The Magic Lantern Promo 5 Live

Following her most recent adroit LP review, Ayfer Simms investigates the influences and ideas that shaped the singer/songwriter Jamie Doe‘s The Magic Lantern alter ego and his Love Of Too Much Living suite, with some revealing and astute questions. 

From the lyrics and the tone of the album there’s a sense of happy childhood, is it the case? How was your childhood?

I grew up in the Canberra, the sleepy capital of Australia, playing cricket and the piano with equal passion before moving to Birmingham in England, the coal-stained heart of England’s Industrial Revolution, at thirteen and settling into a new life in a cold climate. It means I don’t really feel like I’m from anywhere particularly, maybe that’s why I have invested so much of what people think of when they say ‘home’ in my personal relationships.

I don’t really feel the association of childhood with the record. I see it more as looking at the difficulties of young adulthood, that liminal time between the conviction that everything is possible, and the realisation that all decisions have consequences, the importance of which you can’t know until you’ve irrevocably made them.

When did you start thinking about the notion of time fleeting – this usually, if at all, come from the loss of innocence; when the years become “numbered”. What and when did this happen?

The last four years have been a difficult period of navigating and taking responsibility for a series of major transitions, traumas, successes and failures in my life. I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that as we get older we seem to become more atomised, more individually focused on our own careers, relationships and lives and that the strong sense of a collective that I have been so lucky to be a part of, first in school, then at University and then in the first years of living in London, no longer seems possible. This is really sad and something that I fought hard against until I realised that you can’t hold back the tide. I’m trying hard now to enjoy my relationships for what they are, rather than what I’d like them to be.

Have you seen the film Interstellar? The theme of time and relativity and also the exploration of the cosmos is themed, is this a subject you are interested in?

No I haven’t seen Interstellar. What’s it like? But I do like the astronomer Carl Sagan and I love his idea that – ‘somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known’.

When did you start singing? When did you realize it was your vocation and did you have any other idea of what to do when you were older?

I’ve been singing with my family, in the car, after dinner and now whenever we infrequently all get together, forever. We all love singing, but I never thought about being a singer until I started writing songs at University when I was eighteen. I grew up playing the piano and was determined to be a jazz pianist for a long time until I got my first guitar when I was sixteen and went through a brief but intense period of trying to be Jimi Hendrix. Once I put the electric guitar down though and took the bandana off, I picked up a classical guitar, starting writing songs and never looked back.

How do you see yourself in your old age. Do you have an idea flashing in your head? Not how you would like to be, but a natural idea that comes to your mind?

Deep down I worry I’m going to be alone.

Do you think of yourself as selfish? You talk about how you “didn’t listen enough”. Is there a story attached to this?

I don’t really think of myself as selfish no, I really try to think a lot about other people but of course we’re all selfish in a way. Someone very close to me once said I talked too much and don’t listen enough and it’s been on my mind ever since. I try to remember this when I get excited about something these days – when I’m excited I just can’t wait to share it with someone, I just don’t always judge how much they really want to know. It’s something I’m working on!


Are you a moody or a jolly character?

That depends very much on what day you ask. If you asked me today I would say I’m feeling mildly existentially challenged. Overall though, I would say that I am reflective, I probably think too much about things and I worry about how I affect people. I’m very social and I feel best around people, which is one of the reasons I love being a songwriter and a musician, I think it brings out the best in me.

Your lyrics could just as well be poems, wonderfully written texts; do you do a lot of writing beside music? And do you have a general interest for literature?

That’s very kind. I don’t think of them as poems, although I do think very hard about the lyrics and spend a lot of time getting them right. A lot of people like to look at song lyrics as if their poems but I think there’s a very important distinction in so far as they are different forms entirely. I don’t do too much other writing although I just wrote and essay which was published in a little magazine on ‘Music, Magic & The Art of Suspending Disbelief’.

I used to read a lot but I find these days that I don’t read so much. I go through periods of reading novels and when get into those phases; I really enjoy jumping around between different types of literature. I love graphic novels as much as classic 20th century novelists like Hemingway and Steinbeck as much as contemporary writers like Murakami. I used to live with a poet, Wilf Merrtens, who turned me onto a lot of contemporary poetry and I’m lucky that through him, I’ve got to find a whole scene of young British poets whose words I find very inspiring such as Sally Jenkinson and Alabaster DePlume.

Does the world news affect you (specially the bad stories) in a sort of Woody Allen way, or in a deeper anxious way?

I don’t really know what Woody Allen thinks of the news; he has own well-documented issues to worry about. For me, I spend a lot of time listening to and reading the news, its hard not too these days. I sleep listening to the radio so sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to hear about a new calamity which I’m sure contributes to the number of dreams I have about my teeth falling out (long story).

I think I am affected by it to the extent that it makes me deeply frustrated with our capacity to hurt each other, to wilfully fail to understand other people’s point of view and in people’s conviction that their own opinion must be right. Despite all that, I know enough wonderful people to prevent me sliding into the nihilistic pessimism that the constant news cycle could so easily encourage. I really believe that we can be better because we so often are.

Say the first 5 words that come to you mind: don’t think! This will give us readers some clues about your inner self.

It’s going to be ok.


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