GOLDMINE: Welcome to Goldmine. Congratulations on your self-titled album Jamie McDell, but before we get to that, let’s start with music that inspired you growing up from John Denver. In my senior year of high school, his double-sided hit of “I’m Sorry” and “Calypso” was popular. Later on, my brother David was John Denver’s touring pianist and he reminded me that “Calypso” was about the ocean, so that takes me to your upbringing.
JAMIE McDELL: Your brother played with John Denver? No way! I discovered his music because my family lived on boats and my parents had a cassette player. They had John Denver and Jimmy Buffett tapes so that was the only music my sister and I were exposed to until we were about ten years old. We just loved it. When I listen to it now, it has such a nostalgic feel to it, being the soundtrack of my home in the same way that the ocean is that for me, too. “I’m Sorry” stuck out for me along with “Annie’s Song,” “Take Me Home Country Roads” and “This Old Guitar.” It wasn’t until I was older and started getting involved with environmental issues that I understood where “Calypso” came from and that it had a dedication to Jacques Cousteau. I ended up working on a project with his granddaughter Céline. A lot of people my age hadn’t heard John Denver’s music, so she was quite surprised with my familiarity of “Calypso.” She remembered John Denver coming aboard their ship and writing that song, which is so amazing that she would have been a witness to that. As I have gotten older it is like he has followed me in my interests.
Fabulous Flip Side: Calypso
A side: I’m Sorry
Billboard Top 100 debut: August 16, 1975
Peak position: No. 1
RCA Victor PB-10353
GM: All the songs you mentioned are on John Denver’s Greatest Hits Volume 2, which ends with “This Old Guitar.” David told me that this song was an audience favorite for a quiet moment in a big concert.
JM: I cannot sit down and play that song without shedding a tear. There is something lonely yet wonderful about it.
GM: The song that matches “This Old Guitar” on your new album, I think, is “Boy into a Man.” It is gentle storytelling, and you ask an excellent question, “Does a boy become a man on his wedding day?” I thought about that in 1979 when I got married. That year John Denver’s JD album was released, which we would play in the record store where I worked. It included the single “What’s on Your Mind,” and getting married and that transition from boy to hopefully a responsible man was very much on my mind.
JM: It was an interesting song to write and an interesting one to play at shows. I would hate to generalize it to talk about all men because I was quite specific in who I was thinking about, a friend of mine whose family put so much weight on these monumental moments in a man’s life. They considered a wedding to take a boy into accountability when there are really a lot of smaller moments that bring us wisdom and maturity, where marriage and babies aren’t the only keys to life.
GM: The CD, which your dog Albee holds in the photo, begins with my favorite song “Dream Team” with its haunting beauty reminding me of Crystal Gayle’s late 1970s song “Ready for the Times to Get Better,” which I used to listen to on late night radio.
JM: That is very flattering. Dan Dugmore played the steel guitar on that one, making for a special moment, maybe one of my favorite moments in the Nashville studio. I had read his name in James Taylor’s musician credits and thought that it was pretty surreal that he was creating these beautiful parts for something that I had written.
GM: On “Botox” the electric guitar stands out.
JM: The electric guitar was performed by Jedd Hughes, and I also believe that he made the feel of that song. He is just so wonderful to work with. He was so excited to play on the song and give it the cool energy that it needed. It was such a proud moment for me.
GM: Was that one written while you were living in Toronto?
JM: Yes. We moved into a teeny tiny apartment. I had a day of reflection and was feeling extra critical of myself. It was one of those magic songs that kind of falls out of space in five minutes. I’ve never got that feeling back but I am proud that this song came out of that day. My husband and I felt we were taken out of our environment in that big city where we are usually surrounded by so much nature in our area in New Zealand.
GM: I know Toronto pretty well and have also spent a lot of time in western Canada, where I think the surroundings and your music may have been a better fit.
JM: It is funny that you should say that. After a year in Toronto, we moved over to Vancouver, just loved it, and almost didn’t want to come back, but our visas were running out.
GM: You have mentioned The Chicks when performing “Not Ready Yet” and I do think this sounds like their early work, under their prior name. You capture the vocal delivery of Natalie Maines on this catchy song.
JM: Thank you. Natalie’s vocals are something I consciously strive for, an almost effortless country vocal style. She has this rawness compared to other female country vocalists. I am always trying to reach what she has going on.
GM: If you look behind me on this Zoom session, you will see Stevie Nicks on my wall, so let’s talk about “Limousine Running,” with your vocal and the electric guitar reminding me of her work on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. I shared this one with my friend Melissa from the duo LizaSly and she said, “The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the opening notes of ‘Limousine Running’ is John Mayer’s song ‘Wild Blue.’ It has similar smooth tones, and it creates a dreamy atmosphere. I hear possible influences of Sade and LeAnn Rimes in Jamie’s voice, which is both powerful and soft, and is something that most singers would love to be able to accomplish. The drumbeat beautifully resembles ‘Gold Dust Woman,’ and the country influence makes the song unique and stand out. This is absolutely lovely.”
JM: Wow! That is just a huge compliment. My producer, Nash Chambers, and I always reference Fleetwood Mac and we strive to write toward that. “Limousine Running” was one of the hardest songs to create the right feel for on the album. We’re glad you can hear that Fleetwood Mac sound that took us quite a while to achieve.
GM: You mentioned your parents’ boat and growing up with their tapes. You also refer to your father on “Something More,” with a father’s shame of asking his daughter for a loan, a tough moment that can happen.
JM: As I have grown older and have maybe become more human myself, I can see that a large part of life can be filled with making mistakes and being disappointed. I have really come to appreciate my parents for all the experiences we have had and all the tough times and how they got us through those as well. In general, I think we put such a pressure on mums and dads to be idealistic heroes but the vulnerability that can be shown at times can be almost as important. I had a wonderful upbringing. The song was me just speaking to an experience which was difficult but filled with love.
GM: Now let’s talk about your mother. The tender lyrics and the string arrangement on “Mother’s Daughter” are so beautiful.
JM: Thank you. That arrangement turned out so nicely and I am so glad that we followed Nash’s instinct. I think a theme that runs through this album is that I appreciate my mother for her blend of her strength and weaknesses and how important that is in developing an honest relationship in mums and daughters.
GM: Another blend is performing a duet. “Worst Crime” gives a little break as a listener, hearing a different voice, but one that isn’t that different from your voice. It comes together so nicely.
JM: Thank you so much. It was an easy blend. I wasn’t as sold on my composition until we decided to make it a duet with Robert Ellis. He was incredible. We followed each other on Instagram, and I asked him to listen to it and consider singing on it. He agreed and invited me to go on tour with him. He has been incredibly supportive.
GM: You are also joined by different voices than yours, The McCrary Sisters on the gospel song “Sailor.” I had written about them in my 2018 Goldmine article on the Roger Miller tribute double album King of the Road where his son Dean was joined by The McCrary Sisters on “You Can’t Do Me This Way.” That must have been a real treat to sing with them.
JM: It was an incredible treat to say the least. I had written “Sailor” almost like a hymn where the spiritual element deals with the ocean and my connection with the sea, which for me is so strong. It was amazing to combine my experience of spirituality with The McCrary Sisters lending their voices and souls to this song, something I never thought we would be able to create. It is such an honor to have them on the album.
GM: Going back to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, a great appeal for that multi-million selling album was its variety and you deliver variety which blends so nicely on your new album. Congratulations.
JM: Thank you. I so appreciate it. Nash and I were on the same page on these songs with variety and cohesiveness. Thank you so much for your coverage of my music with Goldmine. It is so sweet. I really appreciate it.
PART TWO – PEGGY JAMES
GOLDMINE: I heard a variety of songs on what can now be considered the pandemic era of which John Lodge’s “The Sun Will Shine” had the optimism we needed. This month we are starting to hear songs dedicated to Ukraine. Pink Floyd has reunited with the single “Hey, Hey Rise Up!” and your song “Isn’t Anybody Coming?” will be released this Friday, April 15.
PEGGY JAMES: These days I feel like I’m Ukrainian in my heart.
GM: You and Jim Eannelli have created an important and timely single about the people in Ukraine, reminding me of fifty years ago when George Harrison pleaded to us, “Relieve the people of Bangladesh.”
PJ: When I was recording it, I had tears in my eyes and was just barely able to finish the words.
GM: It is a timely folk recording, reminding me of Joni Mitchell, with clarity where listeners can hear every word. Congratulations on this important and timely single.
PJ: Thank you so much. I hope it brings comfort to the suffering and awareness to people all over the world during these hard times.
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