The Jesse Gamage story, so far…

With just over 11 years of honing his craft, Jesse Gamage is finally starting to get the attention his talent deserves. He’s currently in the studio completing his debut album, before setting out on a tour that’ll see him touch all continents. We joined him at a recent recording session and put a few questions to him. Hope you all enjoy it.

So who is Jesse Gamage?
I would describe myself as a London born soul singer songwriter. My origins are a bit of a mix, Sri Lankan, dutch-Irish and English. I’ve grown up in the inner city my whole life, pretty much a normal London boy. Then when I was about 15 years old I got into music in a much more serious way. I’d always loved music but getting my first guitar at 16 years old was a game changer. Within 2 years I was on the open mic circuit, throwing myself to the wolves. But, I loved it, loved the feeling, went from there pretty much.

Who are your influences?
Soul, folk and blues would be my main influences. Off the top of my head, Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway so whilst they were before my era, their music remains off the chart. They are timeless voices and people. There was also the Jimmi Hendrix’s, the Prince’s, that whole funky guitar sound that really appealed to me and had a big place in my life. Basically, that old school flavour has always been precious to me. All of that combined into this mix of whatever it is I’m a vessel for.

Can you remember the first track that moved you?
Whooh! The first track that moved me. There were so many. Worthy mentions are Donny Hathaway’s, ‘A song for you’ and another Donny track called ‘For all we know’ vocally they always move me.  Almost anything by Sam Cooke and of course Stevie Wonder, their songs just talk directly to you.  I could name quite a few more but I think you get my flow.

You seem to have fused Soul music with both asian and soul influences, was that deliberate?
The way I song write and the way music has influenced my life, it was never something that was pushed on me. I’m self-taught and not academic, so what I write comes from the passion of living in the environments I feel most comfortable in. I used to be quite conscious about the songs I’d write as I didn’t have the self-confidence at the time and was unsure about where I’d fit. I kinda got bored with that and just started focusing on what mattered to me and the rest developed in its own way. I don’t intentionally focus on any particular thing, but if there are plenty of colours and flavours, then I’m happy with that. My music reflects who I am.

Outside of music, what really matters to you?
To be honest music is an accumulation of everything that does matter to me. It’s art, it’s an organic thing. I love life, I love people. The human condition, the human experience and that’s what I find myself talking about quite a lot in my music. When I’m not on stage with my guitar singing, I do the usual stuff of hanging round with my mates. I’d like to travel more and hope to do so in the near future. The more I can learn about our species and educate myself, the better.

Do you ever switch off?
Becoming a musician has allowed me to be myself. Music, creativity and art does give you that ability to look deep inside and for musicians like me, to share. For me it feels  full-time, but in a good way. I’m always discovering more about myself, more about people and more about the world. In doing so, I write about it. It’s like a drug and yep, I’m addicted. There’s no set time, when those thoughts will manifest themselves, although I must confess to being a late night person.

Have you got it in your head, who you are writing for?
Not so much at the time, I prefer to let things unfold to me. Because if the truth be known, sometimes the songs that I write have advised me what to do in certain situations. Its like a voice giving me some intel. Hopefully, me being able to record it and pass it onto people, they can feel the same thing or get something from it that they can relate to. It’s more of a case of stimulating people to listen to themselves. My songs just trigger that process.

We know you are in the process of putting a band together, but for a good while it’s been you, your loop station and your guitar, can you tell us about that?
In respect of the loop station, it’s funny how it came about using it. It was really about convenience. I used to work with bands and I definitely missed that, but the timing didn’t suit everyone and when you’re working with session musicians as opposed to your own band, it don’t matter how good the jam is, they go to where the work is, and you can’t blame them. So, the loop station allowed my one man show to have a bigger feel, particularly for those larger venues. Being able to layer my voice in that way also opened up new dimensions of creativity, at the same time giving my audience an experience that was essentially, me. I didn’t read the manual, I just built my own relationship with the equipment and that definitely heightens the intimacy. Going back out with a band is going to be real special, but it doesn’t mean I’ll drop the loop station, totally. Being able to do both is an exciting prospect.

What’s your preference, live performance or recording studio?
Easy answer. It’s all about live. CD’s, records and streams are for me takeaways, nothing substitutes being there. And, nothing I do in the studio replicates that connection you make with a live involved audience. Whilst, our physical bodies are in the same place, our sub-conscious goes on this collective journey, it’s magic. Even when we have a great jam session in rehearsals or in the studio. It’s great because we can sense what the audience response will be, we all paint those pictures.   

So how would you describe the Jesse Gamage experience?
My music is there for you to relate to. For you to see yourself in it or something you can vividly identify with. I’m more about message than vibe and that’s what my fans want and where I feel comfortable. A pundit described me as ‘Omar meets Akala’ and I hear that and I’m flattered. My vocals definitely lean on the side of soulful folk and my lyrics have often be likened to poetry, sensitive and intimate when needed and bold and provocative when called for. So, when you come and see me, I hope that sometimes I move you out of your seat but always in your head.

Jesse Gamage is managed by BSR. For more information his artist page can be reached by clicking here.   

We will be having a couple of sneak previews into his current studio work, so keep your eyes posted or subscribe to his fan list on his BSR artist page.

Article Written By
The British Soul Renaissance
December, 2016

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