Joss Jamison: The Rock Steady Interview

I’m frantically trying to finish up For the Love of a Lush, so no revelatory blog posts this week. BUT, I came across an old interview Rock Steady magazine did with Joss Jamison, lead singer of Lush. Mel makes an appearance too, so I thought you might like to check it out! And don’t forget, today’s the LAST DAY to get A Lush Betrayal on SALE for $.99!!

ALB last sale day teaser

Rock Steady: The Interview

Joss Jamison – Larger Than Lush?

By Eden Reed

            I pull up outside a small diner in Salida, Kansas, and can’t help but peek around the side of the concrete block building to take a gander at the enormous black tour bus that lurks in the back parking lot. The windows are heavily tinted, and there are no distinguishing marks on the bus to give away its purpose. In the nation’s heartland, buses like this cruise across the wide flat spaces on well-maintained tollways every day during the summer, taking their cargo of retired farmers, bankers and housewives to places like St Louis, Chicago, and even as far as Minneapolis.

This particular bus, however, is anything but a retirees’ land yacht. This is the tour bus for the U.S. leg of the As Lush As It Gets tour, featuring the year’s hottest sensation in alternative rock, Lush. I’ve come to this tiny restaurant, set in the middle of the humid, mosquito-filled Midwest, to interview the front man for Lush, none other than Joss Jamison.

Jamison is as well known for his looks as his singing/songwriting, and when I walk into the diner and spot him sitting in a corner booth, it’s clear what the fuss is about. Blessed with the face and body of a male model, Jamison exudes a sex appeal that seems to be as strong off-stage as it is on. He’s very private about his life outside of Lush, however, and while he’s been photographed with several well-known models and actresses, he’s never stuck with one long enough to really grab the paparazzi’s attention.

The enigmatic singer is also the quiet genius behind rock’s newest darlings. Word on the street is that while guitarist Mike Owens has some serious musical chops, Lush simply wouldn’t be without the songwriting and business savvy of Jamison. That combination of looks, talent and brains, is what makes many industry insiders ask, “Is Joss Jamison larger than Lush?” It’s a question the singer himself has tossed aside, continuing to insist that Lush’s success is entirely a group effort. When you’re in his presence, however, it’s easy to see why a lot of people don’t buy it.

Today, Jamison is mid-way between concerts in Kansas City and Denver, and he’s already ordered a cheeseburger with fries, a cup of coffee, and a slice of lemon meringue pie when I sit down to chat with him.

Reed: Lush has been a solid opening act for bands like Arctic Monkeys for the last three years. This year though, you became a headline act in your own right. How’s that been? What’s different for Lush when you’re in the lead?

Jamison: I don’t know that it’s so different, as much as it’s more. More pressure, more control, more money (he laughs). We’ve always worked at making sure our performances are top notch. We still do that, we’ll continue to do that, but now we can’t blame anyone else if things don’t go well. It’s all on our heads.

Reed: The song that catapulted you to this new level – Your Air – you’ve said you won’t reveal where the idea for the song came from. Does that mean it’s about someone in your life or your past?

Jamison: Yeah, when I say I won’t talk about the inspiration for that song, that’s what I mean. Nice try though, Eden (he laughs again).

Reed: Well, I had to give it a shot. Okay, moving on to the tour…you’ve got twenty-two stops across the U.S. during June, July and part of August. Then you’re scheduled to hit Europe, Japan and even a couple of big venues in the Middle East. What’s life on the road like for the guys of Lush?

Jamison: It’s a mixed bag, man. I mean life on the road is always tough, no matter who you’re with. We’re lucky we’ve all grown up together, and we’re like brothers, you know? That makes it easier to live together on tour…in most ways. We’re also pretty laid-back. We’ve got a couple of Colin’s cats along for the ride [bassist Colin Douglas is a strong animal rights advocate], and Walsh’s fiancée, Tammy, works for us and comes on tour as well [Walsh Clark is the band’s drummer and Jamison’s lifelong best friend]. This time around we’ve added someone new to the mix, and she’s doing a great project for us – hold on a sec…

At this point, Jamison whips out an iPhone, shoots off a text, then calls the waitress over for a refill on his coffee. A minute later, a young redhead enters the diner and Jamison calls her over to our table, scooting in on his side of the booth to make room for her.

Jamison: This is Melanie DiLorenzo, our photographer for the tour. She’s also Tammy’s sister, so Walsh’s future sister-in-law. It may sound a little inbred, but like I said, we’re laid-back and having friends along makes the long weeks away from home more tolerable.

Reed: So tell me about this project. What’s the final product going to look like?

DiLorenzo: We’re going to end up with a great book and DVD filled with exclusive photos of the tour—the behind the scenes kinds of things that tell a story about what life is really like with the band on the road.

Jamison: We’ve given Mel unprecedented access for this project, and we feel like this is a chance for the fans to get to know us on a much more personal level. See how we interact with each other, see how the music gets made, and what Walsh looks like when he wakes up in the morning [both Jamison and DiLorenzo laugh over this one]

Reed: So, what’s it like, Mel? How is life on the road with Lush?
DiLorenzo: Well, you have to realize I’ve known these guys, through my sister, for a long time. So, in some ways it’s like spending a summer with your grungy older brothers (she laughs). But, in all honesty, it’s amazing. I’m blown away again and again by what it takes to put on a show like this, the hours and hours of work, the massive numbers of staff. And, I’ve been pretty impressed with the professionalism of the band. They have a lot of fun, but when it’s time to get down to work, they really hit it hard.

Reed: And what about the partying? We all know Walsh was in rehab several months last year, and rumor has it these guys can party like any other rock stars. Have you gotten to go to any of the aftershow parties?

DiLorenzo: Um, well, the guys do have some parties. I mean performing is hard, so they deserve to blow off some steam. But Walsh is doing fantastic with his recovery and everyone’s always ready to hit the road the next day, so it must not be too out of control.

It’s hard not to notice the way Jamison watches his photographer. The sexy, unattainable lead singer seems riveted to her every word, and inordinately pleased with her responses, even inadvertently reaching over at one point to tuck a wayward strand of her hair behind her ear as she talks. It doesn’t seem to faze Ms. DiLorenzo. Perhaps it’s something that happens often?

Reed: Joss, tell us how your music gets written. Where do the ideas for the songs come from, how do they get from your head to the stage with Lush?

Jamison: I think, like most songwriters, the ideas come from my life, from the lives of people I know. They’re about stuff I’m feeling and seeing every day. Not necessarily a particular event or person, but sometimes just impressions, you know? Like I’ll start to feel there’s a lot of selfishness in the world and next thing you know I’ve written She Snake, about a woman who only cares about herself, and leaves everyone in her life to clean up her shit. That song isn’t about any one particular person that I know, or any one event I experienced, it’s a more general thing. The accumulation of all kinds of crap in the world around me.

So, I’ll get an idea like that in my head, and it’ll be a story. It’ll have characters and a beginning, middle and end, then I’ll start messing around with tunes, picking out a chorus here, a refrain there. And the lyrics sort of follow from that. They follow that story I’ve got up here (points to his head) and morph to fit the melody that’s emerging.

(Laughs) Does any of that make any sense? It’s pretty hard to describe it. It’s organic you know? It happens how it happens.

Reed: And when do the other guys get involved?

Jamison: About the time I’ve got the foundation set. When there’s a basic melody and lyrics I’ll take it to the guys and we’ll sit down in the studio and start hashing it out. Everyone’s got to figure out how their part fits. It can be a nightmare, but amazingly it usually works out.

Reed: So, what’s next for Lush? After the tour, after Europe and Asia, are you working on a new album?

Jamison: Yeah, yeah, I’ve got some material I’m playing around with, and we’ve started laying down some new tracks at Studio B back in Portland. But, we’re not on any kind of time line, you know? We’ve got several months of touring left, and this album just released, so we’re focused on the here and now (looks at Ms. DiLorenzo) and the here and now just keeps gettin’ better.

After Jamison kindly pays for my pie and coffee and says his goodbyes, I stay at the table to finish up my interview notes. I watch as he and Mel DiLorenzo walk back outside and head to the bus that’s now idling in the front lot, ready to go to the next tour stop. Jamison tilts his head toward hers as she talks to him, and keeps his hand at the small of her back while they walk to the bus. This reporter can’t help but wonder if we’ve finally discovered the inspiration for Your Air.

As to the rumors of Jamison outrunning his band, only time will tell, but when you’re Joss Jamison, the sky’s the limit.

Eden Reed is a freelance reporter who also writes a regular column for Boston Music Monthly. She has had over thirty articles and interviews published in Rock Steady.

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