Folk singer-songwriter discusses inspiration, reactions, and his new album
Henry Jamison comes from a long line of musicians and writers. His father is a classical composer, his ancestor was the most popular songwriter of the Civil War era, and back in the 14th century, he had a forebear who was a poet and friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. Now, Jamison is looking to make a name for himself with his debut album, The Wilds.
His take on the folk tradition involves acoustic guitar and banjo, as might be expected, but also synthesizers and programmed percussion loops. On the record, he struggles to reconcile the clashes between our inner and outer selves, as well as the natural world and our manufactured society. It’s a colorful, vivid LP that reveals Jamison’s abilities as both a lyricist and a composer.
ARTISTdirect caught up with Henry Jamison to discuss where he finds inspiration, the best reaction he’s seen to his music, and his new album.
Hello – Please introduce yourself
Hello – I’m Henry Jamison. I’m a songwriter from Vermont.
Where are you right now?
I’m in Chicago on a day off. We played last night and went to a White Sox game just now. Tomorrow we drive all day to Philly.
Please name your fellow band members and their roles… oh, and who has the best dance moves?
On this tour, Dillon Treacy is playing drums, Andrew Freedman is playing keyboards and Rachel Ruggles is playing violin. Rachel is part of the duo Gracie and Rachel, our co-headliners for this tour. I think that Rachel’s playing is very dance-like, but so is Dillon’s. Andrew and I stay quite still.
Tell us about your new project: Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? What’s it about? Is there candy?
I recorded my record with Ethan West in Vermont. It’s about me and not-me, the bigger-than-me, basically. There are some sweet synths, but not really any candy proper.
How do you describe your music to new friends?
I do a very bad job at this and that’s how it should be.
Other than Henry Jamison, what should your hometown be known for?
Please look around you right now and please describe the first item or person you see that’s significant to you (and that your relationship with it/them). Can we see a photo?
No photo, but my brother is on the couch right there. Picture him in your mind’s eye. He has a buzzcut and is looking at his phone. He has a bonsai tree.
What first inspired you to pursue music? If it was a musician or a specific piece of music, please tell us all about why you find it so inspirational…
Arvo Pärt keeps me open and reminds me of the shifts that music can help a person make in their inner lives.
What’s the best advice anyone has given you about pursuing a life in music?
Chris Cohen told me that “making it” isn’t possible. That was important to hear, because I disagreed with it. Only because I don’t think he understood how reasonable my standards were for what success would be.
Not including your current crew, who (alive or dead) would you love to have in your van for an all day drive from gig to gig?
Dionysus and Apollo.
What song best sums up your life right now?
“Put Me in the Field”
What is the best reaction to your music you have experienced so far?
Last night in Chicago and certain really heartfelt messages on Facebook.
Take a moment to dream – Where do you hope to be a year from now?
Anywhere, though maybe out in the woods. Thinking with my heart a little more.
What’s your next step towards that dream?
Just walking calmly down my path.