As part of a crew of friends and collaborators that include King Krule, Rejjie Snow, Jesse James, and Jadasea – Jamie Isaac finds himself in good company as the ringleader of the new South East London scene. A recent BRIT School graduate, Isaac is considered in the same vein as Archy Marshall (Isaac and Marshall are roommates), though that's where the comparison ends. In fact, the 21-year-old's neo-soul moods and composition methods eschew his background in classical training and affection to the drama of the silver screen.
Isaac favours space and atmosphere, and 'Couch Baby' luxuriates in the scope between dream and reality, which stretches a melancholy mood and romance endlessly as across its tracks. Though the title and cover art gives off the impression of something akin to lounge music, it is Isaac's love of jazz balladry and film scores that defines him. The sentimentality is a throwback to classical Chet Baker, but the underpinning of Dilla-fied percussion and temper is of modern times, as if to quash any opinions of sounding too nostalgic. Above all, Isaac has built an outlier from his associates that began with his previous EPs – 'I Will Be Cold Soon' and "Blue Break' – before dragging adulthood with him into a mature body of work that places him in the current pop landscape.
Ahead of his performance at our Field Day warm up show tonight, Dummy caught up with Isaac to discover some of the inspiration behind 'Couch Baby'.
Marvin Gaye rehearsal footage
Jamie Isaac: "This footage of Marvin Gaye in rehearsal was one of the things that really influenced me when writing the album. How he could change the big production of I Want You into a simple four-piece band, his simple lyrics on top with his lounge position and effortless performance just summed up exactly what I wanted to create: a romantic album with minimal parts and simple lyrics that you can chill to."
Bill Evans Peace Piece
Jamie Isaac: "I find it difficult to sleep most nights, and I would play this song on loop over and over again to help ease that. It reminds me of writing the album and Bill Evans as an artist, in general, has helped mould my own piano sound so I don't think I could talk about the album without mentioning him."
Jamie Isaac: "There’s a lot of staying up too late when you're writing, and I don't think there are a couple of days that go by without ordering pizza – fuel for the mind."
Jamie Isaac: "A common muse for many, and probably more so for me. No further content needed."
Patrick Suskind Perfume
Jamie Isaac: "I remember reading this book when I first started making the album, I was crazy about the language throughout, especially the way he talks about women, excessively creepy but just romantic enough. It was something I reread frequently and has probably influenced my lyric writing in some way."
Herbie Hancock Sunlight
Jamie Isaac: "This album was given to me for a birthday a couple of years ago by a good friend, always been a fan of Herbie Hancock and my favourite track of his, I Thought It Was You, is on this album. The vocoder and the arrangement of the harmonies and instruments are beyond any other track of that genre of that time in my eyes; it’s constantly on show in my bedroom on the shelf, and it has a personal meaning to me considering my parents met to while listening to it – according to my Dad."
Jamie Isaac: It's hard to talk about influences without talking about the city itself, in some ways I feel the music reflects how I feel about it, slightly confused, filled with different styles, slightly arrogant. I love to hate it, but I can't pull myself away from it
Pentax PC35AF-M Vintage 35mm
Jamie Isaac: "I spent a lot of time going around with this camera by myself when I first got it, around the time I first started writing. Was a good time for me – felt really relaxed and eased me into the process nicely, was always interested in photographers like Paul Strand, Elliot Erwitt, Robert Doisneau and people of that ilk."
Yamaha DGX 505
Jamie Isaac: "I almost forgot to talk about my keyboard; I've had it since I can remember. I saved up, and my parents took me to a music shop to buy a keyboard. It’s a load of junk now but I still use sounds from it to this day on my records, and I write every song I've put out on this. It calms me down and puts me at ease; I've tried writing in a studio environment but I will always be a bedroom singer/producer, and this keyboard helps me keep to that."
Jamie Isaac: "When/if I do get to sleep it's something that I love doing. I have vivid dreams, and it's hard to wake me most days. I normally wake up with ideas for music; it intrigues me how you can sometimes dream about songs you're going to write and then make that into a reality. That’s what happened with a track on the album called Staying With Me All Night and I reference that state in the lyrics at the beginning of the song."