British alt-rocker Jamie T hopes that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Having virtually disappeared for five years after his second overseas smash album “Kings & Queens,” in July he announced (through a handwritten note on his website) that it “might be time to play a few shows.”
Tickets for the four-date U.K. run were snapped up instantly, and a new album was announced: the rollicking “Carry on the Grudge,” with Kinks-quirky urban folktales such as “Zombie,” “The Prophet” and “Limits Lie.”
“So I'm not dead — I'm still here, I'm still around,” says the singer, born Jamie Alexander Treays, who appears in San Francisco this week.
It was just one of the rumors the singer heard about himself during his time away.
“People were actually calling me up, asking if I was dead,” he says. “And that was quite a strange thing — if you think someone's dead, why are you calling their phone? But people were also saying that I'd moved to the U.S., that I no longer did music at all, or that I'd had a mental or nervous breakdown,” he says. “But it was all a lot less dramatic than that, really.”
Dropping off the radar was easy.
The singer simply stopped answering his cellphone, quit posting updates on Twitter and Facebook. He had no new music to release, his parents were both ill — his father diagnosed with cancer, his mother suffering a series of strokes — and he was seriously considering whether to continue recording at all.
“So I didn't see any point in keeping a presence online and faking it,” he says. “Doing that didn't seem weird. But quite clearly, to other people, it was incredibly strange. If you just stop talking in this day and age, everyone freaks out.” While caring for his folks, and wrestling with the idea of going into studio production, the composer never stopped writing. He finished more than 180 songs in the interim, in thematic batches, most yielding just one standout.
To expand his lyrical vocabulary, he combed poetry and philosophy books, underlining key phrases as he went. When he finally glimpsed a skeleton of “Grudge,” he penned its final four tracks in two weeks.
His parents are doing fine now, Jamie T is pleased to report. And so is he.
A rock career, he says, “is a real roller-coaster ride, and you rarely get a moment to stop and think if you're in it for the right reasons or not. So having that time off was really helpful, because it made me realize that it is a part of me, making music. And I really do enjoy it.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 2
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com