Wouter Hamel is one of those rare artists that make people think that he and his songs have been around forever. But he’s only been an established musical figure since 2007 – in his native Netherlands and far beyond.
With catchy, self-written songs that surf blur the line between pop and jazz, Wouter Hamel was quick in winning the hearts and minds of a large public. His debut album Hamel from 2007, with its hit singles ‘Breezy’ and ‘Don’t Ask’, achieved platinum status, as Wouter and his band played not only the main stages of the Dutch club circuit but also every major pop and jazz festival. His success was welcome but it also proved somewhat overwhelming for both Hamel and his producer Benny Sings. After getting through the chaos of their 2008 breakthrough, they returned to the studio to work on the follow-up album Nobody’s Tune. Further deepening Wouter Hamel’s sound, the album came out in 2009 during his first major national theatre tour that brought him to 50 major Dutch stages.
As Wouter Hamel’s star rose in his own country, the ‘buzz’ around the young singer-songwriter also began spreading around the globe. Japanese radio picked up on him in 2008 as tracks from his debut Hamel began appearing on their playlists. Later in the year, his debut was released in the land of the rising sun, followed in 2009 by Nobody’s Tune. His Japanese successes proved to be the catalyst for a pan-Asian career. In 2009 he was invited to the Seoul Jazz Festival and its enthusiastic South Korean public. As Nobody’s Tune went platinum in his own country, Wouter Hamel and his band returned another five times to South Korea, where the album has meanwhile gone gold.
Independent of his recorded output, Wouter Hamel’s success can be largely attributed to his live performance. 'Hamel’s super-tight band’s playful enthusiasm just keeps shooting catchy tunes into the venue,’ wrote the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant. 'His clear tone, perfect timing and beautiful singular sound forms the solid basis for the royal jewels on top: his vocal cords,’ enthused another national newspaper, De Telegraaf. Whether at an intimate concert hall, a smoky club or mega festival, Hamel and his band always convince. This fact was not lost on Decca Records UK, the acclaimed label that signed Hamel for an international deal in 2009. They fused the first two albums into a seamless whole and put it under the flag of Nobody’s Tune. This international debut not only included older material (‘Don’t Ask’, ‘Breezy’ and ‘In Between’) but also more recent work such as ‘As Long as We’re in Love’ (a duet with Giovanca) and ‘See You Once Again’. This international release was backed by shows in such countries as France, Germany, Tunisia, Spain, Great Britain and Belgium. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the CD/DVD One More Time on the Merry-Go-Round is released, which included a video of one glorious night in the iconic Amsterdam nightclub – and former church – Paradiso. The DVD also featured a documentary about Hamel and his band’s international adventures, complete with a meeting with Hamel’s personal hero Mark Murphy. “During my conservatory years, he was the one who gave me that extra push towards the stage,” says Hamel.
Even though the public is drawn by the name ‘Wouter Hamel’, it’s the band’s collective unity during live shows that really helps explain Wouter’s successes. With keyboardist Thierry Castel, Hamel began working on new songs for Lohengrin. This third album was more personal than ever, and it marked the first time that Hamel was the producer throughout. The lyrics were largely inspired by his experiences, and his already personal sound was deepened further. Yet it remained a very collaborative album with not only Castel but also Jasper van Hulten (drums), Rory Ronde (guitar), Sven Happel (bass) and Gijs van Straalen (percussion), who all took on a larger role in the creative process.
In 2011, the release of Lohengrin marked the beginning of part two of Wouter Hamel’s career. Thanks to its more personal nature, it was hailed as ‘Wouter Hamel’s best album so far’ by both national and international press. Inspired shows followed with a world tour that included such new terrain as China, Indonesia and Singapore. On a creative level, other uncharted territory was also embraced, such as two concerts in the Amsterdam’s legendary classical music venue Concertgebouw. One night was under the sign of Lohengrin, while the second night invited such like-minded musicians as Giovanca, Janne Schra, Roos Jonker, Benny Sings and Lucky Fonz III.
Currently Wouter Hamel is working on his fourth album, set to be released in autumn 2013. This fourth album is preceded by the five-track EP ‘G.I.R.L.S.I.N.T.H.E.C.I.T.Y.!’ with the title track being a duet with Lucky Fonz III. The release of ‘G.I.R.L.S.I.N.T.H.E.C.I.T.Y.!’ also marks the beginning of the 2013 theatre tour of the Netherlands which will keep Hamel and his band busy until the end of April. Later, summer festivals around the world will be welcoming their new favourite son to their stages.
“It's like going back to the 1970s, mixing it up with folk, Burt Bacharach and some klezmer finishing touches. It is also well connected to the present, with the combination of old and new creating a unique musical playfield”
(Guy Zinger, All About Jazz).