Carly Jamison - Sound In The Signals Interview

Singer-songwriter, Carly Jamison captures one's attention quickly with her deep, rocking vocals. She started out creating homemade recordings, which led to a growing number of fans and inquiries from a Nashville producer. She's already recorded two albums, several songs this year, and has plans for new songs later this year. She's as unique as she is talented. She was kind enough to explain how sometimes you have to say yes to impeccably perfect timing, how she finds inspiration everywhere, and when we can expect more songs.

First, thanks for the interview!

Carly: You’re welcome.

You started by releasing your homemade recordings online, which led you to recording professionally in Nashville. Can you tell us a bit about how it all got started and your background for those who may be unfamiliar?

Carly: I’ve always heard songs in my head, I just never took them seriously. And then, about 8 or 9 years ago, I had gotten into a fight with my next door neighbor and afterward started hearing “Ask Me If I Give A Shit” in my head. I was like “hey, that’s a pretty cool song, let me write that down.” So I did. MySpace was really big at the time so I thought I would sit down and make a little home acoustic recording of it and put it online just to see what people thought. People liked it so I started posting more songs and people liked those also. The beautiful thing about MySpace in its heyday before it became full of spam was that there was a music community on there and also a fan community, so as an independent artist, you could really build a fanbase and get good feedback not just from fans, but also from people in the music community. I used to get emails on there from people who wanted to produce my stuff or set me up with gigs and I turned them down because I just wanted to write music and share it. I wanted to do the songwriter thing and have other people record my songs. But if a radio show or podcast contacted me, I would always let them play my stuff. So one day, I got an email from a producer from the Nashville area who had heard something on a podcast or radio show and wanted to do a studio album with me and I turned him down because I just wasn’t into it. I wanted to just write songs, not record or perform them. But I kept posting these one track acoustic songs and it was maybe two years later when I came home from one of the worst days ever - it was the kind of day when you just want to change your whole life, you want to sell everything you own, pack up your car, and hit the road, never looking back. I opened my email and there was a message from that same producer saying that he still wanted to work with me. It was such impeccably perfect timing that I had to say yes. I took the plunge and we started planning for my first album which was recorded the following year. It was called “Everything Happens For A Reason”.

Your new single, "Dynamo" is fun, energetic, and quite catchy. You've described it as "a totally autobiographical song. There are several people in my life who have told me that when I visit it’s like a tornado or hurricane hits, so I thought that would be a fun subject for a song!" Do you often draw from personal experiences? How does storytelling and music come together for you?

Carly: Thanks! There’s usually something going on in my life that starts to trigger my songwriting. Sometimes it’s a situation I’m going through (“Bring It On”), sometimes it’s a person I’ve met (“Look Where It’s Coming From”), sometimes it’s a book I’ve read (“This Big Old Bottle”), sometimes it’s a conversation that I’ve overheard in a restaurant (“Sailing Away”), or a road that I’ve driven down (“Small Talk”). I never know what it’s going to be. But yeah, it can be anywhere from like 5% of a song to 100% of a song that is based upon my personal experiences.

I have always loved songs that tell a story. I’ve always loved old folk songs and old country music songs because they told stories. I’ve always loved songwriters who had something to say. I really think that there is an art and also a craft to being able to tell a story through rhyming lyrics with an accompanying catchy melody. When you can get caught up in the story of a song and lose yourself for a few minutes, I think that’s awesome. That’s the work of a good songwriter, a good storyteller.

You worked with some talented people on "Dynamo" including Joe Costa (Ben Folds, Ke$ha, Brad Paisley) who mixed it and Pete Lyman (Jason Isbell, Courtney Love, Fall Out Boy, Sturgill Simpson) who mastered it. You've said that you "just started hearing it playing in my head one day so it really just wanted to write itself". How did you take what you imagined and turn it into the song it has become? What did all those involved bring to your process and to the song?

Carly: My process is that I hear a song, or a part of a song, playing in my head and I record what I have into the voice recorder on my phone so I don’t lose it. I’ve learned that inspiration is very fleeting and ephemeral so I have to catch it when I can. Then I sit down with an acoustic guitar and a piece of paper and a pen and work on the song to complete it. When I have it at a point where I think it’s done or close to done, I then type it into my computer and make a nice document with lyrics and chords and song structure. From there it goes into an acoustic demo which is just me and a guitar laying out the most stripped down, basic version of a song. I’ve always felt that if a song is strong enough to survive a solo acoustic version, then it’s strong enough to survive anything. Once I have the acoustic demo, then I send it to my producer, Tres Sasser, who gives it a listen and gives me his feedback. I love working with Tres because he has such incredible ears for music but he also tries to see my vision for a song. Sometimes I have no vision for a song and let him take it where he thinks it should be. Other times, I’ll be very strongly inspired to move in a certain direction with it and he gives me that freedom. Sometimes, we’ll just wait until we get in the studio with some musicians and see what happens. That was the case with “Dynamo”. We had Chris Tench on guitar, Elton Charles on drums, Tres Sasser on bass, and I was singing the vocals. Brett Ryan Stewart was engineering. He is so super efficient behind a mixing board so it saves us a lot of studio time and we can do things quickly. We just started playing it, seeing how it felt, and figuring out what the various musical parts should be. It was all tracked in an hour or two. Then we went back and added some extra guitar parts and I did a final vocal.

Joe Costa had mixed four of my previous Christmas singles. Tres is the one who usually suggests musicians, engineers, and mixers for my music because he’s tapped into a really great network of people for that. He is the one who hooked me up with Joe for mixing. Joe takes the studio recordings and brings out the best of each part. He is the one who makes all of the musical tracks really come to life. Tres had also worked with Pete Lyman on some other projects that he produced and thought he would be a good fit for my material also so that’s why I went with him. He’s very easy to work with and very professional and everything he does always sounds amazing.

You released "The Devil's Trying To Bring Me Down" last October. The recording process was very interesting. It's the first single from the first ever live-streamed professional recording session in the Nashville area. Over 5000 people tuned in to watch the live recording session. How did you get involved in this idea and can you describe what that experience was like for you?

Carly: I went to SXSW last year (2015) when they debuted the new Meerkat live streaming app. I was playing around with it down there streaming from random parties and stuff. Then when I got back to the NYC area, I played around with both Meerkat and Periscope just to see what they were about. It was only a month or two later when I went down to Nashville to record the singles and I thought it would be really fun to live stream the recording process. I mentioned it to everyone involved to get their permission and everyone was cool with it so we did. We started on Periscope but then settled on Meerkat because Periscope kept dropping the stream. Meerkat was awesome. We were live streaming nearly every minute that we were in the studio. I think all 5 of the recordings that we did in those few days benefited from the energy of a live audience. There’s a certain energy and electricity about the songs that you get from a live recording but at the same time, they’re smooth and polished like proper studio recordings.

When describing how you think about music you've said that it's as if your subconscious mind has a huge jukebox that plays in your head. Could you give us a sampling of an average day's playlist?

Carly: Every day is really different. I’m going out to California in a few weeks and have been making plans for the trip, so it’s been a lot of songs about California lately. All yesterday was “California Sun” by The Rivieras. I couldn’t get it out of my head. Before that, it was “California Dreaming” by The Mamas And The Papas, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, “Going Back To Cali” by LL Cool J., stuff like that. Today, “All The Gold In California” by Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers has been playing.

You've said that same jukebox in your mind sometimes plays pieces of songs that are unfamiliar. Sometimes it's a verse or an entire chorus and those are the ones that you end up creating. What's the process like from those first ideas to the final song that we hear?

Carly: First I hear the song, or parts of the song in my head. I usually get words and melody at the same time, or just melody. It’s usually while I’m awake, but sometimes it happens when I’m sleeping and in a dream and I try to force myself awake and remember as much as I can. Then I grab my phone and sing what I hear into the voice recorder to make sure I don’t lose it. I either put it away for awhile or work on it immediately. Next step is to grab a guitar and a pen and a piece of paper or a notebook and sit down and figure out what the chords should be. Once I have some verses and a chorus written down then I type it into a computer document and print that out so it’s nice and neat. I work off of that to finish the song. When I think it’s done, I finalize a nice clean document with lyrics and chords and song structure. I take that and make a very simple acoustic recording which is usually just me and a guitar. I send that to my producer, Tres Sasser, and he gives me some feedback on it. We then take it into the studio with a full band and bring it to life. We try to respect the song and let it do what it wants. This may sound weird, but we try to get ourselves out of the way of the process and let the song dictate much of what it needs. 

You've released several songs this year with "Dynamo" being the most recent. What's next for Carly Jamison? Are you working on anything currently and how can fans keep up?

Carly: I have another single coming out this summer. It’s the last one from that live-streamed recording session. It’s called “Sneaking Around This Small Town”. I’m hoping to have it out some time in July. I’m trying to get myself back down to The Sound Shelter in September to record another new Christmas song that I just finished writing a few months ago as well as some other new singles. I might be compiling all of my Christmas singles into an EP. And I’m also working toward a new album. I have a website at www.carlyjamison.com which I keep up to date with everything. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. but my website is really the main hub of activity.

Thanks for the interview. Do you have anything you would like to add?

Carly: Thanks for the opportunity! Keep up the great work with your website!

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