If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you have likely heard the haunting voice of Jamie N Commons emitted over the show’s Season 3 trailer. But after The Sun reported that Eminem’s also tapping his voice for a big summer single, checking out Chicago-raised Brit’s first performance on U.S. soil was quickly added to our to-do list.
Performing a 40-minute set at Mercury Lounge in New York City last night, the Interscope signee was able to showcase his vocal chops for a small group of fans and industry insiders.
While revealing the fact that it was Commons’ first American gig, the UK singer/songwriter graciously revealed his gratitude, sharing with us that growing up on American music had led to the moment: one that he referred to as “the summation of this great land.” Although he was “nervous as shit,” Commons and his four-piece band (including a pianist and harmonica-playing lead guitarist) performed a roaring set, albeit hand-in-hand with Commons’ own guitar not working properly until the final song. Watching him struggle, longing to play the instrument that dangled awkwardly from his neck, if nothing more than because it’s how he’s accustomed to performing, was noticeably endearing. It didn’t distract listeners from his sonant prowess, however.
It is his voice, after all, that likely got him selected for The Walking Dead promo, a spot in our very own episode 7 of this season’s Mob Wives, and now, Eminem’s liner notes. Crackling like a fire, his boundary-crossing sound can emanate menacing bluesy rock, cozy folk-pop, or warm, gospel-inspired soul. Darker songs like “The Preacher” suit Commons’ raw intention to bring blues to harvest in his music, but there are other lanes that benefit from his gravelly vocal besides the zombie market. A romantic side is present in his music, too. After singing “The Preacher” and “Rumble and Sway” – the title track single from his new EP that’s out today – he performed more luminous songs like crowd-pleasing “Worth Your While” and, perhaps tapping into some Americana and the chivalry of a Southern gentleman, removed his fedora to croon tender love ballad, “Caroline.”
Commons’ round, rosy cheeks are plumper than the rest of his body, and as he’d tuck his shoulder length hair behind his ears like a handsome rock star on stage, his baby face betrayed him. Even if he wasn’t already working with with Grammy-winning producer Alex Da Kid on his full-length LP – a beat-maker known for collaborating with heavyweights Nicki Minaj, and you guessed it, Eminem – Commons is definitely a talent to keep your eye on in 2013.