by: Thomas D. Mooney
In one of our most enjoyable interviews to date, we spoke with Texas singer-songwriter Jamie Lin Wilson a few weeks back. The former Gouger and always Trisha will be releasing her first full-length debut album Holidays and Wedding Rings in late January.
She’s currently on a string of tour dates with Wade Bowen and will be performing tonight (Wednesday, Dec 10) at The Cactus Theater (Read our latest with Bowen here).
Watch/Listen to Wilson perform ‘I Can’t Even Walk” in the latest Southern Gospel Revival videos presented by The Modern Trade below.
New Slang: You’ve been working on your first full-length album. You’ve been a part of other albums (The Trishas, The Gougers), but this is really–other than your EP, Dirty Blonde Hair–the first time where you’re in charge. What’s that like–being the decision maker?
Jamie Wilson: Well, it’s been interesting. I’ve always enjoyed being in a band because you do get to collaborate. I do feel that the best ideas come from more than one mind–not necessarily in songwriting, but in production and style. The Trishas was really cool since we did all have our individual styles and were able to come together to make something different. This was fun because it mainly was just my songs. I hired a couple of producers, John Silva and Kevin Szymanski, who are best friends and who are my friends and are people who I trust. They know everything I like and what I want to sound like. They know how to make it come to fruition. One of the things that was completely different was that I had to be part of every decision. Whenever you’re in a band and collaborating, when you’re in the studio, there are times where you’re like “Oh, this isn’t my song. I’m not singing lead on this song. I can go take a nap [laughs].” You don’t have to have your mind working on the album at all times. With this, I got to make the final decisions on everything. That’s a big responsibility, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s something that I wanted.
NS: Yeah. The old saying “The buck stops here.”
JW: Right [laughs].
NS: How far back do these songs go? What’s the oldest song on the album?
JW: The oldest song on the record is called “Moving Along.” It’s one that I wrote right at the end of The Gougers. We never played it as a band. I remember that I didn’t really like it. I thought it was cool, but wasn’t comfortable playing it out and for some reason, I just didn’t like it a whole lot. When I started thinking of songs for this record, I revisited that one and all of a sudden, it hit home. I really liked it. It’s actually going to end up being sort of the title track of the record, which is Holidays and Wedding Rings. That came from a lyric in that song. That’s happened to me a few times–where I write something and don’t really dig it for a few years and then all of a sudden, I get it.
NS: Yeah. That’s always interesting. Sometimes you don’t understand why you’re writing what you’re writing until much later. I guess some things take an event or some personal growth before you’re really able to understand what you were trying to say the first time around. So that happens every so often with you. What’s been the longest amount of time you’ve taken to finish writing a song?
JW: I have a song on The Trishas first EP that’s called “Give It Away.” That song took me more than two years to write. I couldn’t ever finish it. It was almost done. I’d bring it back out to work on it and put it back away. Over and over. Then Jason Eady and Scott Davis helped me finish it. We were in Colorado and after a show, I said “Alright guys, no one is leaving this room until this song is done [laughs].” It lacked something like two lines and a bridge. But I couldn’t ever do it. It ended up taking about 30 minutes. It was like this huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was all I needed; those two guys to talk me through it. That’s probably the longest time it’s taken me to write a song. Now, the longest time between writing a song and recording it has probably been that one, “Moving Along.” That was around six years.
NS: Who else did you end up writing songs with for this album? Who else makes cameo appearances?
JW: I wrote five or six by myself. The other half, let’s see, I have one with Owen Temple. One is with Jason Eady and Adam Hood. Jon Dee Graham is another. Mike Ethan Messick and Heather Morgan. I think that’s it. Courtney Patton came in and sang harmony on three or four songs. She’s my BFF so that’s what happens–you get free labor from super talented friends [laughs].
NS: [Laughs]. That’s how I’ve always envisioned a record made by me would be. It’d be just the talented people I know on it.
JW: Yeah. This record was super fun to make. It’s the same group of guys who made my EP. There’s a lot of continuity there. And they’re all my really good friends. They know exactly what I want. There’s a good mixture of acoustic instruments, but there’s a lot of dark sounds in it too. There’s a lot of electric melodies and licks that they came up with.
NS: How do you usually approach a co-write situation? You like going in with a blank slate or like you mentioned before on “Give It Away,” helping get songs finished up?
JW: It depends on mood of the day, if whoever you’re writing with is up for starting blank or not. That’s hard though. Somebody’s had to have something. Typically someone brings out something. A melody, a line, or an idea. On this record, it’s a mixture of all those things. Another thing about co-writing is that you really, really have to trust that person–and especially if it’s an idea of your own and personal. If you go in with a personal thought, something that’s really close to you, to somebody else and it ends up being a bad song or it doesn’t work out, that idea is kind of blown. It can be difficult to go back and write another song on that subject or time. Someone like Owen, he’s perfect for that. He’s possibly the greatest co-writer ever. He’s so good at collaborating with people and understanding where they’re coming from. I had this idea for this song for him that was very personal about my aunt. We ended up writing this song. I had probably half of it. The chorus and a verse I think.
The song I wrote with Jason and Adam, we started with a photo. I sent this picture of an old abandoned house in Yancey. The yard is overgrown and the windows are broken. It hasn’t been lived in for a very long time. There was a chair on the porch facing out that had been there ever since the last people moved out. They left this chair on the porch. I took a picture of that and sent it to them saying that there was a song in this picture and we needed to write it. That was one of the easiest co-writes because we all had the same image. Half of co-writing is trying to get that same image in your head. We figured out that was a great way to co-write.
NS: Yeah. That’s actually pretty incredible. It sounds so incredibly simple, but brilliant. It’s one of those ideas where you think “Why haven’t we done this before?”
JW: Exactly. I was thinking that. I’m now going to go to co-writes with three photos and say “OK, these are my three ideas. Pick one [laughs].”
NS: [Laughs]. Yeah. It can become your thing.
JW: It probably took us an hour and we had a song. Then we just sat up and drank wine [laughs].
NS: A great songwriting experience. Where do you think on this album that you stepped furthest out of your comfort zone? Where did you push your limits and your boundaries?
JW: One thing that’s different on this record is that there are love songs. I’ve not ever really been known to write love songs. I’ve always kind of been dark and sang more about spookier, darker subject matter. Then I started writing love songs, which was a surprise to me. You know, I’ve been happily married for 10 years and have three children, you’d have probably thought that would have come along sooner [laughs]. But that’s been interesting. You do need them. Had I not written any, I’d have searched for some. You don’t necessarily want a 12 song record with a bunch of downers. I guess also just singing every song. Every band I’ve ever been in, they’ve all had more than one lead singer. I’ve never sang every song. That presents an extra challenge. How do you keep an album interesting with only one lead singer? It’s always been easy in the past because you’d just pull in another singer.
NS: Yeah. What song changed the most since writing it and how it ended up sounding on the record in terms of sound, style, and mood?
JW: Well, it always sounded like what it sounds on the record in my head, but that song I wrote with Adam and Jason. It’s called “You Left My Chair.” I guess the way I played it on guitar for people, it sounded different. I’ve heard from different people who’ve heard the album version and they’ve all said that it’s nothing like they thought it was going to sound. The way I play it on guitar versus the way the rhythm section is going, they’re kind of opposites. For example, I’ll be doing the full-time on acoustic guitar and the drums are doing half-time. It’s the drums that are leading the song so everyone is hearing the half-time groove, but whenever I’m playing it acoustic, I’m not playing it at a half-time groove.
NS: When are you shooting for the official release of the album?
JW: End of January is the idea right now. If that changes, it’ll surprise me.
NS: So when you were planning your PledgeMusic stuff, were you going to do a normal video or was your plan all along to do a little song?
JW: I’m the worst at talking in front of a camera. I can’t do it. If someone is asking me questions, I can talk for days, but to have something prepared and having to hit bullet points–I don’t even know what you’re supposed to say in those videos. But you have to say these certain things and not leave anything out. Oh, I should have said this too. I’m not an actress; I can’t memorize it all. Anyways, so I was on my way to do it. I was driving to Bellville to meet my friend Ryan Hargrave, who filmed it. I was on the phone with a friend talking about how I didn’t know what I was going to say and how I was nervous about shooting it. I’m trying to rehearse it and just sound dumb. She then suggested that I sang about. I thought it was silly, but then I decided that if I could write a song before I got there, then that’s what I was going to do. So that’s what I did [laughs].
NS: Yeah. I thought it was great. I mean, it was different, but also, it was a short and to the point video. I think sometimes people make them way too long.
JW: Yeah. And I’ll never watch them. I’ll watch the first 30 seconds and then I’m like, “OK, I don’t have time for this. I know what they’re saying” and I’ll pledge since I already know the drill. Did you see Courtney’s video? She looked like a newscaster. “Hi, I’m Courtney Patton and I’m extremely comfortable talking in front of a camera and going to do this in one take [laughs].”
NS: [Laughs]. I was going to ask you about where you guys are at with the new Southern Gospel Revival stuff. When’s the new stuff coming out? Note: The videos were released this past week. Watch them all here.
JW: Yeah. We cut those all back in May. Ryan and his company, The Modern Trade, they’re doing the editing right now. I’ve seen mine already so I know they’re in the finishing phases of it. This time around, they got a makeup person and a hair person. They did a little more this time. It’s going to be really cool. The guys at The Modern Trade, they’re real professionals. Professionals and perfectionists. They really go the extra mile. I’m really lucky they include me. Ryan picks the musicians. We pick our clothes and songs. Nobody really hears the songs before we get there. Then that day, we go through the arrangements.
NS: You can really tell that there’s a lot of organizing and planning that has to take place to really pull off something like that. But to me, it also feels really organic and fresh. It feels like “Oh, we just so happened to all be here at the same time and we have these instruments. Let’s play some music. You guys record it all.” That’s at least the vibe I got from the first one.
JW: Yeah. That is part of it. We were talking beforehand about what wanted to do, but I do think that’s the cool part. You want it where everything is still new to everyone involved. If you practice too much, then it’s too perfect and it doesn’t sound like people playing together. I think Ryan nailed it again this time. Hopefully it’ll be released soon.
NS: So you’re playing this Lubbock show with Wade Bowen.
JW: Yeah. Wade’s been a friend for a long time. That’s actually another co-write on the album. I knew I was forgetting someone. It’s actually a duet.
NS: Yeah? Well how was writing with Wade?
JW: Well, that song took forever. I was teasing him about it because when we started writing the song, I was pregnant with Maggie and when we finished it, I was pregnant with Thomas Roy.
JW: [Laughs]. So that song lasted through two babies.
NS: Did he come in and record his vocals with you or did he cut them elsewhere?
JW: Well, originally we weren’t going to do a duet. We talked about it as a duet, but really not seriously. I’m doing an acoustic CD as part of the PledgeMusic deal. So when we recorded it in his living room for that, we did it as a duet just for kicks. That was probably a month and a half before I went in to the studio. We went ahead and cut it like it was going to just be me. I sent him a little chunk of it and he text back, “Are you sure you don’t want to do it as a duet? I’ll come in and do it.” I thought about it and wasn’t really sure if he was serious or not. The way he said it was kind of half-joking. Then I decided, yeah, let’s do it. So we went and cut it at Cedar Creek a couple of weeks later. I’m really lucky he wanted to. I was thinking to myself “Are you sure you want to sing on my record? You’re kind of big time.”
NS: [Laughs]. I love duets. I think there needs to be some duet records. I think there’s been a little bit of a revival. I was talking with Kevin Russell of Shinyribs about this about a month ago. He said he was wanting to organize a duet night at Steamboat, which I wasn’t sure if he was just saying or not.
JW: Yeah. He text me about that actually asking if I was going this year. I’m not sure if I am or not. He said to let him know because he was going to have a duet show and that I needed to come sing with him. I told him if I was there, I had dibs on “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” by Conway and Loretta.
NS: That’s great. I’m glad he wasn’t just saying it in our conversation just to be saying it. That’s really cool. Speaking of duets, you were “Call a Spade a Spade” with Turnpike Troubadours. Was that a co-write or did Evan just ask you to sing on it?
JW: Yeah, it was a co-write. He had a lot of it already written. He had his verse and the chorus already written. Then I wrote what I sing. That worked out really nice. That’s really fun. In the world of downloads and iTunes, not a lot of people have the liner notes so a lot of people don’t know that it’s me. I’ll get a lot of people asking me after shows if I happened to sing on that because if not, there’s another girl who happens to have my exact same voice [laughs]. Or when we get a chance to go to a show of theirs and get to sing it live, not a lot of people know it’s me unless they’re a fan of The Trishas or something. There’s always a moment realization. That’s really cool because I’ve never had 3,000 people start cheering when I start singing. What’s funny is that my husband was in their music video (“Gin, Smoke, Lies“), so he gets recognized way more than I do [laughs]. People want pictures taken.
NS: [Laughs]. Yes. That’s great.