Ben's Brother success for Jamie
EMMA LEE He’s written hit singles for the likes of Will Young and Natalie Imbruglia. Now Jamie Hartman is taking centre stage in his own band, Ben’s Brother, who play Norwich Arts Centre next week. EMMA LEE spoke to him.
Even if the name Jamie Hartman isn't familiar to you, it's more than likely you'll know his songs. He's penned hits for singers including Will Young (remember All Time Love? That's one of Jamie's), Natalie Imbruglia and Lemar.
But he's starting to enjoy life in the limelight himself. Fulfilling a long-held ambition, he's put together his own band, Ben's Brother, and released the debut album, Beta Male Fairytales in the summer.
And the band, made up of Kiris Houston on keyboards and guitar, bassist Dan McKinna, drummer Dave Hattee and guitarist Morgan Quaintance, are already creating a buzz. The single, Rise, was A-listed by Virgin Radio and they were well-received at the V Festival. And there's been crucial acclaim for Jamie's beautifully-crafted ballads and raspy voice, which has been likened to a young Rod Stewart.
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Jamie grew up, as the band's name suggests, in the shadow of his older brother, Ben, an accomplished sportsman and successful ad executive. And the album's title reflects the dynamic of their relationship.
“I always felt like the beta male in our home. The alpha role definitely went to Ben,” he explains. “Writing songs is my way of dealing with the complexities of life.”
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While Ben was excelling on the sports field, Jamie turned his attention to music, particularly listening to vintage rhythm and blues and the Rolling Stones.
“I've been writing music since I was at school,” he says. “I started out listening to all the classics - Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Ella Fitzgerald… when I was 16 I didn't really like the music that was around - I wasn't really in to electronic music and synthesisers. It didn't do much for me. It was the great singer songwriters that really caught my attention. I was a big fan of Radiohead. And Bob Dylan and Bowie, of course.
“I had a few guitar lessons when I was about 13, but it just felt like hard work and I was impatient. I took it up again when I was 16 or 17. And I started writing and I realised I enjoyed it. From there I formed a band at school.”
The 33-year-old is endearingly modest about his songwriting talents.
“I was rubbish for a long time,” he laughs. “I'm blown away by artists like Paolo Nutini who can write that well when they're so young.”
The way Jamie tells it, he kind of fell into songwriting professionally by accident. He spent some of his early twenties in New York and helped write advertising jingles and also used to busk on London's Portobello Road.
“And I ended up being a songwriter for other people,” he says simply. But lurking in the background was the ambition of performing his songs himself.
“I would keep some songs back for myself,” he says. “I've always wanted to be the singer, but I didn't have that opportunity.”
That was until he got signed to Relentless, the same record label as troubadours KT Tunstall and James Morrison.
He went into the studio with producer Martin Terefe, whose previous credits include Tunstall and Morrison.
“We did it all in one go,” he explains. “I wanted to make it very simply and there was no messing around.”
Other stand-out tracks include Beauty Queen, I Am Who I Am and Bad Dream.
“I hope that everyone can get something out of the lyrics. I take my time over lyrics.”
And with a headline UK tour under way, he's clearly in his element.
“Being on stage is the best thing in the world. That's why I wanted to do it. And the crowds keep growing. It's so exciting. It's what I've always dreamed of happening,” he says.
t Beta Male Fairytales, is out now on Relentless. www.bensbrother.com
t Alice McLaughlin, who releases her debut single Dolly Figured on Sunday Best next month, is in support.
t Tickets for the Wednesday Ben's Brother gig at Norwich Arts Centre are now sold out. Check for returns on Norwich Arts Centre box office: 01603 660352