"This is the record I’ve been wanting to make since I started" We chat with Jamie Lin Wilson
Having just announced her second album, Jumping Over Rocks, which is out on 26th October, we had the chance to ask Jamie Lin Wilson a bunch of questions about the record. To find out how she wrote the songs, where it was recorded, and what the best tracks are, read on.
Hey Jamie, how the heck are you today?
Hi! I’m good so far. Slept so well in a Holiday Inn bed last night that I just googled how I can get one.
What have you been doing with your day so far?
Well, it’s early. So, I woke up and came downstairs for breakfast with my computer. Trying to get some work done!
And where are you right now?
What can you tell us about your new record, Jumping Over Rocks, in two sentences?
This is the record I’ve been wanting to make since I started. Everything came together - the songs, the sounds, the players - exactly how I wanted, and I feel like it’s a really good representation of my life and style.
How did you go about writing and choosing which songs to record?
For this record, I did a little more of looking around rather than looking within. So, I paid attention to things happening around me rather than my own personal experiences. Even though there’s plenty of that, too! I’m not a very prolific writer, so I tend to just have a few more songs than I need. It wasn’t too hard to narrow them down, even though there are some that got pushed out as I wrote more during the recording process... I finished three songs either right before or during the time we were in the studio.
What can you tell us about the studio you recorded in, and how that influenced the record?
Arlyn Studios in Austin. I’ve done a few sessions there as a harmony singer for friends, and ever since I set foot in there, I knew I wanted to make this record there. The vibe is undeniable, the gear is the best, and the rooms are set up so recording live is not a challenge. The band all set up together in the cutting room, and I was just on the other side of the window with my guitar and microphone. We could all see each other as we were playing and what you hear on the record is what we laid down in real time. It was very important to me to record that way, and Arlyn just made it so easy to get it done. Not to mention the folks that run the place are good as gold and made us feel so welcome and loved. That does wonders for the creative process.
What can you tell me about ‘Instant Coffee Blues’? It’s one of my favourite songs on the record.
I know that so many folks say this, but Guy Clark is the pinnacle of songwriting for me. I’ve been covering his songs since I learned how to play and sing, and leaning on his imagery since I began writing. I’ve been singing 'Instant Coffee Blues' for years, and I’ve always wanted to record it. Specifically, I thought it would make a really interesting duet by adding the female perspective. I thought maybe I’d make a special project, or a single one day. Then, I was going through songs for the record with my producer, Scott Davis, and just mentioned off-hand that I’d always wanted to record it. Why not? Let’s do it.
Jack Ingram came to visit the studio the first day and heard me rehearsing it and offered to come back later in the week to sing on it. Jack’s been an influence on me from day one, a good friend in recent years, and was a friend to Guy. So, of course, turns out, he thought a duet was the way to go, too. Lucky me.
‘Faithful & True’ is quite an opening track, can you tell us what that song’s about?
Speaking of Jack and Arlyn Studios, he and I wrote that song together there last year some time. We had written together years before but it didn’t really take, so we decided to try again as better friends. I took an idea to him about a woman who was living with an internal battle, projecting something she was not in order to keep those around her comfortable. Somewhere in the lyric was a line that said “I’ve been faithful and I’ve been true”. He caught on to that line and said “I think that’s the song… the faithful and true part.” So, we refocused, turned it into a waltz, and got the bulk of the song that day. I have a bad habit of needing to be alone and think slowly when I write something that goes deep, and he has a habit of overscheduling himself, so we went our separate ways and finished the song the next day from our own places. But we knew it was something really special.
In my mind, as we wrote it I was thinking of a woman in a relationship, trying to get into the mindset of that internal struggle. I played it at a show a few months ago and a friend’s mom said that she thought it was a prayer. I like that a lot, so that’s how I think of it now.
What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear?
I’m sure that this will change over the course, but I’m particularly attached to 'Death & Life' right now. It’s a song I’ve been trying to write for a long time, about my experience watching people deal with life after death. It’s pretty heavy, but I tried not to make it sad. The characters in the song are all people who are close to me and I love them very much, so putting them in a song was challenging in that I wanted to be true to them. The image of the children in the graveyard who are “jumping over rocks” in the last verse - those are my own kids. Sometimes songs are hard to write and not worth it. Sometimes, though, they are.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
I try really hard to not focus on opportunities that I’ve not been given, and I’ve never really assumed that I didn’t get on a show or festival because of my gender. I know that happens, and I’m sure it has happened to me. I’ve heard from a couple booking agents (honestly), that they have a hard time booking women and don’t really know how to do it on account of booking venues that rely on beer sales and women not really selling beer. If that’s the case, that’s not the agent for me anyway.
You and Brandy Zdan had a minor chat about fesitvals and gender balanced line-ups on Twitter today, is it offensive that it feels forced to put more women on festival line-ups and into venues? I mean the point you were both making is that you’re better than most of the guys anyway. And you’re right.
First of all, Brandy Zdan is a badass. She works as hard or harder than anyone I know in this industry to keep learning and has always been someone I look up to in terms of drive, writing, and work ethic. That being said, this conversation in particular was brought on by someone on Twitter going after a festival for not booking enough women and saying that they should all be 50/50. There are so many variables in this, and I don’t really want to go over them all now. Catch me after a few beers some time and I’ll talk your ear off. BUT, the festival they were going after actually had more women then most fests their size, so the point I was trying to get across was that if you keep screaming about gender inequality, even when it’s obvious that they tried to get a good number of women, it lessens the strength of the argument. It’s something that I tell my kids all the time, too. If you cry about everything, I’ll stop hearing it.
Brandy’s point was that it should be merit-based. I don’t know any women in this industry that want to be put on something to fill a quota. We want to be there because we deserve it. It’s coming around. People are taking notice and when they do, we’ll be here.
Have you noticed a difference over the last few months as #MeToo and #TimesUp gain publicity?
I have. There’s a sensivity now regarding the treatment of women that is gaining ground in society. As a woman in a male-dominated business, I feel fortunate to have been surrounded by supportive men & women of power rather than those who are looking to take advantage. But, I’ve heard first-hand accounts of those who haven’t been so lucky. As a mother of daughters, I’m glad that this has been brought into light so maybe by then it’ll be something of the past.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
It’s funny, there are some people who I just can’t be cool around no matter how hard I try. I played with Joe Ely about a month ago. I’ve met him a ton of times, and it still takes me so long to feel like I can contribute to the conversation without looking (or feeling) like a nervous kid. And this is coming from someone who could talk to a wall.
I was around Kristofferson for the first time a couple years ago, and everyone involved in the event got up for 'Bobby McGee' at the end of the show. I wasn’t on the bill so I was standing on the side of the stage watching. Lori McKenna waved me up (!!!!) so I went and stood next to hear to sing along and by the end of the song, there were tears streaming down my face under the weight of the moment.
I couldn’t bring myself to meet him, and I was fine with that. That was a major starstruck “whose life is this” moment.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
“Summer’s End” by John Prine
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Where are your kids? I dropped them off with my mom yesterday and they’ll be there for five days and I’m gonna get SO MUCH DONE!!! But I already miss them dearly.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Either cream or sugar. Never both, and sometimes black.
Jamie's new record, Jumping Over Rocks, is out on 26th October. You can pre-order now. To find out more about Jamie visit her website, or you can follow her on Twitter.