THEGAYUK’s editor Jake Hook meets Jamie Lambert in the rather exquisite surroundings of The Trading House bar and restaurant in the heart of London’s financial district. Taking in the surroundings Jamie looks around at the dark wood panelling and the strange mix of taxidermy animal heads and travel objet d’art that clutters the room. He grins, revealing the whitest set of teeth and remarks that it all looks amazing.
**interview taken from Issue 20 May 2016**
Relaxed and confident, Jamie is one fifth of the musical boy- band Collabro who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. Since then they’ve released two albums and two tours – all within a year and a half. Soon after winning BGT Jamie came out as gay – in a huge splash in The Sun and is probably one of the last of the boy-banders to reveal their sexuality in this way again – it’s much more en vogue now to take to YouTube and control your coming out message than splash your story in the tabloids.
His charm and boyish good looks belie a real thinker. He has a comment on everything and isn’t afraid to rock the boat. He says what he thinks – but is never confrontational – it’s a real talent to the point you find it hard to argue anything the man has to say. As he settles into the first set of clothes for today’s shoot, the man is literally a dream to style – I wonder what life is like for the five some under the watchful eye of TV and record execs…
JH: So you’ve just ended your second tour, the five of you must get up to mischief?
JL: We prank each other quite a lot, but we’re not really too naughty. Three of the boys have girlfriends, which always keeps them very good. That’s always a sticking point. We have good fun as well. We tend to go on the odd night out as well which is always quite debaucherous. For example, we went on one last year where I had an argument with a bouncer in the toilet and it was all very dramatic. It was great. We really enjoy being away from home for a bit and exploring the band on tour.
JH: Your management sounds like they don’t tightly reign you in.
JL: No, not at all. We run ourselves when we’re away.
JH: Do you think that’s indicative for bands now? Less management involvement and actually letting you take responsibility for yourselves?
JL: Oh no, I think it’s the opposite. I think people are very tightly controlled now because of social media. For example, we just tend to look after ourselves because we’re very capable. I do think people tend to think that we have more free reign than we do, but management do tend to get very involved. Not with us, with a lot of bands. Especially younger bands. We’re a bit older. We’re mid-twenties. When you have teens like Union J and One Direction, for example, they’re super controlled.
JH: Why do you think that is?
JL: I think because they’re naughtier! They’re young lads. I was naughty when I was young. I’m obviously still young now, but it’s one of those things where you think, “Oh, I bet they’re on tour being really off the rails and that’s why their management needs to step in and be really careful.”
JH: Do you think there’s an expectation, because of your band’s background is musical theatre, that you’re somehow better behaved?
JL: It’s the expectation. I think it’s not necessarily true. We still like to go out for a good drink, and have fun, and do things, but I do think there is an expectation about being from theatre. I think most people hear, musical theatre, and they think culture, yet most musical theatre, we’re absolutely filthy.
JH: Do tell? What kind of filth are we talking about?
JL: I think it’s mainly just attitude towards nightlife. We have fun. We all go out and get drunk. We all tend to get on. That’s the best thing about it, we all tend to have very similar interests. We all tend to get on very well.
JH: Is your fan-base different from say Union J’s or One Direction’s?
JL: I think we have similar fans, but I think we extend to a much larger audience in terms of age ranges. We sing a lot of musical theatre, of course, we do a bit of Disney and pop crossovers and stuff, so we have that really big extension of fans. People really love the fact that we have a bit of variety within our music and within our sound, so that’s something we intend to carry on doing.
JH: You’ve just finished a tour… Do you know if there’s another album in the mix?
JL: It’s not currently in the mix, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. It just means that we finished BGT in mid-2014 and it’s not even mid-2016. We’ve had two albums out, two tours.
Actually, I think we want to spend a bit more time with the next one. Actually, take a break and really work on it.
JH: Do you think that you’ll continue down the musical theatre route or perhaps maybe look at other genres?
JL: I can imagine we’ll do whatever we feel is right at the time. With the first album, for example, we did more pop crossover but I think the next album, we put that shit down and really think about what we want to do and how we want to present ourselves because people need to grow.
Music needs to grow. We’re better singers now than we were back then. We’re all a bit more well established and we know more about things. I think it’s really important that we take out time.
JH: Is there a big contest about who gets to sing which song?
JL: No, I don’t think there is. We tend to give it to whoever does the best with it. All five of us have good voices, so it tends to split itself rather equally.
JH: So many music groups now exist because of shows like X Factor and BGT. Do you think a band can exist without that sort of pro le in today’s music business?
JL: Yes, I do. I think it’s more dif cult. I think it can exist. I think we’re in a culture at the minute where we were lucky because we’re something different. We’re very organic and new. There wasn’t anything like us already. That’s why we were lucky. Also, Britain’s Got Talent came up with our platform. It wasn’t our creator.
What you have to know about the X Factor is that when you see the ratings last year, it’s gone downhill because people are bored of the same things. When they come back next year, I think they need to do something much different to what they’ve done already.
JH: Do you think that getting rid of Nick Grimshaw and the presenting duo is actually the problem? I don’t think it is.
JL: No. I think Nick’s very nice. I think he’s very good. I’m not sure he was the best at it, but he’s under a lot of pressure. I love Louis Walsh.
I miss Louis Walsh. I’ve met him a few times and he’s a very nice gentleman. Very knowledgeable about the industry and also a good TV personality. Obviously, Simon’s great. I think it is the judges that are the problem, It’s more about the judges than it is about anything else now.
JH: What would your ultimate lineup be?
JL: Jennifer Saunders. That would be amazing. Otherwise, I would say, someone who really knows how to sing.
Jessie J I think is probably a good example. She’s really bloody good at singing. I think someone like that or Ed Sheeran. Great singer. I think people need to respect the panel because the panel needs to know what they’re talking about.
JH: So we’ll be getting rid of Cheryl then?
JL: I tell you what, I think she’s a very good judge. She’s a brilliant businesswoman and she’s survived in this industry and has more number ones than any other woman. She’s got consecutive number ones. She knows what she’s doing and she’s a very valuable person to have on the panel I think.
People criticise her for her singing all the time. To be honest, I don’t really think she is the best singer in the world, but she’s a bloody good business woman and she knows what she’s doing. That I think is to be greatly admired.
JH: When you came out it was quite a splash. You’re probably one of the last boy band’s members to ever do it the more traditional route of coming out in a big way on the front of a newspaper or magazine… A lot of stars are now taking to YouTube and doing it in their own way.
JL: Yeah. Let me explain the only reason why I felt like I had to do it was because it was already found out. I was already out as a person. I wasn’t a sort of person who was in the closet. I’ve been out for years. I never really came out. I was just me. The reason I felt like I had to do it was because I thought Dan (Wootton) would handle this perfectly.
I think The Sun was brilliant about it. I knew they would do a good story, so I thought they were the ones to go with. Let me tell you the issues I have. I think it’s very brave for people to come out via YouTube, but I do dream of a world where that isn’t necessary anymore. I feel like sometimes when people do it, it’s based on a career opportunity. I just think it’s sad that sometimes we have to use it as a kind of publicity when actually we should be so comfortable with ourselves that it shouldn’t matter what everyone else thinks.
The reason I did choose The Sun, I made them have the headline: My Parents Always Knew rather than Jamie From Collabro Comes Out, because I wasn’t coming out. I’m perfectly happy with myself and I always have been. I think the stars that do it on YouTube are very brave and I give all credit to them, but I do dream of a world where we don’t have to do that anymore.
JH: I think, in a way maybe coming out in the future will be much subtler. That it’s actually, “ Jamie from Collabro is seeing someone.”
JL: Exactly. Wouldn’t that be nice?
JH: It would be interesting, but I think it will always make news because people are always interested in who you’re going to bed with.
JL: I agree with that. The way that you do it is… I do hope that you don’t have to come out. You’re just spotted somewhere with someone. I think that’s what I dream of. I dream of that. I want that to happen.
JH: You say you’re out to your family and your parents?
JL: Friends and everyone. Absolutely everyone knew. I’m not flamboyant. I’m not particularly; obviously, I’m just me. One day I brought a man home from uni and that was it.
JH: How did your parents react?
JL: It was very normal. Completely normal. My mum already knew. My dad was under the impression I think. My dad gave me a big hug and that was it. My sister invited him in and my mum cooked for him. That was it really. We just had a great … I’m very lucky. I understand that I’m very lucky in that respect. I have many friends and many exes who haven’t had that kind of support.
JH: Okay. Now there’s almost this expectation that when a boy band hits the scene that at least one of you will be gay or bi… We’ve seen how it doesn’t really affect sales anymore and that it can actually be a positive thing. Do you think that adds pressure to the other band mates to somehow be different?
JH: If they were, for instance, gay themselves or bi, would their coming out have to then be managed even more?
JL: I think that’s the new thing isn’t it? Jamie Hensley was always the gay one in Union J and then suddenly George had to come out as bi. Whether or not I think that was a necessary move. I just wish George had just been pictured with a man. What I love. I’ll tell you who did it bloody brilliant was Harry Styles. That was brilliant.
JH: Oh, when he said that being female was not a necessary trait in a partner?
JL: Yeah. I had so much respect for him for that. I’ve absolutely mountains of respect for that boy because he is absolutely one of the most level-headed people I’ve ever met. He just said, “You know what?” She said, “What kind of girl do you like?” He was like, “Well, it’s not really that important.” It was really just a tossed away comment and it was a huge deal to everyone, but everyone said, “Oh, he doesn’t care. Well, neither do we then.”
Then it’s not important anymore. How bloody wonderful is that? If he wants to date a boy, let him date a boy. He’s a gorgeous man. Very talented. He’s got a lot going for him. Whoever he wants to date, he can date and it’s no one’s business really. Obviously, the papers are going to get involved because it’s who he’s dating, but I’m really glad that he said gender wasn’t important because that was a huge step forward. Someone in that position of power to say something like that. A great amount of power actually.
JH: Would you like to be the boy?
JL: Oh, God. Absolutely. Harry’s gorgeous. It’s that laid-back tattooed kind of thing. He’s also just a very nice person. He’s actually very well-known in the industry for being the most approachable member of the band. He remembers everyone’s names. Shakes everyone’s hand. Just very nice, genuine person.
JH: When you type your name into Google, coming out is the first thing that comes up after Wikipedia. What do you wish would come up first instead of that?
JL: Well, I’m going to work on that, because actually, I think it’s nice. Well, the other thing that comes up is that I have body dysmorphia. You see that I have an eating disorder. That’s the second thing that comes up and actually, I don’t mind either of those things because I really want to be able to be there for people who… I get letters and DMs and stuff all the time to say, “I’m a man with an eating disorder and your story helped me,” or, “I’m a man who needs to come out,” or a lady who needs to come out, or, “I don’t identify my gender” or whatever is the problem, “and your story’s helped me.”
That is a huge deal to me because it makes it worth me having fought to get through it in the first place. I’ll never stop replying to things and I’ll never stop. It gives me such a sense of purpose to be here. To be able to use my experiences and the sort of position I’ve gained from being in this band to be able to be there for people who don’t really feel like they have anyone.
JH: Famously Collabro got naked for a magazine shoot last year. Was that difficult to do?
JL: It was, but actually I’m at a stage now where I don’t want a six-pack. I don’t want rippling muscles. I’m not that kind of person. I do go to the gym and I do keep myself relatively in shape, but I do that for me and for my health and not for anyone else. If I take myself out in public, the only person who needs to worry about what I look like is me and nobody else.
I thought, “You know what? I’m just going to take my top off. I’m going to get into a pair of shorts and I’m going to stand with these guys who are really muscly. Who are really slim. They’re a mix of bodies and I’m just going to be there and be proud of myself.” That’s what I was and I am.
We’re not waxed, v-necks, Geordie Shore, big rippling muscles, and going to the gym every day. We are five very different, very normal guys who have normal bodies and put our faith in music and nothing else. I think that’s really important.
JH: It must be hard though to see your band mates in the nude…
JL: We spent all day together actually. It was a bit weird actually.
JH: Don’t tell me you feel like you’re all brothers.
JL: No, not really. We think we’re like brothers. We love each other. I think that wasn’t too weird. We see each other naked all the time because we change all the time, so we’re always getting changed into performance outfits. We go to the gym together quite a lot on tour.
JH: Just one more question, it’s about the Tweet that you sent during X Factor last year, and I loved it by the way. You accused the producers of parading around the gay married couple like animals in a zoo. Do you think that it was contrived?
JL: That’s one reason why I think the ratings are not as good. It’s all so obviously contrived now. When that program first came out, it was like, “Oh my God, she’s got an amazing voice. Look at her sob story,” and now everything is like, “Look at her sob story. You’ve got to have a sob story to be here.”
They need to change that around because The Voice is kicking off more. I think they need to be really careful because even The Voice is having more sob stories. We didn’t have a sob story. We refused to have one. BGT was very respectful of that, but with the X Factor, that gay couple, it was, “Look at this cute couple? Aren’t they lovely? By the way, look aren’t they gay? Oh, it’s gays on camera.”
I thought, “You know, I’m f*cking sick of this,” because it’s nothing to do with their singing. It’s nothing to do with their talent. It was just parading two gay people around on camera like they were elephants in a zoo and everyone going, “Aw, look at the gays.”
That is so offensive to me.