay.

Conversely, watching U2 rehearse in a small room in Los Angeles also proved influential, because it reminded them of the core power of a band unit. “We were at Fender in LA, picking up guitars, and the guy said, ‘you know Edge’s coming in to collect some equipment,’” says Steve. “So we wangled our way into the rehearsal and just sat there on the couch while they were playing. It was just a drum kit, some amps and PA, nothing over the top, but they were playing like their lives depended on it. It was unbelievable to experience that. And then to make it even weirder, half way through, (footballers) Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane walked in. But we weren't fazed by it because we were so fixated on U2, and they were in the same boat as us, so excited by what they were witnessing, they were like ‘holy f*ck!’”

But the biggest moment, for all of the band, was performing with Ed Sheeran for two nights at Dublin’s Croke Park Stadium in July 2015. Sheeran has hailed All I Want as “an amazing song” and admitted “it made me cry the first time I heard it, and the second time, and the third.” He invited Kodaline onstage to perform it with him and the band were astonished by the audience response. “It was probably the biggest kick up the arse we ever got,” says Mark. “Because all these people knew the song. Our song.”

“It was like waves of sound crashing down on you. There’s not that many songs eighty thousand people can sing together,” says Steve. “It makes you think about what is possible because a song can take you anywhere.”
“We want to play the biggest places in the world, we want to tick all the boxes,” says Mark. “And we’re not saying we’re going to get to those levels, but we’ll give it our best shot. And the one thing we can really do is make the best album we can, and give as much of ourselves away as possible.”

Their time onstage at Croke Park ended up with Sheeran, Kodaline and Irish singer-songwriter Glen Hansard jamming on folk classics The Old Triangle and Molly Malone, then Jason proposing to his fiancé onstage (she accepted) and Sheeran serenading the happy couple with Thinking Out Loud. “It seemed like an opportune moment, in front of a few close friends,” grins Jason. “Eighty thousand of them,” adds Vinny.

Kodaline are a genuinely lovely band, a supportive, music obsessed group of friends who like to let their songs do their talking. Indeed, the strength of the band’s relationship became central to an album full of sparkling sounds, huge choruses and waves of emotion. “We focussed in on the narratives that really meant something to us, and the melodies that carried those stories,” says Steve. “It kind of turned into an album about friends, family and relationships that have touched our lives, good or bad. It is the story of us, snapshots from our life, in a band of brothers.”

Last summer saw the band release ‘Brother’, a track that not only testifies to the groups closeness but also hinted at their new sound. “You only kind of put your arm around your friend and tell them you love them when something goes wrong, or when you're drunk,” says Mark. “The song is kind of saying it for no reason other than it needs to be said: I’ve got you, I’m here for you guys. That's kind of the essence of the song, and of the band.”

Recorded at The Vale, the new album sees Kodaline work with old collaborators (Johnny Mcdaid) alongside a variety of different writers and producers including pop guru Wayne Hector, Jonny Coffer (Beyonce, Emeli Sande, Naughty Boy, Two Inch Punch (Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Sam Smith) and Steve Mac who they worked with on their anthemic new single ‘Follow Your Fire’.
Jamie N Commons
Jamie N Commons
There's a billboard for 'Skyscraper', the summer blockbuster starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson down the street from Jamie N Commons' house. You wouldn't know from the poster, but Jamie composed the music for it. Living alone in the depths of Historic Filipino Town, the blues-y troubadour has been quietly developing an impeccable reputation as a go-to songwriter for hire by the movie, TV and advertising world. Quiet and humble, he doesn't brag about it. Unless he's in the pub with some other Englishmen - like he was yesterday - watching England's soccer team in the World Cup and explaining who he is. He pointed at a trailer on the TV behind the bar. It was for 'Skyscraper'. “I did the music for that,” he said, proudly.

His England soccer cap rests on a table in his apartment, opposite a draped American flag. Both are within eyeshot of his home studio set-up. He answers the door in a sweatshirt with the word 'Chicago' emblazoned across it. None of this is accidental. It's all a part of Jamie's story. A decade spent in Chicago was sandwiched between an upbringing in England. From the age of six to 16 he was here in America during his most pivotal formative years. They were heavy years, too during which Jamie felt like he was caught in a hurricane. It forced him to go deeper into himself. Today he admits he's almost a hermit out here in the no man's land between Echo Park and Downtown LA. “Maybe I chose this as my island,” he half jokes.

Jamie's life history matches that of a vagabond's, even though much of his traveling wasn't by choice. Born in Bristol in the late '80s and following that with a stint in Chicago, he returned to England set on a music career. He studied at Goldsmiths in London, notorious for its host of luminary alumni, but notably an influx of hot new talent during his years studying there, including James Blake, Katy B and Noah And The Whale to name but a few.

When it was his turn to emerge with 2011 EP 'The Baron' (followed by 2013's 'Rumble And Sway' EP), he did so against the backdrop of a fire-and-brimstone style universe. He wore wide-brimmed hats and sang with a whiskey-laced growl about death and taxes, in thrall to his heroes Tom Waits, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. With an encyclopedic knowledge of music, Jamie seemed to have the weight of the world on his shoulders, seeking to justify where he fit in that canon of established greats. “There's a certain amount of intensity required to rock,” he says, smiling and chill. “It's not entirely me. I'm more of a happy go lucky character.” He felt compelled to take it perhaps too seriously, aching to sit alongside his sonic ancestors. “When you’re trying with lyrics and sound to keep pace with Dylan, Waits, etc and you're just starting out, it's impossible.” Unsurprisingly, it stopped being fun.

When it came to sitting down again to work on his own material without this prior mask on, it took a while for him to find a reason to be standing beneath his own name again. He thought about protest music but eventually he drew from a different side of his musical heritage: shameless, romantic, '80s blue-eyed pop. Think Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Steve Winwood, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, etc. “Music is supposed to be fun,” he offers. “That's what I want to achieve: fun, joy, levity, a lightness.” His latest material is a far cry from the Jamie of yore. It's almost an answer to the thick, heavy swamp laments. “It doesn't mean it's not about heavy things, but it's about moving forward, rather than singing about murder and death.” These songs that started as a personal revitalization project soon started to get a positive response from the label and friends.

“It's the complete opposite of cool,” he laughs. “It's fucking Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel but I love that stuff. It's goofy as fuck. There's moments in these songs that you remember because of the innocence. 'Call Me Al', 'Dancing In The Dark'… That's what I needed in my life. Now I can write this music I never dreamed anyone would give me the thumbs up for.” The songs are written about past relationships and those yet to come. “Their emotional but they're not banging down the door. There's still a wallop though,” he says.

Ruminating upon former girlfriends in this style meant that Jamie found a new solace in his writing. “The songs are a tale of modern isolation and loneliness,” he says. Having lived in London for most of his career he upped sticks to LA some years ago. “I came to America, I left friends and family behind. I was writing these songs to imagine close relationships and to re-establish intimacy because so many relationships are vapid, passing and symbiotic in LA. We've never been more connected and more alone. I want a deeper connection. I've tried to actualize that in the songs.”

The one relationship that he seems to have struggled with most is his relationship with himself. Hence the need for validation by an audience. Jamie needs to know that there's a purpose for his craft. “A lot of artists say they write for themselves, but I am the other way around,” he says. “I want people to listen to my music. I guess it's having a Northern dad. The idea that you sit here and strum your little guitar in Hollywood blah blah blah. It doesn't seem like hard work. So I always feel a little guilty if I get too self-indulgent, it’s fans that make the music the music.”

Jamie's workmanlike approach has been fed further by the work he's doing for others. Among his successes, he co-wrote the hit 'Jungle' for X Ambassadors with Alex Da Kid and Sam Harris, and toured with the band. That song was synced on “Orange Is The New Black” and “Pitch Perfect 2,” and it was remixed with a verse from Jay Z. He also had a Beats by Dre ad, and was featured on Eminem's 'MMLP2' album. He won Music Week's Sync Artist of the year in 2016. This year he has a song with Kygo coming out. These experiences opened his ears to a spectrum of genres, making him more interested in the path pop music is taking.

The downside was that these career wins gave him permission to go deeper into himself and become more of a workaholic, escaping through the jobs he's inundated with, hiding from his own perceived 'self-indulgent' writing. It took him out of the live space too where he'd previously opened for everyone from Bruce Springsteen and BB King to Catfish And The Bottlemen. Recently he's been getting into the mindset of touring again, but it's been a minute and he needs to gear himself up. “I went to a gig the other night, stared at the person onstage and said, 'Wow I could never do that.' It's ridiculous. When I'm on the other side I have no nerves whatsoever.”

For Jamie, however, he's come to a fork in the road where he's realized that he must stop waiting for life to happen and choose to jump in feet first. “I had this idea in my head that if you have a hit album then you can relax. It's a complete fallacy.” Of course, that was corroborated by all his prior Goldsmiths' friends, and it became a sticking point. Seven years later, the idea of putting out a constant stream of songs is a way to keep a steady flow, have more manageable expectations and put less weight on lofty goals. “Not living with fear is the key,” he says. “Not obsessing about music to the point of detriment to friends and family when you just disappear in yourself.”

The songs – “Paper Dreams,” “Closer,” “Won't Let Go” (hilariously written after watching that scene in 'Titanic') and “Heartbreak” – are '80s redolent with lots of space and a rhythm-led structure. They position him close to the likes of Francis & The Lights and Jack Antonoff style production and match his drive. “A mad ambition brought me to LA,” he says. “Not knowing what else to do with myself I put so much of my self-worth into music. The songs are meditations on trying to find a deeper connection with someone, trying to find out who you are and become a mature adult.”

Jamie N Commons V2.0 is ready for his own billboard. “I'm forcing myself into an uncomfortable position and I have to give 10 out of 10. It's uncomfortable to do this style of music because it's synthetic sounding and if you get this genre wrong it's the worst thing you've ever heard.” It's scary perhaps but it's also time.
Venue Information:
Port City Music Hall
504 Congress St
Portland, ME, 04101