Describing Jamie Wise is a difficult task, precisely because he resists labels. Although you probably know him as a top fashion model, he is developing himself further as an actor, and more recently, a musician. For him, these identities are fluid and inter-woven, wherein each influences the other. BASTARD fanzine interviews him about his latest song release, “Agent”, and the various influences each industry has had on him. As he moves forward with his musical career it will be interesting to watch him incorporate the multi-layers of his experience into the one package that is Jamie Wise…
Interview by Leah Mersky
Photographed by Idris + Tony
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a small town outside of Newcastle Upon Tyne, in England, called Whitley Bay. I spent most of my youth flitting between playing Rugby, Video games, and getting up to mischief. My family had a few moments of difficulty along the way, so they eventually had to leave the country. I’ve lived by myself since I was 16, and put myself through school and University working at Papa Johns and collecting glasses in a bar. During that time I really didn’t have much; no TV, no CD player, no Internet. I ended up thinking a lot in solitude. I discovered early on that life is an exploration of your self, but many times I have felt chained by the expectations and the views of many people in this world. I’ve been writing music for about 6 years now. I first picked up a guitar after I watched a variety of people learning guitar, and saw them go from practicing to being great, that I thought hey, maybe I can do this! Since then I’ve taken that approach to the majority of things in life.
“It is rare that someone looks into your eyes and takes the time to really see you.”
Who or what inspired “Agent”?
We all have our boxes; our defining qualities that a lot of people only see you as. It is rare that someone looks into your eyes and takes the time to really see you. There are so many layers to everything, so much experience to every single person. That is what is super interesting to me, and this song was a culmination of those feelings and beliefs of mine. When you start thinking you are better and have a better perspective than someone else, and rather than teach them you judge them, things get really messy and a lot of people get hurt and pushed a little further back along their path when they should only be pushed forward!
You wrote, produced, directed and filmed the video for “Agent” entirely by yourself. That’s impressive! Do you like working alone?
I haven’t found the right people yet. When I first started playing guitar, I wanted to record. I went to the studio and realized they weren’t really interested in me, or what I had to say. So I taught myself the program they were using and did it myself. I believe anything I put time into I can learn, and I believe the same of every single person. I think it’s commitment and a way of thinking that truly allows you to grasp and learn anything you really want to learn.
Acting is very important to you. How has acting influenced your music?
I became pretty infatuated with acting when I played my first show in High School, and pursued it further in University culminating in a Degree in Performance. Acting is about affecting people with a minimal amount of “stuff”. Part of the process is exploring presence in a performance. How when you step into a room you affect your surroundings. I discovered that you can train presence – it’s about being honest, truthful. It is about baring your soul. That eventually lead to form my core beliefs, which are never to judge a person, to explore everything worth exploring, and to always question and learn.
“Failure helps you learn more about yourself.”
How does modeling fit into your core beliefs?
When I started I thought Dolce + Gabbana was a perfume only – I came from nothing, I didn’t give a shit. I wasn’t interested in being defined by my outward appearance, so I didn’t try very hard in that respect. After a little while, and a bit of learning, I discovered a real love for working with photographers who truly were trying to create moments. When I get on set and I am modeling – it is the discovery of things that I can do. The clothes are like a costume, and the photographer captures those moments of being.
So what are your moments of failure?
I write stuff every day where I can’t get the melody or write lyrics and I think I’m fucking crappy. I’m so shit, blah blah blah. I have watched incredible and successful people on Ted Talks and read interviews where they say they feel like that too. So I work on my skills, explore myself and the world, write 100 songs, write 1000 songs – surely if I am authentic one of them is going to be truly great.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
Most definitely Radiohead, Frank Sinatra, and Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters in amongst a large variety of stuff including musical theatre and even some classical songs. I find that the one thing the majority of music that affects me has in common is a way of leading you along a path without really having to force yourself along it. You get moved by it, the way the music is played, the way it is sung, where it comes from. Anyone who achieves this, whether through absolute skill or raw expression, inspires me beyond belief.
“You have to wake up and do your thing.”
In this “cut-and-paste” culture hardly anything is truly authentic. How do you mediate the difference between inspiration and “stealing”?
When I was nine years old, I was about to take a test that I hadn’t studied for at all. I was just going to wing it. I was sitting next to a guy whose parents made him do his homework, but I never had that. I had the option of looking over his test, but I didn’t. The idea of cheating – of copy and pasting – the only person you are cheating is yourself. If you cheat, you are cutting your exploration and learning in half and you are not putting out the truth in the world. Failure helps you learn more about yourself.
I think that when people do churn out stuff that is someone else’s, it’s because they are are afraid to be themselves. I grew up in a situation where everyone around me was in a band. They’d write songs and say “this sounds too much like this!” and take hours deciding on how to move next. So what, if they are your inspiration why would that stop you? I don’t care if it sounds like someone else. I find what I truly believe and try and write a song that lets me express that feeling to it’s utmost. I put everything through my own filter, and if it is true to me, then it is authentic.
What can we expect in the future from Jamie Wise?
There is always room for questions, always room to learn and to evolve. I’m going to keep exploring every aspect of expressing who I am. I’m saturating myself in everything right now, and I believe there will be a point where I will finally be able to have my say, and hopefully change things for the better for many people. Currently I am based in Los Angeles where I am able to learn about the industry and gain some recognition before I collaborate with other people and truly try to push a vision out into the world of acceptance and honesty. There is only so much one person can do, so really I hope to become part of something greater, the next movement in this world that changes things for everyone, on a global scale. It’s absolutely possible, it only takes a quick change in perception, at the right time and the right place, to start a climatic cathartic wave across the world. Well that’s what I believe anyway, and I will surely be shooting for it in my lifetime!
What would you like to say to your fans?
You have one life! Find what is true to that and share it with everyone you come across – maybe you’ll inspire them. You have to wake up and do your thing. You have to do it every day because you like it and you don’t think about all the other fucking things. Fame, money, power; it’s meaningless if you don’t know yourself. There are countless examples of people who ‘MAKE IT’ and are miserable. Don’t lose yourself, and stay true.