Jamie Webster was doing what he does best, 3,500 miles from home with acoustic guitar in hand, when a commotion in the crowd stopped him dead in his tracks. Cutting short his cover of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, the Liverpudlian stood agape as a familiar figure headed for the stage. Jürgen Klopp was in the house.
“I was playing for the LFC Detroit Supporters Club. There were only about 60 people in this hotel bar in Michigan and I just heard this scream,” says Webster. “And I looked up and there he was, pointing at me. It was one of the few times in my life I was speechless! I’m quite a confident person, but he’s got a presence about him that is so hard to explain. Even people at the club who work with him every day still feel it.”
The heartwarming clip from Liverpool’s 2018 pre-season tour of the United States has received upwards of 5.4 million hits on YouTube. “It put me on the map in a big way,” the folk singer tells Champions Journal. “Everything catapulted from that point on.”
By then Webster was already a cult hero in Kopite circles thanks to his star turns at the city’s fanzine-run BOSS Night events (“Basically a club for Liverpool fans to continue the matchday after the game”) and a gig at the Reds’ Champions League final fan park in Kyiv. The viral moment with the actual boss, however, lifted Webster’s profile to new heights and meant he could give up the day job.
“I’d been on holiday with my girlfriend in Spain, not looking forward to going back to work as an electrician,” says Webster. “About two days before the end of the holiday, my phone rang and it was Dan Nicolson from BOSS Night. He said Liverpool had been in touch and wanted me to go on a two-week pre-season tour of America with the team, playing gigs, so I was made up.
“I went out there on the plane with the players, and the manager had seen me getting on and off with my guitars and was like, ‘We’re a football team – what’s this fella doing here?’ So someone told him about me and apparently he asked when I was playing.”
Klopp stuck around for a singalong of Webster’s famous version of European anthem Allez, Allez, Allez. The singer had been alerted to the song’s potential when he heard it sung by Porto fans, as he watched Liverpool play at the Estádio do Dragão in February 2018. He was convinced it could become “the new Ring of Fire”, a song synonymous with Liverpool’s miraculous 2005 Champions League triumph in Istanbul.
“I worked out what the words were off the internet and then played it in the pub,” says Webster. “By the end of the night, everyone knew it – we were singing it for hours and hours. The next week we had Manchester United away and all 3,000 of us were bouncing up and down, drowning out Old Trafford with this song. That evening, I had a BOSS Night back in town that got millions of views online. Then we played Man City at Anfield in the Champions League at home and I’ve never been so proud. Not of the fact that I had a part to play in what was going on, but because of the atmosphere – it was insane.”
Allez, Allez, Allez is an unlikely reworking of 1985 Italian disco hit L’estate Sta Finendo (more of which over the page), and the chant has gone on to become a staple at football grounds up and down the UK since its adoption by the Kop. “That’s just football,” says Webster. “It’s the nature of the game. Napoli sing a version of Allez, Allez, Allez and a few other teams around Italy sing it too.”
The chatty 27-year-old songwriter was invited to perform the track with Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker, a fellow guitar aficionado, for the club’s website. “He could play the guitar really well. I told him the chords and he played along with me. He was a lovely fella. Every kid dreams of playing footy with their heroes, but I got to play guitar with one of mine.”
With the Brazilian in goal, Liverpool returned to the Champions League final in 2019 and Webster found himself back on stage pre-match, delighting 60,000 travelling Reds at the fan park in Madrid. “I’m not trying to sound cocky here, but I had them in the palm of my hand – and I knew I would do,” smiles Webster. “Give me people, give me a stage and a guitar and I’ll entertain them.”
“I looked up and there was Jürgen Klopp, pointing at me. I was speechless!”
“I always loved music,” he adds. “I listened to Bob Dylan and thought, ‘Wow, he’s playing a guitar and speaking about politics and real-life things.’ That made me believe that I could do it. I knew I had the passion and that I was quite good with words. I started doing open mic nights around the city centre to earn a bit more money.
“I’m really lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. There are loads of lads in Liverpool who play guitar like me, who can sing better than me, who’ve got a great head on their shoulders and who write great songs. They just haven’t had the exposure.”
Webster played Liverpool covers when on BOSS Night duty but as his following grew and grew, he began slotting a couple of original songs into his set; Weekend in Paradise and This Place both went on to appear on his 2020 debut album. “It got to a point where people were asking for them and that gave me a lot of confidence,” he says. “Building up to the Kyiv season and then Madrid, I had a big platform. After Madrid, I was always going to release Weekend in Paradise, whether that was through my own channels or through a record label.”
For Webster, Liverpool being crowned European Champions for a sixth time wasn’t even half the story of his trip to the Spanish capital. “On the plane over to Madrid I got sat next to Dave Pichilingi, who is CEO of UK/US record label Modern Sky and Sound City festival, and is now my manager,” says Webster. “I’d never heard of him, but we got talking and we really connected, so I said, ‘Give us your number mate, I’ll have a drink with you tonight after my gig.’ And he said, ‘Well I want to take your number anyway son, because I’ve got a few things that might interest you when we come home.’
“I finished the gig in the fan park in front of 60,000 people and broke down in tears. It was such an overwhelming sight. I hugged my girlfriend, my mum and my dad”
“I finished the gig in the fan park in front of 60,000 people and broke down in tears. It was such an overwhelming sight. I hugged my girlfriend, my mum and my dad, then I looked at my phone and a message popped up from Dave saying, ‘That was unbelievable, let’s make a record!’ We went on to win the European Cup and I played at the players’ party – Jürgen slapped me in the face in happiness actually! It was a great night and then I went home to sign a record deal.”
Webster decided to steer away from football tunes on his self-penned debut LP We Get By. As a result, its passionate, politically charged working-class anthems struck a chord with a broader spectrum of people and the album soared to No6 on the UK album chart when it was released in August 2020.
“For eight to ten years I mixed with so many people from different walks of life,” he says. “I came to be aware of politics and what it is to be a working-class citizen – the power that we hold and how it’s lost on us a lot of the time. My music amplifies issues that I feel need to be spoken about more, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are real-life tales in there – means of escape and ways of finding joy in this world.”
Dropping a record while the country was still in the grip of the Covid pandemic proved a mixed blessing for the ‘people’s poet’. “I think that the football being stopped helped me promote the first album, because obviously life stopped as well and people were looking for things on social media,” he says. “But it was frustrating that the momentum died a bit of a death because I couldn’t gig.”
The contrast with his second album, Moments, could not have been more stark; the follow-up landed in January and peaked at No3. “In the couple of weeks after it came out I did eight gigs in seven days, which is phenomenal,” says Webster, who travelled to Texas in March for a slot at Austin’s famed SXSW (South by Southwest) festival. “I’m looking forward to my first proper festival summer so much, so it feels like the momentum is with me this time around. People are getting it now and they are really starting to come on board.
“Obviously, there is a mountain of support in Liverpool for my own music. That’s something I’m really lucky to have and will never take for granted, but it’s starting to move out now and football fans from so many different other teams are getting behind it, because I’m a voice for those people. I’m writing for the working class. I’m writing about our lives and what we go through; the struggles, the joys and escapes that we face. And I always will.”
So as word continues to spread far and wide, what better way to crown his success than with a gig at Anfield one of these days? “I’d better get a couple more albums out there and get a few more fans if I want to do that,” chuckles Webster, warming to the theme. “It’d be a dream, but I’m sure a few people would expect Liverpool songs and I don’t do that when I’m touring my album music, because I’m writing for a whole class of people across the country. I wouldn’t want to alienate anyone just because of my footy team!”