CloudwatcherUno speaks exclusively with David Jameson an American singer-songwriter from South Bend, Indiana. Through collaboration with Radio West Virginia he has released videos that perfectly capture his blend of American roots music styles including folk, old-time, and outlaw country.
Who Is David Jameson?
Right now, I live in Texas. During the last five to ten years, I’ve been living all over the world, but I grew up in the Heartland. A lot of my music influences are classic country and traditional Appalachian music, Bluegrass and old time music.
How excited are you in sharing new music this year?
I’m very excited. There’s really no other way to think about it. The songs have been really well received by everyone who has listened so far. I’m excited to share them more broadly.
How are you finding the process of releasing music during the pandemic?
It’s certainly a bit more difficult. Travelling and recording in the studio can be difficult while trying to socially distance and wear masks, especially for me since I am a singer. With almost any other instrument, the musician can wear a mask, but I can’t at least when I’m singing so I keep it on all the time and take it off right before I sing. After I finish, I put it right back on.
What was it like writing and recording ‘Sherman’s March’?
I was in West Virginia and had just visited WB Walker on the Old Soul Radio Show. I popped over to Boone County, West Virginia to record this video out in the holler amongst the trees. It was a beautiful location, and I was surprised that we were able to get such high quality audio because it was quite windy. My fingers are not used to playing out in the freezing cold, but it was a beautiful spot to hang out and play.
Tell us more about the video and how was it produced?
John Price of Radio West Virginia (RadioWV) and I walked out into the woods with a camera and a microphone, and we tried to find a spot that wasn’t too windy. And we scouted around, set up the microphone and plugged in my guitar so that we could get a clearer sound, and finally we got around to shooting the video.
You’ve talked a little bit about Radio West Virginia, can you talk more about your connection with them?
I’ve been a fan of Radio WV for quite a long time. John and Draven promote a lot of talented regional artists, and they do beautiful videos out in the woods of West Virginia. The musicians are fantastic. They’ve done videos with Charles Wesley Godwin, Drayton Farley, Cole Chaney, Logan Halstead, and many others. All of them sound great, and their videos have been really popular with people across West Virginia and beyond.
You already released ‘Tall Dark Pines’ through Radio West Virginia so what was that like?
It was great to get down to Dingess and Boone County, West Virginia. I’ve been to Tennessee and Kentucky but never to West Virginia, and it’s a whole different place. It’s gorgeous. A lot of the good murder ballads come from Appalachia. ‘Tall Dark Pines’ is very much inspired by traditional American music like the song ‘In The Pines’ or ‘My Girl’ depending on who sings it be that Lead Belly, Nirvana, or somebody else. ‘In the Pines’ is very much about the pines, and my song pays homage to that so it was very cool to sing it amongst the pines, out in the woods where the majority of the song takes place. Plus, ‘In The Pine’s is also a murder ballad of sorts, but the traditional song is much more gruesome than mine, even though mine is pretty explicit.
Do you sing any happy songs?
Yes, I sing happy songs for sure! My music reflects the range of experiences that you might have in life. The things that happen in real life are the strangest. ‘Tall Dark Pines’ is based on a murder that happened in my home town in Indiana. I put that story down in a song just like they did in the original murder ballads from the early days of the US. The truth of the story makes it all the more haunting.
Can you explain what your sound is?
The best way to describe my sound is that I’ve been channelling some of the early sounds of the United States including an Irish influence in the vocals and chord structures. I try to bring those storytelling songs into a modern era, so they may feel a little old but they still are relatable to people of today.
Do you think an artist now can afford to be just in one genre of music or should they cross genres?
I’m not sure what an artist should or shouldn’t do, but for me each song writes itself and sometimes a song calls for a slightly different sound. Some of my songs have come out as more of a rock song while others are more traditional country tunes in the Carter Family style with the Carter scratch.
Can describe the feeling that you get from actually having released a song from beginning to end?
Finally getting a song out is a relief. A lot of time goes into writing, refining and recording the song and preparing everything around the release. When the song gets out there you can finally let the bird fly.
You released a song called ‘South Bend Town’ and you were raised in South Bend, Indiana what was that like?
It was a really cool experience. I have lived in Texas off and on for a long time so going back home to South Bend was great. I enjoyed meeting some of the music community there who play music locally and nationally. I was starting to write the music for the album at the time and I thought that it would be more interesting to do something for the community. When I mentioned that idea to other people and they were super excited about it and wanted to join the project. Then I ended up recording with a number of artists who are popular locally and nationally including the guitarist from Umphrey’s McGee who is from South Bend, Jake Cinninger. I also met other artists who didn’t lay down tracks for the song, and they provided their invaluable guidance. In particular, The Bergamot and Francis Luke Accord have been very helpful. The song was received really well in South Bend and beyond with 20,000 plays across 50 different countries. In South Bend, a lot of people wear the South Bend Town t-shirt. Some of the kids especially my nieces and nephews sing it constantly because it’s very catchy and specific to South Bend. In South Bend, it’s had a big impact!
It’s a great song. Sounds like you had a lot of fun.
I had a lot of fun making this song.
Growing up did you always want to be a musician?
What kid doesn’t want to be a musician? It’s kinda like wanting to be an astronaut. Seems cool, not really sure how to do it. I don’t know if I intended to be a musician but I always played. I played with my family, and I played in bars in China when I was living over there. In China, a friend dragged me to go try out for a TV show, and we ended up making it on to the show. Then I thought maybe I could do something with my music, but back then I was singing covers in Chinese. Singing somebody else’s songs doesn’t have the same emotional punch as singing my own songs so I wanted to come back to the US and write my own stuff.
Tell us more of you being a western singer but to a Chinese audience.
It’s certainly a unique experience and in particular for me as a singer. I really like a lot of the Chinese music especially the folk music. It’s weird singing it though. Even though I can say the words and understand them, they don’t have the same impact on me. Like the word love doesn’t have the same emotion depth in Chinese because I don’t have all the experiences attached to the word. For example, as a baby, my mother said the word love to me many times in English, but no one said that to me in Chinese. So trying to sing a love song feels a bit empty emotionally. It doesn’t have the same kind of emotional release as it does for me in English. I have to think about it a lot more deeply to feel the meaning.
What’s your instrument of choice?
Definitely the guitar.
And how long have you been playing the guitar?
I’ve been playing the guitar for well over a decade. When I was younger I played the piano but I wanted something that was more mobile because I knew that I would be travelling around quite a lot. And more recently I’ve inherited my grandfather’s banjo so I’ve been learning that as well but I’m not ready to perform with that as of yet.
What kind of music inspired you and has stayed with you now?
Certainly singers like Johnny Cash and Elvis. They sing more in my range especially Johnny Cash. Very few singers today sing in that range. Many singers now have high voices and that’s just not my range. As a kid, Johnny Cash was one of the few singers that I could sing along with and the same with Frank Sinatra. I really liked those artists because I could actually sing and perform their songs and sound like the record.
What’s it been like for you as an artist not to be able to perform in front of an audience in these strange times?
It’s a lot like performing in front of TV where I wouldn’t really perform in front of anybody and sometimes there might be a studio audience of a couple of hundred but most of the audience would usually be behind the screen. So performing and recording these videos with Radio WV just feels normal, but certainly not being able to perform in front of a live audience and seeing their response changes the way that I write because I’m not getting the feedback from a larger audience.
What do you think fans get from your music?
It depends a lot on the song. Often I start with an emotion or a story that’s actually happened and think about how that actually makes me feel or how would it make a person in that story feel. Everything from the music to the lyrics, it’s all meant to create a feeling within the listener. Whether it be angry, sad, happy or nostalgic, I try to take that emotion and carry it through the whole song and the production.
And what songs do you feel have connected for you and with an audience?
The song in the last few years that made me feel the most was ‘Scarecrow In The Garden’ by Chris Stapleton, it’s a fantastic story about a family coming to America, creating a farm and life becoming more and more difficult as generations pass. The last line of that song still gives me Goosebumps. It’s such a powerful story, and the last line makes you really think about Heaven and Hell. The last lines are ‘There’s a bible in my left hand and a pistol in my right.’ Implying that he’s either going to find solace in the pistol or scripture. It’s a very dark choice. It’s pretty powerful emotionally.
For my music I have a very large extended family and often we’ll have a Zoom call where everyone gets together, brothers and sisters, anyone who can join. I played them all a song based on a family story of my Grandfather who was a Pastor. It’s called ‘Eye for An Eye’ and everybody was crying before I even sang halfway through it. It was pretty powerful to see how much they were moved by it. I’m not sure the average listener would cry while listening this song, but it really impacted my family.
Music is such a powerful experience do you feel a responsibility at all as an artist?
I feel that music should capture the real human experience and pop songs going into the pandemic were only happy songs, but people didn’t feel happy so why would you give them songs that don’t match their emotions. Sometimes you want that sad song. A lot of the old country songs are about real life, and I think that art has to represent real life. People can’t as easily connect with an emotion if it’s not represented in art. If you don’t have words to describe sadness then you struggle to feel it. And you struggle to capture in words what it might be. It’s easy to say this song is what I’m feeling because it’s more fundamental to your emotional state and it captures an emotion that words cannot.
That’s a fantastic answer.
Looking ahead what next for David Jameson?
Still pretty much focused on the album, I’ve yet to come up with a name yet. I’m still getting everything together so I can release in the next few months. This week ‘Sherman’s March’ video will be released on Radio WV and then more to follow. They are great videos and were really fun to shoot.
Checkout the video for ‘Sherman’s March’ by David Jameson with Radio WV.