Exploring the unique relationship between football and music in the city of Liverpool
Brought to you by Levi's
He’s our centre half, He’s our number four.
People are hugging. Some of them are singing.
We watch him defend, And we watch him score.
No, everyone is singing. Everyone. Arms, suddenly pneumatic, puncture the air above in unison. The voices rise.
He’ll pass the ball, Calm as you like.
A sudden quiet and the muted staccato strum of a single guitar chord.
He’s Virgil Van Dijk. He’s Virgil Van Dijk.
The voice washes over. This is Liverpool, at least the red side of it, together in song. Jamie Webster, an electrician by day, conducts the orchestra with his acoustic guitar.
Music has long been the lifeblood of this city. Ever since The Beatles and Merseybeat, Liverpool has long been a city of great musical influence in Britain. Its influence doesn't show any signs of waning, either, as Levi's are choosing the city for their latest Music Project.
Set in the heart of Anfield, the Levi's Music Project is built for the community but especially for young people finding their feet as musicians. It's fitting that Liverpool Football Club is at the centre of it all, as they have been in supporting and promoting Jamie Webster's own career so far - from the half-empty pubs to playing in front of thousands in Shevchenko Park before the Champions League final.
Liverpool fan and Mercury Prize-nominated rapper Loyle Carner is the artist who will be collaborating this year, working with a group of young local musicians on original material. The sessions will take place at the Liverpool Lighthouse and culminate in performances at the Sound City festival, for which tickets are now on sale.
It's the kind of community music space that can really make a difference, not just to the young people but to the club who, through music, forge connections with supporters that will last a lifetime. To a place like Liverpool, which prides itself on its musical heritage as much as the success of its football team, the partnership between the club and the community is and has always been as vital to the city as the Mersey itself.
To help chart his own meteoric rise and gauge what it's like growing up as a young musician in the city, as well as to find out just how the Levi's Music Project could impact on another aspiring artist's career, JOE spoke to Jamie Webster to hear about his journey so far.
He believes it is organised local events that are responsible for the music spreading around the city. It's no coincidence that the country's leading independent music festival - Liverpool Sound City Festival - is taking place here in May, with Levi’s Music Project partnering with them for the culmination of their project. The young artists of Levi’s Music Project will even be performing on the main stage on the 5th May, just before their mentor Loyle Carner.
Jamie was first bought a guitar by his mum when he was six, but didn’t really take to it. He tells me he was too busy playing football. Funnily enough, it was football that brought him back to music, the gateway drug into bands like Oasis.
He started working and paying his way to every Liverpool game home and away, as well as playing the odd gig around town, where he would mostly perform covers for that bit extra of cash to follow Liverpool through Europe. It was on one of the away day coaches that some lads he knew put him in touch with a people running a grassroots music night.
The rest, as they say, is history.
You’ll probably know him best as the instigator-in-chief of the Virgil Van Dijk song, or 'Allez Allez Allez', two of the most infectious football chants in recent years. 'Allez', in particular, was the anthem that carried the team through their miracle Champions League run last year, which, although ending in defeat, saw a now legendary takeover in Shevchenko Park, central Kiev, where thousands of arms were held aloft, and thousands of Scouse voices were heard ringing out.
"I always think with music it’s inclusive," Jamie told JOE. He sees it as the reason those songs take off with supporters, spreading like wildfire across the internet, played on phones in pubs and bars as fans learn the words themselves so they can join in the singalong next time.
"I always think it makes them look forward to going to matches – to sing that song. And reliving that moment. And saying yeah – we’ll get behind them and we’ll all sing this and bounce around together."
He has now sung songs with Jamie Carragher, Alisson and Jurgen Klopp himself, who turned up unannounced at one of Jamie’s pub gigs during this season's pre-season tour in America to soak in the atmosphere.
It all began to accelerate for him years earlier during the 2013/14 season, when Webster started singing out the most popular song of that particular campaign: a Jordan Henderson anthem set to 'Mrs Robinson' by Simon & Garfunkel. A fan-filmed video of his performance, and no doubt the crowd’s eagerness to belt the song back at him, caught Liverpool Football Club’s eye and they got in touch with Jamie to do the music for a documentary they were producing about the origins of all the famous songs associated with the club.
"They gave me about thirteen songs they wanted me to learn and it was a bit of a blessing in disguise for my career," Jamie says.
"I learnt them for the documentary and then off the back of the Boss Night event I started playing The Halfway House on a match day as well, after the game. I started dropping Liverpool songs into the set. I still play Friday night down in the city centre but that’s not Liverpool, that’s just my own music.
"It was surreal. The club got in touch first and foremost and then following ‘Allez Allez Allez’. They just said listen: 'we’ve got an idea to do a Boss Night so to speak in Shevchenko Park. And I first thought bloody hell. I’m gonna be playing on a stage in front of 10,000 people with John Power [The La’s] and Peter Hooton [The Farm]. It’s something you dream of, as a musician. That’s something you dream of.
"Then being there on the day we just felt unbeatable in that park. Obviously, that wasn’t the case, but it was the feeling it gave everyone. It was brilliant.”
Despite all the success he's achieved so far, and becoming something a folk hero around the city and the football club, Jamie Webster still isn't finished. He has his own music that he is continuing to write and perform in the city, with the same football fans who know him through his matchday performances now going along to those gigs irrespective of whether Liverpool songs will be played.
They just want to hear the music.
Find out more about Levi's Music Project here