BY LESLEY HASTINGS
Photo Credit Jody Domingue
Having recently released her third studio album, the truly genre-defying “Feel Good” ( New West Records) it was a total pleasure to get the chance to chat toJaime Wyatt about the project, which was recorded in Austin, Texas at producer Adrian Quesada’s studio.
A West Coast native (she was born in California, raised in Washington and is now living in Nashville) Jaime first began turning heads with her 2017 debut album “Felony Blues” which chronicled her now much-publicised battle with addiction, her incarceration for robbing her heroin dealer and subsequent transformative journey through the criminal justice system. Her follow up, 2020’s “Neon Cross” tackled more profoundly personal revelations including her coming out as a gay woman.
“Feel Good” continues her story throughout its eleven tracks and her writing is even more unguarded and intuitive on this project. Just listen the lead single, the driving anthem “World Worth Keeping” which got to #1 on the Americana Radio Chart, and hopefully you’ll get what I mean.
Our 20 minute Zoom chat was fun and very insightful, it even got quite philosophical at one point too….I hope you enjoy the read!
LH Hi Jaime, thanks so much for your time today! Where are you speaking to me from?
JW Thank you so much! I’m in Malibu, California right now, I’m taking meetings in LA this week, we played the Orville Peck rodeo on Sunday and an album release show in LA on Thursday.
LH Before we talk about the new album, I wanted to congratulate you on your Opry debut last week. Can you tell me what that meant to you and a little bit about the night itself… you had some family there I gather?
JW Yes! My Mum and sister flew out for that one and it was really special. You know, I don’t buy into things too much but when I showed up I could definitely feel it. It’s an honour, really validating for me as a songwriter, and that felt good. I’ve worked a long time writing songs.
LH Indeed! So on to the new music now, I’m loving it and it’s my favourite album of yours by far. I’m finding it really powerful and emotionally moving…..is that what you were aiming for?
JW Oh good, thank you! Yes, that’s the reaction I’d hope for, an emotional response. That’s the gauge I use when I’m writing, like an emotional temperature gauge. You know when you get that feeling when someone is talking you and they say “I felt totally SEEN”, especially if you’re queer and someone says that to you, it would resonate with me that there’s some type of emotional connection to the words. So that’s what I’m always doing when I’m writing in the hope that people have an emotional response, that they are grabbed by it and able to participate in their emotions in the music.
LH Is there any track in particular that seems to be getting that reaction?
JW The one my friends hit me up a lot about is “Hold Me One Last Time” …
LH OMG yes, I’ve got the track list here and have highlighted that one and “Love Is A Place“ and I have written “beautiful“! The fact that they are together on the album too is so perfect .
In fact the songs I’m enjoying the most seem to be those you wrote with Josh Stauther including the driving opener “World Worth Keeping“ which I find myself singing when I’m walking my dogs in the countryside near here. You two seem to have a great connection…
JW Ha that’s so cute! Yeah Josh was a big part of this record and finding him was the missing piece. The label wanted me to go in and make a record pretty soon after “Neon Cross” as any label would but I was holding out as I was looking for the right musicians, including a keyboardist who knows gospel …. Joshua played organ all over the record, I love how he plays. I met him in Nashville playing with an artist called Curtis Harding, a great soul artist who tours Europe a lot by the way. It was at Exit/In before it closed down and I was like “hey let’s hang out and write together“. And he said “well I know all the songs on Neon Cross“ so we started out having him come play with us at a few festivals. We’d be rehearsing and then start jamming and writing, it was so natural.
LH Yeah I’ve noticed there’s many more co-writes on this album than I’m used to seeing from you, is that coincidence or are you actually collaborating more these days than you used to?
JW Yeah, I’m consciously trying to co-write more …. not in the traditional Nashville way, more musically. Josh had more feedback in the lyrics but most of the guys were contributing more musically. For me lyrics are more personal and I’m trying to unravel a story.
LH You’ve never been one to shy away from honesty in your writing but I think on this album you seem to have opened up more than ever …. there’s social/political commentary on quite a lot of the tracks as well as the really personal ones. Is it fair to say you’ve dug even deeper this time ?
JW Yes I was pushing myself ….. I could have easily made another album just like my last one, I had more than enough songs for this album but I wanted to create an experience. I knew there were songs that needed to be on the record to continue the chapter in my autobiography. I dug deeper, and like in life I’m trying to be more authentic to myself…..for three years I didn’t talk about women I was dating so now that I’m out and more comfortable with myself and being gay I’m singing about it too. Sing the truth. Before I was just trying to fit in and I felt for years that no one would want to hear about a gay woman singing about loving another woman. I was told that!
LH Yes you were told that, but look what’s happening now. Brandy Clark has a song on her new album that openly references wanting a relationship with another woman. Country music is famously described as “Three Chords and the Truth”, not three chords and what you think other people want you to sing about….
JW Yeah yeah yeah! But Three Chords and the Truth can only reflect the individual and where they’re at, what’s their truth, right?
LH Yes life is a journey for all of us and we are always discovering new truths about ourselves…
JW Right! I think about this stuff all the while. I’ve been in recovery for a lot of years and worked with young people trying to get sober and there’s always this discussion and that’s their truth … someone with a drug problem who says “I like taking drugs and it’s not inhibiting my life” they are telling me what they believe to be the truth right now. We can only express as to how in touch we are with ourselves.
LH I also wanted to talk about the arrangements on the album which are so varied, each song treated very individually with your myriad of influences coming out. When you write a song do you hear the instrumentation and vibe you’re looking for in your head, or does that develop organically during the process with Adrian?
JW Sometimes the instrumentation comes to me when I’m writing a song, like “ man, this will be so great with horns” . But I also knew that Adrian knew what new was doing when it comes to arrangements, he’d grab what we had and add overdubs afterwards which were generally exactly right .
LH So you and he were on the same wavelength
LH So can you tell me a bit about the vintage mics you used at Adrian’s Texas studio….was that new for you, how do they sound compared to modern day ones?
JW I always gravitate towards studios with vintage gear, that was part of my reason for selecting Adrian’s Electric Deluxe Recording Studios in Austin. They have a really amazing tape machine and their recordings sound really good and I chose them based on that but the mics we used were really cool! I think one of them was a vintage RCA, the one with a flat grill front that Frank Sinatra, Aretha, everyone used. It’s about the capacitors, they age just like wood, vintage equipment is just like a vintage guitar. It’s going to be warmer with a really smooth tone.
LH So, as you said earlier you’ve been playing some shows stateside and I saw you in London recently where we got a preview of some of the album tracks pre -release …which of the new songs are you and the band enjoying playing live the most or does it depend on your mood/the venue/the crowd?
JW Oh my God , it depends on all those things but “Back To The Country” is a banger that people love and that lick is really fun, I wrote it on guitar thinking it was just a dumb lick but my guitar player thought it was really cool and he refined it. But I also love getting out the piano and playing “Where The Damned Only Go”
LH An amazing song, a solo write which I read somewhere took you for ever to complete?
JW It took me like two years to finish, it had to be right and I kept trying out lyrics which can really take you out of the moment if they’re not right. And that song was such a vibe … if there was one word that took me out of the moment I had to rework the verse. I quickly discovered that song was my opus, it was so difficult. I wrote the bridge like a week before we went into the studio. I’m really proud of that song.
LH So, you’ve got a whole string of shows in the States in early 2024 ( the schedule looks exhausting!) but are there any plans to come back over here anytime soon?
JW We don’t have anything on the books just yet but that is my priority which I told my agent …. Europe and England next year… England is near and dear to my heart, I have this dream of one day living in London.
LH We would welcome you with open arms!
Thanks again for your time, have a great Thanksgiving and fingers crossed I’ll see you soon.
JW Thank you so much for interviewing me Lesley .
Stream/Purchase “ Feel Good “ here http://newwst.com/feelgood
More artist information at https://www.jaimewyatt.com/