What’s Going On: Jamie Fine ‘eight gardengate’ Interview

Canadian singer-songwriter Jamie Fine is out now with eight gardengate, her debut solo EP. Introduced to the world through the reality TV show The Launch as one half of the pop duo Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine, Jamie made the brave move of betting on herself and now she’s making the music she wants to make on her own terms. The 6-track project features the relatable heart-on-your-sleeve lyricism that makes Jamie Fine one of Canada’s best contemporary pop songwriters today. I had the pleasure of chatting with Jamie the day before her EP dropped and fresh off a sold-out performance at Toronto’s The Drake Underground. We talked about how creating the project helped her to process grief, why 80’s pop sounds are currently all the rage, avoiding burnout, her love of Nickelback, and more.

So Jamie, your new EP is called eight gardengate. And I read that that was your childhood home. What’s the symbolism behind choosing that as the title for your EP?

eight gardengate, as you mentioned, was my childhood home and the only home I had ever lived in up until 18 and I moved out and then kind of went back a few times. Sorry, Dad. But it was this really intense safe place for me. I was bullied a lot as a kid and never felt like I fit in, the yadda yadda yadda story of trying to come into myself. And whenever I was home, I felt like I could be the most me and so organically it created this really safe and comfortable space for me. When I was about 26 and by that point I was out of the house, my parents decided to sell the home and I was devastated. It was one of those things where I knew friends growing up and their homes would sell and they’d move but I never imagined that happening to me especially because I had such a weird connection to that house, so I was devastated. 

After it sold, of course, none of it was related and I know that, but it felt like this catalyst for all these really tough things happening in my life. It sold and then I left my previous band, I let go of my management team, we put our family dog down, one of my closest friends had passed away, and then a series of a few other things. It all happened in such a short amount of time and with not a lot of time in between. I felt like it wasn’t enough time to grieve each thing and I realized through this EP that not only did I have to process those things that happened to me and let go of some things, I had to let go of that house just as much. So, I felt like it was a pretty fitting title because it was so relevant. It was such a catalyst for all these things that happened and in turn, made me a hell of a lot more resilient and a hell of a lot stronger in my opinion. 

Wow. That’s a lot to go through in such a short period of time. 

It was a lot. I always say and it sounds so dramatic when I say it out loud, it felt so unsurvivable when it was one after another. It almost felt like it got more and more devastating as each event happened. I’m a firm believer in dealing with things head on but I think there are some times when it’s ok to store them in a safe place to just survive them and get through them. And I had to trust that when I was able and ready to deal with them and confront them, I would pull them forward in my head and deal with them. That’s what this EP is. It’s me processing and grieving and finally going through that stage that everyone needs to go through. And it’s not just me going through it, it’s me getting through it. It starts with me in the worst place I’ve ever been but it ends with me in the best place I’ve ever been, which is right now, having gotten through it and getting through it. 

Was it cathartic for you to put all of that into the EP and now be on the other side of it?

Yeah, it’s the most incredible feeling. I sink myself into the writing process and then I take a step back and try to be as objective as possible. I need to be able to tell myself when I write a shitty song. You have to be able to do that. To be able to do that, I had to take a step back, look at everything objectively and listen as a listener, not the creator. I guess I’m a little biassed, it made me feel like I believed myself when I was processing everything and I think that was the most important part. It made me relive things but in a different light because I had processed them and gotten through them. I haven’t been proud of a project like this in a very long time and I think it’s a really huge new beginning for me and that’s exactly what I needed.

Lyrically, you’ve always been a bit of an open book but did you know when you sat down to start working on this material that you wanted to be this vulnerable?

I think everyone who knows me well knows that I am this open book and I seldomly hide how I feel. I think what was nice, I took a step back from being an artist a couple of years ago and focused on writing music for other amazing artists. Through that process, a couple of these songs were born so to speak. It actually took the pressure off because I was able to be vulnerable without thinking how am I going to market this? How am I going to put this out? Is this even my song? I was writing thinking all these songs are for other people and I was pitching it and it ended up being this really incredible experience with the pressure taken off me so I could be as vulnerable as I was. I ended up realizing that a couple of these tracks were like “oh shit, this is about me, I have to keep this one.” It was a blessing in disguise. 

Kinda touching on that vulnerability. Your music has always been really relatable. Do you get a ton of feedback from fans talking about how your music has impacted them or sharing their own stories with you and how does that make you feel?

I get tons of it. And that’s what you aim to do, right? As an artist, the reason I started in music was that I wanted to give people what music gave me. Going back to when I was a kid and feeling very alone and lonely, as cliche as it sounds, music was a huge outlet for me and it made me feel related to. Along with relating to something, it made me feel related to as well. I kinda always vowed that’s why I wanted my music to be so vulnerable, honest and open because I wanted to give people what music gave me. So I get all these stories and I do get DMs and I think it’s beautiful. I think that’s what every artist hopes for. For people to be able to say “Oh my God, I felt everything that you were saying.” 

When you were younger and going through all of that, what artists did you turn to to get you through it?

Jeromme, if you fucking judge me with this answer. Nickelback. I’m not even gonna lie. Chad, the lead singer, is one of the most incredible songwriters. I think with Nickelback when you dissect their lyrics and dissect the melodies regardless of the judgment people put behind them which I don’t know necessarily why they do, they’re just incredible songwriters and I related just to the music melodically just as much as I did lyrically. I listened to a lot of Black Eyed Peas. I listened to a lot of early J. Cole. I loved hip-hop when I was younger just because the storytelling was so beautiful and I felt I could relate to a lot of it. I’d say those three were probably my top. And this was before iPods, so I had this little silver mp3 player and I would only have those three artists on my mp3 player. Oh my God, I’m exposing myself right now. Whatever.

Yeah, I can see the Nickelback thing. The lyrics definitely are emotive and tell a story.

Tell me when “Photograph” comes on, you don’t scream it at the top of your lungs, Jeromme!

No comment, no comment. I wanted to talk specifically about the EP’s opening track. How did Never Wanted This, the collaboration with Alicia Moffet come about?

That was one of the first songs we started together and we knew that we wanted this 80s vibe. It’s funny because we wrote it before Stranger Things and “Running Up That Hill” and all that started coming back. We got remotivated with “Running Up That Hill” regaining its popularity. We got remotivated to revisit the song because we couldn’t quite get it yet. The topline, the lyrics, the melody, all that was done. But with the production, there was still something we wanted to do with it. It came at the perfect time. I’d been writing with Alicia for a year or two now and she heard the song and was like “yes” and I was like “yes” because I didn’t want to ask her. It just organically happened and she put down that second verse and made it her own. We couldn’t unhear it. We couldn’t hear the song any other way. I love her team and I’m such a big fan of her. I think she’s genuinely one of the greatest recording artists, at least in this part of the world that I’ve ever met. It was an honor to have her on the song. If you heard both versions, you’d be like it has to be the Alicia version.

Why do you feel like the 80s sound has really struck a chord with people now? From Kate Bush with “Running Up That Hill” to someone like The Weeknd who has really tapped into that sound. 

I think especially through Covid, we were kind of looking for something that made us feel better and made us feel that we were in a better time. An easier time, so to speak. I know there was shit that happened in that era as well but I wasn’t there for it anyway. I think that music brought back this sense of calm that we needed. If I’m being 100% honest and this is a harsh thing for me to say, but we don’t write music like that anymore. I find the music of that generation to be very not overthought, it’s just music. Sometimes the structures are weird. Right now, in this phase, a pop song is a pop song. As long as it has verse one, pre-chorus, chorus, verse two, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, it’s a pop song. But in the ’80s, they kinda did whatever the fuck they wanted. I think people relate to that. It wasn’t music that was overthought. It was really cool and I think we forgot a little bit about what cool music was. I think people are organically hooking onto it.

Totally. That makes sense and you’re definitely doing that. Going back to the beginning of your career, Jamie. Canada was introduced to you through the show The Launch and your former partnership with Elijah Woods. How do you feel like your time on reality TV or that period of your career has influenced the moves you make as a solo artist?

If I’m being honest, I think it very bluntly showed me what I want and what I don’t want. The Launch for me was not a great decision. I think a lot of people are confused when I say that. I learned a lot, got to work with incredible people, and “Ain’t Easy” came out of that and pun-intended, launched my career. But it wasn’t a decision that was mine and it wasn’t a decision that was right for my career and I’ve kinda been proven right a couple of times throughout my career since. I’m the kind of person that needs to learn things by going through them. I’m stubborn that way and The Launch was one of those things I needed to experience to set firmer boundaries with myself, my career, and my colleagues and to know exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do them. I would say that it was insanely informative. It was so cool to be put under that kind of pressure and learn what I was capable of. From then on, it was like this really pushed us in a direction and I don’t know if it was the healthiest direction and I think there were a couple of mistakes along the way that helped us learn and that’s the most important part. 

Having checked out some of the music videos you’ve put out for this project, this is a bit of a silly question but you really have this balance of being really raw and emotional but also comedic and entertaining, could you see yourself with your own show at some point?

I really don’t think about things like that. I don’t take myself too seriously as you can probably tell. I don’t know what kind of show you’re talking about. I’ve done a little bit but I was so afraid to do acting ever and had turned some stuff done. During the pandemic, I got offered this part in a movie and I was like I’m doing it. It was one of the coolest and most fun experiences of my life but it was strenuous. It made me think music’s easy. Acting is hard. I’ve always wanted to do a cooking show because I used to be a chef before I did music professionally. My girlfriend and I do this hilarious thing cooking w/ the le$beans on TikTok and I love doing stuff like that, but I don’t know if I’d ever commit to doing a full TV series. It’s hard work. I’m too lazy.

You just played a show at The Drake Underground. How did it feel to get up there and do your new material? 

I’m still on a high because it was 12 hours ago. It was one of the best shows we had ever played as a band. It was the first show in a while that I was able to connect with 100% and that’s on me. I’ve played in front of incredible crowds, including in my hometown. But it was the first show in a while that we were so locked in and ready to play in a different market other than my hometown. As you said, that new material and kinda seeing where it had spread to. Admittedly, there’s that inch of insecurity when it comes to putting out music and watching where it’s spreading, who’s going to attach to it, and who’s going to become a fan who’ll show up to the shows. Because it’s one thing following on Instagram and TikTok and it’s another thing buying a ticket, right? And people showed up and we sold out that place. I was very proud of our team and my label. It was the first time I could see it in practice, all the hard work we put into this and how strong this team is, and how thankful I am for everybody on it.

How were the new songs received?

Incredible. It’s really funny. I’ve done a few 30 seconds max teasers of the new songs from the EP and people were seeing them in the crowd and that’s the main thing I look for. Are people taking what’s on social media and translating it to real life? And that’s exactly what happened. My thing is I love getting on stage and performing music to see what happens. It was received beautifully, in my opinion. Everyone was dancing and moving and singing to what they knew just from those little clips, so I was really happy. 

That’s awesome! More shows coming up? Are you planning on hitting the road?

I am taking a fucking break and going to Mexico! The EP is dropping tonight at midnight and I think I’m so focused on that project coming out and we have all this music lined up for next year. I’ve put a lot of hard work into this year and I’m ready to decompress, I think that’s really important. You see all these artists setting some pretty heavy boundaries with themselves. Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, and all these people saying no, I’m not pushing myself anymore and taking a step back. I’m preventing having to do that and I think it’s really important having the balance of working your ass off and taking some you time and that’s exactly what I’m doing. This EP’s coming out, and we’ve got a couple of Christmas things, but other than that, I’m off to Mexico and getting a tan. 

That’s smart. A well-deserved break. For next year, can we look forward to another EP? Maybe a full-length album?

I would love that. I think we’re not living in an album world unless you’re an A-lister. That’s just how I see the music industry and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I think our attention spans are pretty short and the way we listen to music now with streaming and everything. I think instead of seeing that as a bad thing, I’d rather cater projects to that way of listening to music because I’m of the same generation. I think we can expect another EP. I just came back from LA and we wrote 11 songs in seven sessions, it was incredible. And the music, in my opinion, I’m biassed, just keeps getting better and better. Probably another project, but definitely playing that singles game for now to keep people hungry and wanting more.

What do you hope listeners will take away from eight gardengate?

It’s always my hope that people will listen to it from start to finish as it was intended, but I know that’s wishful thinking given the way we listen to music now. I want people to take away that nothing is linear. Grieving isn’t linear. Karma isn’t linear. Nothing is. We need to process things on our own and the way that we’re meant to for it to be tangible and really get to the other side. And I want people to be able to relate to the craziness that we feel in our heads sometimes when we are grieving or processing things. We’re mad one day and we’re in love the next. We’re sad and then we’re eating Ben & Jerry’s, then we’re in a club dancing and drinking tequila. We don’t do things in a straight line and that’s what this project is. I hope people will listen to it and be a little bit kinder with themselves, softer with themselves and trusting the process.

eight gardengate is out now via Universal Music Canada. 

Photo credit: Siamak Abrishami

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