Entertainment & Arts

BBC Sound of 2011: Jamie Woon

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Media captionJamie Woon takes us to his recording studio to talk music and family

Electro-soul singer Jamie Woon has come fourth on the BBC's Sound of 2011 list, which showcases some of the most promising new artists for the next 12 months.

One act from the top five is being unveiled every day this week, counting down to Friday, when the number one will be revealed.

Few young artists appear as destined for a life in music as 27-year-old singer and instrumentalist Jamie Woon.

Woon's mother Mae McKenna is a respected Celtic folk singer who has sung backing vocals for artists from Blur to Bjork, Michael Jackson to Kylie Minogue, appearing on more than 20 number one hits.

She also provided vocals for her brother Hugh's group The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, who had a string of hits in the 1970s.

"On my mum's side it's quite a musical family," explains the quietly spoken Woon, somewhat underplaying his musical roots.

"I definitely grew up around it and was encouraged to sing at family parties. I'm an only child and mum managed to take me along when she couldn't get a babysitter. So I've always felt very comfortable in studios."

Image caption Woon names Stevie Wonder, Jeff Buckley and John Martyn among his musical heroes

Despite the musical background, Woon claims he "never really thought of it as a job or something that I would want to do when I grew up".

Woon instead waited until he was around 15, "when his voice broke", before joining a band and going on to enrol in the Brit School, graduating around the same time as Amy Winehouse - who he would later support live.

Blessed as Woon is with a smooth soul voice, his use of sparse and atmospheric beats has seen him be embraced by the dubstep community, working with the likes of Burial and Ramadanman.

But pigeonholing him as dubstep or nu-soul is tricky.

"At the heart of what I do is R&B, it's groove-based vocal-led music, and I try to sing abouit things that are close to my heart and that matter to me," says Woon.

"I find soul a bit of a heavy word, so I prefer not to use it."

But Woon admits he is as influenced by mid-90s R&B vocal groups as he is by more classic artists. "I love that stuff as well, I grew up with Boys II Men.

"It was one of my first loves actually."

Woon, from New Malden, Surrey, says he is most comfortable in the studio. "The process really interests me, it's like a painting, putting things down in layers and building something immediate," he says.

Yet he has been clocking up a serious number of gigs, often with just a guitar and an effects box, which he uses to loop beatboxing and vocals.

"It is quite satisfying and a bit fly by the seat of your pants because you can't really go back," he explains. "So you're open to mistakes. It's an interesting mix of recording and performing."

Woon heads back out on the road in February and his debut album is scheduled for release in the spring through Polydor Records. His latest single Night Air was released in October on his own label Candent Songs.

Woon says he is hoping to attract some young artists to his fledgling label and has some "people in mind", including some "friends who have been making music for a while".

As for his position on the Sound of 2011 list, Woon admits: "It's really nice, its like an acknowledgment of the work I've been doing until now.

"Hopefully it means people will be looking out for my record."

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