On stage at London club Cargo, Jamie Woon is tapping the mic and pressing buttons on his LoopStation effects pedal. He’s not warming up: this is the start of a soaring rendition of his single Wayfaring Stranger, which takes the 23-year-old’s multi-layered vocals, sampled clicks and clacks and turns them into a stripped down soul record of remarkable power.
The song was released on Live Recordings (an innovative project run by teenagers in Lewisham, Southeast London) and was nominated for Gilles Peterson’s single of the year before it hit the shops. Meanwhile, Mary Anne Hobbs has compared him to Jeff Buckley and dubstep don Burial likes him so much he broke cover to provide beats for a stunning remix.
Back at Cargo, Woon is flanked by band members Blue (bass) and Reso (drums). Blue is part of the nascent South London soul scene, producing tunes for up-and-coming acts Valentina and Tawaih, while Reso is a new school dubstepper, who’s been pushing speakers to their limits with heavyweight tracks such as the techno-influenced Metal Slug. Woon met Blue at his monthly One Taste night, which runs alternately in Hammersmith and Balham, and Reso at Croydon’s hot house Brit School. “It was a bit Fame Academy at times,” says Woon. “But I met a lot of people there. It really helped.”
Woon grew up around folk and acoustic music. His mother is respected Celtic singer Mae McKenna. As a kid in the ’80s he attended studio sessions with her, including some with Stock Aitken & Waterman popsters Kylie and Jason. More recently, though, he’s been wowed by the power of bleep and bass. “I was locked into the acoustic thing,” he says. “But I’ve had my eyes opened. Electronic artists put music out just because they really like it – recording it, pressing it, and distributing it. Before I was quite insular. This is faster. It’s very inspiring.”
Woon is heading back into the studio to record a new EP. “It’s going to be more uptempo than Wayfaring Stranger,” he says. There’s a pause. “But I’ve got a lot of respect for that song. It’s a marker of where I want to go.”
Jamie Woon’s debut single, Wayfaring Stranger, is out now on Live Recordings.