One of our favourite interview subjects at 519 is always Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine. The Ottawa pop duo are quickly becoming a Canadian radio staple and a concert favourite. And, once again they get another crack at winning a JUNO Award, having lost out twice in 2019. This year, they’re up for Group of the Year and Pop Album of the Year,
The duo gave us a quick call after they heard the news of their 2020 nominations for the JUNOs, being held in Saskatoon on March 15.
You guys get another crack at the Juno Awards this year. This time for Group of the Year and Pop Album of the Year. It must feel good to be accepted once again?
Elijah: Yeah, absolutely. It’s always a fun time of year for Jamie and I to see how things unfold from the work that we put into the last year. And this year we were lucky enough to be nominated for those two categories, which is pretty wild. We were at the press conference for the Junos. When we got invited, we were like, “All right. I think maybe there will be a Juno nomination, but definitely not two, and definitely not in those big categories.” So it’s always one of those things that stop time specifically for us.
Award shows can put artists under a lot of pressure. Was there any pressure around you last year or even this year?
Jamie: I don’t think so. We definitely feel that pressure in the air when we’re at these kinds of events. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, in a healthy way. And sometimes just taking everything that we do in stride, and being proud of what we accomplish in the moment. For us, these nominations are a really, really huge deal for us, and for our team, and for our family, and our friends, and everybody who’s on the journey with us and following what we’re doing. So, in the actual moment of winning or not winning, I think that’s actually pretty out of mind for Elijah and I. We’re just excited to be part of the event and be a part of it.
And, of course, a big part of it for us is being nominated among the other groups that were and the other albums too. We’re really big fans of all those people. And so it’s definitely not a competitive mind-set. So I think that alone alleviates a little bit of the pressure for us.
Did you enjoy the Junos in London?
Elijah: We did. We were there super briefly. We were actually on tour during that time period, for the entire month of March. So, unfortunately, we basically flew in to Toronto, drove to London. We were there for an hour and a half. We did the red carpet and lost our categories, and then, unfortunately, had to leave because we had a show. I believe it was in Montreal the next day. So we had to catch the last flight out of Toronto. So we were only there for about an hour, but we had tons of fun, saw a lot of people we knew, a lot of great performances. It was definitely a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to spending a little more time this year in Saskatoon.
I noticed you guys will be at the Juno Songwriters Circle in Saskatoon. Those are a lot of fun and always a great collection of writers to hear. What will you bring to the table and is there someone that will be there that you’re excited to be in conversation with?
Jamie: I think that we’re really excited for the roster. We saw the roster, and it’s a really good mix of people, and artists, and writers. So it’s really cool for the audience and the people going to watch, but it’s also really cool for us as songwriters to see how other people do it and learn from everybody. So everybody on that roster is somebody we’re excited to see. We’re looking to really break down how transparent Elijah and I really are with our writing and just show how genuine it is in terms of it being our diary. Our music is our diary.
And I think everybody has a different way of writing music. If Elijah and I can bring anything to the table in terms of teaching people about songwriting, if that’s something that we can even offer.
Here’s the full unedited interview.
Songwriting is so important. How did you start?
Elijah: We started writing separately, at the start of all this. So I was primarily doing production, and Jamie was doing a lot of songwriting and then was performing as well. And we came together, and we started writing music together, and it was Jamie mostly handling lyrics and singing, obviously, and myself handling all the back-end of stuff. Our jobs became intertwined as we realized that we were creating really unique content and exciting stuff for us. So she’s taking more of the role on as a producer, and I’m taking more of the role on as a songwriter.
What’s nice about our relationship is that it’s not one-dimensional anymore for each of us. We’re exponentially helping each other grow musically, and that comes with songwriting. But we think that that’s the root of all music. It’s the most important thing. And if you can tell a story in a unique way, most of the time people want to listen.
What do you remember about the first song you ever wrote?
Jamie: Oh God, you’ll never hear it, first of all. Thank God, you’ll thank us. Honestly, I think it was the feeling of just connecting with each other for the first time and on my end of things anyway, it was finally being satisfied with somebody that I was working with, taking a top one and having the emotion matched by incredible production. It was the first time I had experienced that or at least to that quality.
And for me it was this feeling of just complete satisfaction musically, which I had never really experienced before. And I think that’s what I take away from it. It’s like a very EDM song, it’s hilarious. I sound like a baby in it, which is hilarious too. It’ll never see the light of day but I think it was more about the experience than it was the actual product.
Elijah: I think what it created is a sense of excitement that there was something bigger and that we can both do something different and larger than what we were doing independently. So that first song was definitely a catalyst in our relationship. But it’s a song that’ll never see the light of day, unfortunately.
Jamie: No, fortunately. Very fortunately, not unfortunately.
Elijah: Yeah, very fortunately.
There’s a lot of mood and impactful moments in your songs making each song a unique experience. Is it more difficult to keep things fresh and different?
Elijah: Yeah, really great question. I think that’s what’s cool about songwriting, and looking at songwriting and production through separate lenses. You can take a song that was written, 50 years ago lyrically and melodically and wrap it in a new bow production-wise and it could be relevant in 2020. So what’s cool about a lot of the songs that we write is that they’re stories that we’ve told or written over the last couple of years or stories and we just put a relevant spin on them by changing a few lyrics or a few things in the production.
But I find for us specifically trying to keep things cohesive is actually more of a difficult journey just because being creative as an artist you never really want to do the same thing twice. I feel like if we put out a song that sounded exactly like “Ain’t Easy”, I wouldn’t love to perform that song because she’s going to be a bootleg version of something that I already did. I want to create something new and fresh. And it’s really challenging for artists to grow and develop and have a fan base whose attached to a certain sound, but it allows us to grow and like things that work. But I think the important thing is to grow and keep moving forward.
Let’s talk about your three latest tracks and how they were written:
Jamie: With all of them we just wanted to show a side to us that got back to our roots in terms of how we used to write music and not think about any boundaries or I guess the box that we put ourselves in or felt like other people would put us in. We were chasing a hit to be honest. We were chasing another “Ain’t Easy”. How do we get another pop radio smash. And that’s a really dangerous spot to be in as an artist, at least in our opinion. So what we wanted to do was go back to our roots and how we wrote music and just write music that we didn’t overthink and we just had fun with. And I think that was the first time in a really long time that Elijah and I actually had fun writing music again and it was really satisfying.
So I’m yours is just one of those funky songs. We felt an emotion and literally put it down. It was our last day in LA. We’ve been in LA for a week and a half writing, locked ourselves in the hotel room and wrote an album worth of music. And it was the last night we had a flight out the next morning and said, let’s sing one more out and it ended up being I’m yours.
Elijah: Taste is, I think I started that we were at the same hotel. Those two songs were written during that LA trip and we were staying at the SLS Hotel. There was a nice pool and Jamie would go swimming in the morning. So I started production or a vibe. I had this super bubbly like loop that I found and really liked the way it sounded. It sounded like California and it was sunny and vibrant and very like fluid. I just programmed some weird drums around it.
We wanted something that felt central and intimate but not too overtly sexual. So that’s how lyrically that song came to be. And it was just one of those things where we wanted to create an emotion. We wanted to create a vibe rather than be, Oh, it’s that weird, it’s so impactful and that’s so special and going to change the world. It was more about, I want to be intimate with this song when we’re listening to it.
Jamie: Yeah, white rice involved a lot of vodka. We went to Toronto and locked ourselves in that. We’re really big fans of writing music and hotel rooms clearly, apparently. We lock ourselves in this Toronto hotel and we got a lot of vodka. We hadn’t written for a while and it was building up inside of Elijah and I like crazy and we just needed to get something out. It’s a little bit more of an aggressive song for sure, but pretty transparent. And so we got as blunt as we could be, we got drunk and Elijah had that production and I hopped on the mic, and a lot of it started out as, correct me if I’m wrong Elijah, freestyle, not really anything but just pieced it together on the mic as we went, which we never do usually with writing a song and then recording it.
But this one we both pieced together live off the floor which was really unique for us, but really cool. And we found the product to be something really unique and different for us and obviously our listeners. So we took a chance on it for sure.
Elijah: Yeah, we definitely wanted to create a strange structure of a song and just have something that it doesn’t necessarily open verse, chorus, verse, chorus. And there’s this overt hook. We just wanted to create something that felt like a listening experience. It’s a deep beat cut on an album but for us we just wanted to release it as a single so to see how things translated.
“Want you back”
Jamie: Yeah, we’re really excited about that one. So we, we’ve been on tour with these songs across Canada and it’s like a room full of kids who are just like excited to be there and change the world. And we, we were lucky enough to close out some of the shows, most of the shows that we were doing and they didn’t initially tell us, but the closer and on your second song, your last song that you perform on the last chorus, they blow confetti into the crowd. And it took us by complete surprise. I was singing it and like I’m sure I was like flat or sharp or something, as soon as the confetti song we almost had a heart attack and it was the most incredible feeling in the world cause we were like, whoa, like we’ve never been like none of our shows have ever had like CO2 or confetti.
Elijah: Yeah and that was a big stadium too it’s crazy.
Jamie: 6000 kids, it was crazy. And on the way home, I think in Winnipeg, Elijah was on the plane and I went to his house the next day and he showed me this instrumental and he’s like, I just wanted to make something that felt like confetti and we wrote it from there. It’s just one of those songs called “want you back.” It’s not necessarily a happy top line, but it’s one of those songs that just makes you feel good and makes you think you’re going to be okay at least for another day. And that’s some of the vibe we wanted to go with the track. So far the feedback that we’ve gotten from it, people are pumped.
Are these songs one-offs or will they be part of a new album or EP?
Elijah: Great question. I think in like the 2020 market, it’s so interesting to see how people consume music. And if you don’t put a song out as a single, it doesn’t often get digested. So I think combining everything to sit within a project over the next few months could be an idea that we’ll roll with. But for the summer songs they’re just going to live on as summer singles. So it’s really something that we wanted to put out to keep things moving, to keep the conversation going and show people a different side of us. But moving forward, we’re definitely looking at combining things into a new project, whether that includes “want you back” or it’s something separate.
Other than the Junos and Want You Back, what lies ahead for you in 2020?
Jamie: Last year 2019 ended on a very interesting note for Eli and I. As I touched on before, we put ourselves in this bubble of chasing a hit and chasing, something that we felt we were portrayed as rather than admittedly staying true to ourselves. And I think that’s what we’re going to work on for 2020. We’re excited for the single and to see the reaction of that. It will tell what happens next for us, we’re really committing to staying true to who we are and staying true to our art in 2020 and that’s something that the fans and the label have shown a lot of support with, which was beautiful for us. It’s really important for Elijah and I and our team.
So I think that’s our main focus for 2020, taking it day by day, week by week and just doing what we love and falling in love with what we do again.