Jamie N Commons is a versatile singer/songwriter who is building a success story in several ways. He co-wrote the recent U.K. hit single “Hold Me While You Wait” for rising star Lewis Capaldi. He’s also released his EP called Fever Dreams (on Interscope/KIDinaKORNER Records). In addition, he co-writes songs for movies & TV shows, including co-writing & performing the song “Walls” from the hit action movie, Skyscraper (starring Dwayne Johnson).
Commons’ multi-faceted skills have given him an edge in the music business, where it’s still tough to become a breakout artist or write a big pop hit. He’s been working and making progress in three, different areas—being an artist, writing songs for other artists, and writing songs for film & TV.
As an artist, Commons will be entering the studio soon to record his first, full-length album. As a pro songwriter, he’s currently collaborating with other artists for their projects. And for film & TV, he often produces and sings on his own recordings for sync placements.
Born in Bristol, England, Commons also grew up in Chicago, and he now splits time between Los Angeles and London. Commons is a promising artist who has a soulful, powerful, gritty voice. His new EP, Fever Dreams, contains five songs and features the lead cuts “Heartbreak” and “Won’t Let Go.” He has also been a featured vocalist on cuts with X Ambassadors, and with Skylar Grey.
As a songwriter, Commons has not only written a hit with Lewis Capaldi, but he co-wrote the song “Testify” for Australian star Conrad Sewell’s album, Life. And for film & TV, Commons has written songs for the TV series The Walking Dead and the movie, Hail Caesar!
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Jamie N Commons. He discusses his artist career and new EP, his hit “Hold Me While You Wait” for Lewis Capaldi, and his film & TV work.
DK: I read that you grew up in both the U.K. and U.S. How did you get started as a musician and writing songs?
Jamie N Commons: I was born in Bristol, and then I lived in Chicago, and then I moved back to England. In England, I got a music scholarship at a school, and that required me to be in the choir, even though I was too shy to sing at the time. But after a few years of that, the music teacher heard me and said, “You’re actually quite good.” So we started working on stuff together, and I became less shy, and then I started singing opera. At the same time, I started to play electric guitar as well, since opera’s not super sexy (laughs). So I started a band, and we turned out to be a punk band. And I just really caught the bug that way.
Here’s a video of Lewis Capaldi performing his hit “Hold Me While
You Wait,” which was co-written by Jamie N Commons.
As a band, we had to start writing our own songs, so I started to write my own songs and I used this rudimentary software thing, called RiffTracker (by Line 6), where you can write in blocks of eight bars. It gave me a nice start in writing songs, because you’re writing them in sections rather than writing a whole song, which is quite daunting. I could write eight bars and you can just move them around.
When I was at university, I started playing acoustic guitar and playing in my room. And through that, I got into folk music…there was a West London folk scene going on with Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and other people. I was a few years younger than them, so I got to see them further down the line, and it was very inspiring. So I started writing my own acoustic songs and through that, I got noticed by Universal Publishing, and they signed me to a deal.
DK: How did you connect with (hit writer/producer) Alex da Kid and his label, KIDinaKORNER Records?
Commons: Through the people at Universal, Alex da Kid heard my stuff, and he asked me if I could write topline for his hip-hop songs. He liked the blues, and the raspy blues things worked really well over hip-hop at the time. So I did that for a few years, and he signed me as a solo artist, and we did a bunch of things (as an artist).
DK: How did you get started with writing songs for film & TV?
Commons: I got interested in the music publishing world, and during a lull on the label artist side, I started writing songs specifically for adverts and TV and films, and got quite far along the line doing that. And that fed into writing songs for other artists as well, and I would do co-writes, both for my songs as an artist, and doing co-writes for other artists.
DK: How did you write the hit “Hold Me While You Wait” with Lewis Capaldi?
Commons: We wrote it about two years ago. That was a funny session—it’s one of the craziest sessions I’ve done. I had done this dance song with this French DJ, and he asked me to come sing this song with him at Coachella (festival in Indio, CA). So I was at Coachella all weekend, and I’d forgotten that I had this writing session with Lewis (and co-writer Jamie Hartman) on Monday.
Here’s the video of Jamie N Commons’ song, “Heartbreak.”
So it was 2 or 3 in the morning, and I got an Uber to get back to L.A., which was a two-and-a-half hour drive. I went home and had a shower (laughs), and then I went straight to Village Studios where Jamie Hartman works out of. It was a surreal day…when you’re hung over or tired, you can’t be super clever…you can’t think about wordplay. You just have to kind of feel things, and the thing that you feel becomes the path of least resistance because you’re struggling. So I think it was kind of a perfect storm. Jamie Hartman is a wise owl in the songwriting world, and he’s very good at structure. And Lewis is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard, and he’s an incredible writer in his own right. So things really worked out…there was a magic to that session.
DK: Your new EP is called Fever Dreams. Can you talk about the songs on this EP?
Commons: Basically, I’ve always had a love affair with Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer and that kind of ’80s sound. They were ‘60s soul dudes, and they swapped the B-3 organ out for synthesizers, and came up with this new sound. So the EP is kind of my love letter to that genre.
DK: I’ve read that you’ll be recording your first full album soon. Is that correct?
Commons: Yes. My first full album will be more along the lines of the classic U.K. singer/songwriter template of a great voice front and center, hopefully great songs, and not a lot of instrumentation getting in the way…just enough instrumentation to move it along. It seems that every three or four years, there’s one of these artists out of the U.K. like Adele, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and now Lewis Capaldi. It seems to be a well trodden path, so I’ve recently been playing a lot of acoustic shows. I want to do a real nice, basic album that showcases voice and songwriting.
DK: You’ve also written songs for movies & TV shows. Is it true that you wrote & sang the song “’Walls” for the movie, Skyscraper?
Commons: Yes. I wrote the title track (“Walls”) for Skyscraper; it’s the only song in the film. [The music producers] were looking for the one song where Mr. Dwayne Johnson walks into the sunset. It was an open pitch thing. I had a couple days off and I asked my sync guy what projects were happening. He said, “they’re looking for a song for the film, Skyscraper.” He sent me the trailer and stuff, and I ended up writing that one. And it’s always good when you can place your song for one of these open pitch things. That’s because you know there are hundreds of songs being pitched, and if you end up winning, it feels great.
Here’s the audio of Jamie N Commons’ song “Walls,” which
was featured in the movie, Skyscraper.
DK: It’s good that you have three different ways to work as a songwriter—writing songs for yourself as an artist, writing songs for other artists, and writing for film & TV.
Commons: I think it’s really important these days, to be doing a bunch of different stuff. The music industry seems to be on the rebound, but so many more people are producing now, so to be competitive, I think you really have to do a lot (laughs). You have to be a songwriter, you have to be a producer, you have to be a great live act and all that stuff. So the more you can diversify, the more jobs that are available. Also, if you write down one path, I think it helps you write in another path because you think about it slightly differently. Even though these are three different disciplines, you learn stuff off each of them. So I always enjoy doing multiple things.