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A Conversation & Concert with Jamie McLean: Gramercy Theatre on January 27

jamie mclean band funky big sam jan 5 11 056

There was no fanfare when the Jamie McLean Band took the stage in Fairfield a few weeks ago.  Jamie had an unassuming, almost self-effacing manner.  He walked quietly to the microphone; a handwritten setlist was dropped to the floor, the guitar strapped in place, and then the show began.

No energy had been wasted on introductions; instead it was all poured into the music.  What followed was a tight set of original songs played with an earnest intensity by all three band members.  Bassist Ben Mars traded guitar licks with the bandleader, eyes half closed, rocked back on his heels and with a genuine smile on his face.  I watched Brian Griffin.  The drummer’s eyes were fixed on his bandmates in anticipation of the small changes in direction and spur-of-the-moment improvisations that make live music a necessity.

Jamie surprised me; surprised me twice in fact.  I expected rock, but the music didn’t fit neatly into that box.  Rock, yes, but rock laced with a blues undertone and with an unexpectedly strong country flavor.  I expected solid vocals, but got more than that.  Jamie has a unique tone to his voice, a clarity and expression that are all his own.

I was intrigued, and wanted to know and hear more from the Band.  I bought a ticket to the upcoming January 27 show at New York’s Gramercy Theatre, and asked Jamie if he’d be willing to chat about his music and the Jamie McLean Band.  He graciously agreed.

You left the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to develop your own sound.  How do you describe your music?

I’ve been writing music ever since I could play guitar, but it has really been in the last few years that I feel confident about the songs and the lyrics that I’m writing.  Recently I’ve gravitated toward more of a blues/soul feel.  I’ve always loved the blues but it seems like it’s finally appearing in my writing on a more consistent basis.  The blues is a solid foundation for a song and I feel like I put my original spin on it.  I’d describe the recent JMB material as being based in blues, rock, country and soul.  I know that certain songs resonate with fans and I think it comes down to being honest.  The more honest I can be with the song, the more it resonates with everyone.  The whole common denominator of existence; you can feel it in a song on the radio or watching us perform live.  We put our heart and soul into the music.  It’s completely honest and I think people appreciate that.

Who writes original music for the Band?

I write the majority of the music.  I wrote all the songs on Sunday Morning and Time of My Life.  Brian wrote ‘Natalie’ on our Completely album.  Generally I write alone and bring in a close to finished product to the Band.  Everyone puts their fingerprints on it, but the lyrical content and vibe of the song sort of present themselves to me when I’m working on tunes.  The process is always different.  I’ve written a 4 minute song in 4 minutes.  I’ve written a 4 minute song in 4 years.  Generally the ones that fall in your lap and seem to have written themselves are the most honest and tend to be better songs, but not always.  It’s an elusive process but I love it.  I just to try to recognize when I’m in a good place for writing and go with it.  If it’s not there I take a bike ride or see a show.  Hopefully the feeling comes back another day.

Tell me about the relationship between the Jamie McLean Band and fans.

The relationship with our fans is amazing.  We definitely feel close to our fans and at the end of the day they really are our friends.  We see them regularly on tour, they keep up with us on our social media sites and they are the reason we can continue to do this.  We want to keep that bond really tight.  We ask our fans what songs they want us to play, what venues they really like, what songs we should cover.  There is a huge back and forth between the band and fans that really fuels the entire vibe of the community.  I definitely want to make our fans as happy as I can and to do that we keep the communication lines open.  Last year we wanted to release more music more often and so we turned to our fans with a pre sale of the EPs.  In return for their early bird purchases, fans were able to get signed CDs, house parties that we played, autographed guitars and more.  It was a win/win because fans got more music plus extra goodies and we were able to finance a massive project of  4 EPs on our own without a record label.  We also offer all our music as a “Pay What You Want”.  This allows fans to download music for free or for any amount they’d like to pay.  The response has been amazing.  We’re able to spread the music to new fans and it has really worked with our fans.  I’ve had people come up to me at shows and hand me $20 out of the blue saying “I downloaded your CD for free.  It’s amazing and I thought you deserved more!”

Can you describe the relationship between the bandmates?

Brian Griffin, Ben Mars and myself are best friends,  part time roommates, troubadours, bandmates, and business partners all wrapped into one.  We are lucky because aside from making kickass music together, we get along great.  If you travel the country for a length of time with anyone, things can get touchy.  You miss your home, your bed, your loved ones and don’t miss the shitty hotels and traffic and fast food.  But we love playing music so much and we are so tight that the small stuff rolls off of our backs pretty easily.  We respect each other enough to give space and know when someone just needs a day to themselves or a bunch of cold beers at the bar.  We’ve got a great team of management/publicity/agents that handle the day to day business so generally we are concentrating on making music, putting on the best live show possible and finding the nearest Waffle House.  We’ve become pretty good at finding good food, good music and good times with nothing more than a GPS and an itch for the highway.

You are releasing four new albums this year - an amazing feat of creativity and productivity.  How did you do it?

More than anything it comes back to the fans.  I wanted to get them as much music as I could as often as I could.  I know I’d be psyched if my favorite band was putting out new music every few months.  I was also at a point where the songwriting was really flowing and I had more than enough music to release on one record.  I knew I wanted to do a lot of different things.  We just wrapped up recording our first live album.   We asked our fans what they wanted to hear after our first EP Time Of My Life and they wanted blues.  So…..into the shed I went and I came out with Sunday Morning which is all blues based material.  Its worked out great for us.  It keeps me on my toes creatively so I’m constantly working on new and different material and it gives the fans plenty of new music to enjoy!

You’ve worked with many well known bands and musicians, including American Idol winner Taylor Hicks.  Are future collaborations planned?

I met Taylor last year and we really got to hang at a Red Cross benefit for the Alabama tornado victims in Birmingham.  He’s such a nice guy and a phenomenal singer.  I mean….the dude can flat out sing his ass off.  We’ve got really similar taste in music.  We both gravitate towards blues and soul and R & B so we have a lot of common ground and love playing together.  We invited Taylor to join us at our Sunday Morning CD release party at Brooklyn Bowl in the fall and he came out and killed it.  We learned a few of his songs and he learned a few of ours and then we jammed on some covers we both love.  It was so good that we decided to do it again last week.  We recorded a live CD for a very small studio audience and Taylor came up and joined us on my tune ‘Country Living’ and some Allman Brothers jams.  It sounds spectacular and I can’t wait to release it this spring.   We are looking to do some more live performances together this spring and I’m supposed to join him soon for some songwriting sessions.  It’s all a blast for me and it’s been a ton of fun singing and playing with him.  I definitely push it a little harder on the vocals when I know he’s up there with us.

What are your long-term goals for the Band?

Our five to ten year goals are to still be doing this because it’s a dream come true.  Playing for fans in a live setting is so incredibly rewarding.  We’d love to play some bigger venues and bigger crowds but it’s a slow burn and that’s the way we want it.  Fifteen minutes of fame doesn’t interest me at all.  I’ve been helping to produce and write for other artists and some television, and that is always rewarding, but at the end of the day I love singing my songs with my band and my fans.  Its like one giant family and I couldn’t be happier.

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The following live performance audio of the Jamie McLean Band was recorded at Fairfield’s StageOne venue on January 5, 2012.  ‘Sing It’ is a new,  original and yet unreleased song from the Band that features the vocal harmonies of Jamie McLean and Ben Mars, as well as a striking guitar solo that begins at the approximate 2:12 minute mark.

Use the comment section below to tell us what you think of the song, or to talk about the Band.  Your comment will serve as your entry into a drawing to win a Jamie McLean Band music album.  Four albums (two copies of Completely, two copies of Sunday Morning) are available.  Winners will be notified by email on Thursday, January 26.

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If you will be in the New York area, a few tickets remain to the Jamie McLean Band show at Gramercy Theatre on Friday, January 27 and can be purchased here.  Co-headlining the event will be Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band; it promises to be a great evening of music!

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26 Comments Post a comment
  1. You’ve done a fine job transitioning from Taylor to other musical groups and back again. For those interested in different genres and different performers , you are providing interesting material.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you. cath. Following Taylor has helped introduce us to a wide range of music and some compelling new artists. There’s been real joy in the process of discovery.

      January 23, 2012
  2. Linda T #

    Thank you so much for this interview with Jamie. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him and meeting him on a couple of occasions, and your interview captured both his commitment to great music and his completely down to earth personality. I’ve been so impressed and pleased with his musical output this year despite a hectic schedule. Can’t wait to see him again sometime down the road!

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks, Linda! Jamie has been so gracious; it’s a real pleasure to meet an artist who is so committed to building and maintaining strong artist-fan relations. I’m really looking forward to more music and more live shows from the Band.

      January 23, 2012
  3. Louise #

    Wonderful conversation with Jamie, ontap. He’s a genuine person and an intensely dedicated musician. Thanks for the audio, too. Great to hear live music from Jamie and his band.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      That’s what struck me about Jamie as well, Louise. He truly is an artist who is “all about the music”. It’s going to be fun to see what directions his music and career take. Thanks for your comment!

      January 23, 2012
  4. It’s easy to see why Jamie and Taylor would get along so well – can’t wait to hear the live CD in the Spring! Thanks for the interview and song!

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      You’re welcome! I know – I’m anxious for that live CD to be released as well. Between the Jamie McLean Band, Taylor Hicks and Jason Crosby, there were some very talented musicians at that recording session!

      January 23, 2012
  5. Starting with Jamie’s guest appearance at the Winery — why hadn’t I ever heard his amazing voice & guitar playing before? — I’ve been trying to follow his musical career. I’m so excited that he’s going to be singing/writing more with Taylor! Thanks for this great interview with an intriguing musician!

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you for reading, Cheryl! In addition to his songwriting, instrumental and vocal talents, Jamie is an all around nice guy. I agree with you; it’ll be fun to see what what two nice guys working together can create.

      January 23, 2012
  6. Jenni Jac #

    Thanks for the great interview with Jamie, I’m really happy this great band has been brought to our attention. Jamie and Taylor are a great fit musically and also very like-minded in the way their careers are run. and I look forward to more music from Jamie McLean Band as well as future collaborations with Jamie & Taylor.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you, Jenni. I’m looking forward to the live CD recorded last week that includes Taylor’s vocals; should be good stuff, and may be a preview of things to come?

      January 23, 2012
  7. Pattiebelle #

    This is a great write up…I first saw Jamie on stage at the City Winery event and was blown away…then I went to the Brooklyn Bowl which was a phenomenal night…the band totally rocked the place and Jaime was just incredible letting loose …I just love his stage presence…was so lucky to have been at the Gibson recording session…every song killed, and Sing It was definitely one of the ones I loved best…Taylor fits their groove perfectly, such excitement emanates from every band member…and their as sweet meeting them as they are talented…which says alot…Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters said “Its not like guitars and drums and people who make honest records died off ….that still exists…its just suffocating under a pile of trash”…I find it so wonderful to have this music in my life…also really like hearing some of the back story of this band…thanks again.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Pattibelle, I’m so glad you had the opportunity to attend the NYC recording session. What fun! Can’t wait to hear what you heard, especially with your glowing report! Thanks!

      January 23, 2012
  8. TMW #

    Gotta admit I found JMB through Taylor and I am loving their music and especially this song. I’m a huge fan of the blues and this song has that amazing blues beat and tone I love. Looking forward one day to seeing them live.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      The recent StageOne show is the only time I’ve seen Jamie and the Band live. They opened for Big Sam’s Funky Nation, so of course most of the crowd had come to see Sam. Let me tell you, by the time Jamie et al were done playing, they had a crowd of new fans in front of them, clapping, whistling, and heading to the back to buy albums. I’m really looking forward to Friday’s headlining performance in NYC!

      January 23, 2012
  9. I found the Jamie McLean Band through Taylor also. Great article! I’m looking forward to new music from both these great musicians.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      You know, I think this is a wonderful way to find new artists. It’s kind of like Pandora, the old fashioned way. I’m glad we both found the Jamie McLean Band.

      January 23, 2012
  10. chill #

    I didn’t know too much about the Jamie McLean Band until now, so thank you for the great write-up. You’re doing a fantastic job with the blog! And I can’t wait for the release of the live CD.

    January 23, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks very much, chill. I’m waiting for that live CD, too! I love the small imperfections and spontaneity of a show recorded live. This is going to be good!

      January 23, 2012
  11. So nice of him to answer a few questions for you! You did a great job.

    January 24, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you, Caryl. Jamie is a great guy, and very generous to his fans.

      January 24, 2012
  12. jonibug #

    Loved this “ontap” about Jamie….loved the song too and yes, I also discovered Jamie via Taylor which isn’t a big surprise, I’m sure. I already had DL the “Sunday Morning” CD and a couple other songs of his and am looking forward to the new live CD.

    January 24, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks, jonibug! I’m looking forward to the new live album as well. Hope it’s coming soon!

      January 24, 2012
  13. This is a great interview with Jamie. I follow JMB pretty closely, and have known them for 6 or 7 years now. Two things I like best about the band, other than the music of course, is that, once you’re their friend, your their friend forever and 2nd, they’re so true to their music, that they’re just as happy playing a small, intimate room with 30 people in the audience as they are on a large stage with 5000 in the crowd. Ben is one of the best bassists that I’ve ever heard play. When he’s onstage and the eyes close….. he’s in his zone, and the bottom is guaranteed spot on. Brian teaches and plays every chance he gets and has studied percussion around the world. And Jamie, with his ddbb background, has so much soul in the way he plays and the clarity in his voice is unmatchable. I’m not sure, but at one show, the lights went down, and I’m pretty sure I saw sparks flying from his fingertips…… lightning fast but also every note on his guitar licks are supposed to be there, not just a bunch of dirty fill. I’ve done sound for JMB a couple of times, and they’re so easy to work with, it’s crazy. They’re playing a 2nd private event for me this May, for about 5000, and I seriously can’t wait! Catch these guys playing out if you get the chance. If you can’t, go to http://www.jamiemcleanband.com, read more about them and download some music.

    January 26, 2012
    • ontapblog #

      Keith, thanks for your comment and background information on the Band! I was so impressed at the Fairfield show; this is a three member band that sounds like many more. Your May event will rock for sure with JMB onboard. Congratulations on booking such great entertainment!

      January 26, 2012

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