Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson is loving his role in American Idiot

Appearing in a musical is something Phil Jamieson hadn’t done since he was in High School, but when the producers of American Idiot asked if he’d like to play the role of St. Jimmy he leaped at the chance.

“I just said yes because it sounded different and fun” the front man of indie band Grinspoon said of the moment he received the email asking him to join the production.

“I didn’t really think of the consequences of it,” Jamieson said of his gut decision, “then when I got into the room I found that it was going to be quite challenging.”

“I had a steep learning curve, but I think with anything, something that’s different and challenging and fun is always good. The music is really good, the songwriting by Billie Joe is so good, there’s so many bangers in this musical it’s ridiculous.”

The musical is based on American band Green Day’s 2004 concept album of the same name, and it made its Broadway debut in 2010. The bands songwriter and lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong played the role of St Jimmy in some of the Broadway performances.

Jamieson said working in a musical was a very different experience than playing on stage with a band.

“They have props”: he said, breaking out in a laugh, “I have to be in the right place at the right time, there’s dialogue and a script, I have to play a character, I’m not playing myself. Rock n roll is a little more cerebral and this is a much more exhilarating euphoric ride. In rock n roll mistakes are celebrated and improvisation is what I do, but theatre is much more of a machine.”

Performing eight shows a week is also a schedule that Jamieson had to adjust to, saying you have to really look after yourself while on tour, and the costume department don’t let you put on any kilos.

Jamieson said he was overwhelmed by fan’s reactions to last year’s reunion tour for his band Grinspoon.

“We were overwhelmed that people wanted to see us, we stopped touring in 2013, I went and got a job, and we all just did normal things. We became adults.”

The singer said when the idea of a reunion tour first came about he wasn’t initially overly enthusiastic. “I didn’t even know where my guitar was” he comments.

Initially the band hoped to do a tour of small venues including Perth’s Rosemount Hotel. “The idea was to create it like it was 1997, play small venues and be really intimate with fans, but we ended up playing entertainment centres and it snowballed into this massive tour, but it was unbelievably fun.”

The band raised money for marriage equality by donating the proceeds of sales of their tour t-shirts from their Melbourne shows to the cause. On the shirts Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena was renamed Marriage Equality Arena.

“It’s an issue that was very close to all of the band members’ hearts, but specifically to mine and Joe’s” Jamieson said. “I’m glad we were able to give support, and really glad that the ‘Yes’ vote went through.”

“The next thing is the #metoo movement, and making sure that that comes to fruition.” noting that as a father of two daughters he’d been inspired by a speech given by US singer Halsey at a Women’s March in January. “It’s important that it’s given a voice, that’s the important thing and people feel safe.”

Jamieson laughs off suggestions that his new love of theatre might lead to a Grinspoon musical in the future, describing the art form of writing a musical as a “Holy Grail”.

“I think when Billie Joe wrote American Idiot in 2004 he was writing a rock opera, kind of in the vein of Tommy that’s how the record plays out, and it was adapted to musical theatre. I still think of it as a rock opera on stage, I wouldn’t say its a traditional musical by any stretch of the imagination., but it’s definitely not a traditional rock opera either.

“It’s just a great show, it’s so much fun and it’s really quite moving.” Jamieson said.

American Idiot is at the Crown Theatre for a limited season from 2-11 February. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.

Graeme Watson, images Ken Leanfore, Dylan Evans


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