Jamie Scott: the songwriting ‘fixer’ for everyone from Adele to Justin Bieber

Hes crafted hits for dozens of some of pops biggest stars, but the British songwriter was once an aspiring tennis player who almost gave it all up

If five songs you had co-written with Adele didnt make it on to her latest multimillion-selling album, you might feel like youd been handed the winning lottery ticket and then watched helplessly as a gust of wind blew it away forever. But if youd written the game-changing hit for the most successful boyband on the planet as well as one of the biggest radio hits of 2016, among many others, the pain of missing out on the Adele millions might be cushioned somewhat.

Jamie Scott, a 32-year-old songwriter and producer from Surrey, could be seen as the Fixer for top 40 radio. His fingerprints, melodies and chord progressions are all over some of the biggest hits of recent years for acts such as One Direction, Justin Bieber, Little Mix and Jessie Ware.

I just love to write songs that will connect, he says. For anyone whos not trying to write number ones, I dont understand that. His is a story of why endurance and persistence are essential in the music business even if your career seems only to consist of blind alleys at the start.

He says his mother was an amazing singer who also got him started on guitar while the only radio in his house was local radio station Capital Gold, which goes some way to explaining his formative influences. He says he was 12 before he heard a contemporary song Crossroads by Bon Jovi and that awoke him to modern music just as Britpop was exploding. At that time, he was also facing a career crossroads, having to pick between tennis he was so good he was playing at national and county level and music, with him spending his lunchtimes in the music room working out songs on piano.

With the tennis playing, I was at quite a high level, he says. But it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was just too much hard work.

At 17, he walked out of school to try to make it as a performer as part of a duo with a friend (key influence: Turin Brakes). I went to my parents and I just broke down, he recalls. I told them this is what I wanted to do, that I had been writing lyrics in economics lessons and I had been playing the piano every day when everyone else was out playing.

His dad gave him a deadline of 18 months to make it; if he didnt, he would have to get a job. A few near misses with record labels followed but he was eventually signed to publisher Windswept Pacific in 2001 when he was 19, off the back of one song. But labels were only interested in him as a solo act and so he had to split the group with his friend.

He has the look and style of a pop singer lantern jaw, tidy beard, black T-shirt but it was behind the scenes rather than on stage where he would make his name. After a difficult period signed to Sony in the UK, he asked them to let him go and he switched to Polydor to release a new album he had written. Fame and fortune did not follow. It feels like to me in my own artist career that I have been in the wrong place at the wrong time for most of that time, he says. But as a writer I have been in the right place at the right time.

Writing for others is where he was to really find his feet. I would like to think that I am one of the main writers in the UK that labels look to send up-and-coming artists to help break their careers, he says. That is hopefully a given with my track record and who I am working with.

Jamie

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figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Jamie Scott performs in concert at Austin360. Photograph: Rick Kern/WireImage

Sometimes he has to explain to acts that writing with an eye on the charts is nothing to be ashamed of. Why? Why dont you want to? Dont you want 10 million people streaming your music next month? Dont you want that? Isnt that what you want to do? Im not saying that they should write a bad song, but we should get to something that they think is amazing and that I think is amazing.

It is refreshing in an age of faux-humility and humblebragging in pop to hear someone speak so bluntly about wanting to write huge songs that go to number one. There is no sense of arrogance or entitlement with Scott; he just long ago realised that he wants to write number ones and that he has an innate knack for it. So, rather than tie himself in knots searching for some nebulous sense of credibility, he just gets on with it.

Thats the endgame for when I go into the studio with someone, he says. Whatever happens, we need to state that this is on the global level and that we need to write the best music of next year. Its not just about whats cool. I want to write classic modern pop songs.

Speaking of which, he was one of the many writers that Adele tried out for her most recent album. She approached him and they worked on four or five songs in his studio. She opens her mouth and you understand why everything is what it is, he says. Just an amazing artist. Five or six years ago I would have gone into that session and I would have been scared. Oh my God I need to make this count. But you suddenly wake up, maybe with a bit of success under your belt or maybe your first number one, and you feel pretty relaxed in who you are as a writer. I do my thing and if it doesnt work out, it doesnt work out.

Did he feel under pressure to write what people would presume was an Adele-type song? Not at all. I just wrote exactly how I would normally. I just got on the piano and she started singing. And when shes singing it becomes an Adele song. It was like a normal session.

Asked what song of his he is most proud of, he instantly says One Directions Story of My Life. Because we changed the game for them, he argues. In the history of all boybands, they are usually on the way down [by the third album]. With that song I feel like we lifted them to another level.

He says almost all of his songs are written with the artists that will record it, but in the case of Cold Water it sat collecting dust for months before they were approached to have Major Lazer, Justin Bieber and M record it. It was written by chance when he was in New York with American producer Benny Blanco, who invited Ed Sheeran to the studio.

It was really hot and his air conditioning wasnt working, he says. We were there sweating. Ed came and we had a bit of food and he suggested we try and write something. He came up with these chords and we wrote this song called Cold Water, he says. I think there was another artist that we had in mind to write it for but we just ended up writing it anyway. A year later I got a call from my manager saying that [producer] Diplo had heard it and loved it and they maybe wanted to get Justin Bieber on it.

He says he tries to limit the people he writes with and cannot work in the style, as outlined in John Seabrooks book The Song Machine, where huge teams of writers are assigned parts of songs the bridge, the pre-chorus, the topline and they are snapped together after the fact like the toy inside a Kinder egg. I am basically the complete opposite of that, he says. I have no problem with it, but I just dont work very well like that.

You cant fool the public, he stresses. That is one thing you cant do now. You cant fool the public into making something a hit. The public will make great pop songs hits. They will do it themselves.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/23/jamie-scott-song-writing-adele-justin-bieber

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