Hopefully some of you will have read our recent article about the new album from Jaime Wyatt, ” Neon Cross” which was released in late May and which I’ve been happily immersing myself in over the past few weeks.
It was a pleasure to catch up with Jaime via ‘phone a few days ago, when our all-too-brief chat covered topics including working with the legendary Shooter Jennings, coming out as a gay woman, advocating for female artists and her love of the UK!
Since my last chat with her at London’s Borderline in 2018, before her headline show, she has relocated from LA to Nashville, and I kicked things off by asking how she was finding things there….
1. LH Hey Jaime, thanks for your time today, not sure if you remember but we met back in 2018 in London when I interviewed you…
JW Yes at The Borderline!
LH I had just broken a front tooth so was super self conscious but you were so lovely, even offered to buy me a vegan meal next time I was in LA…
JW Well good luck tracking me down ….I’m actually living in Nashville Tennessee now!
LH Yeah I was just going to bring that up…..you relocated there just under a year ago I gather….have you found the community there welcoming?
JW That is correct, coming up a year . It’s been quite welcoming….I can’t really take full advantage of how welcoming it is right now but it’s been lovely! It really has.
2. LH And you’ve been signed to the city’s New West Records haven’t you, congratulations.
JW Yeah thank you, I’m super stoked, it’s really rad….
LH So has that made a big difference, having a label behind you for your new album, you made ” Felony Blues ” on a real shoestring budget didn’t you?
JW Oh yes, I really did! It’s been so, so helpful. I feel very fortunate, I also appreciate a lot of the things they do for me because I’ve not had that support before …
LH You’ve had pretty bad experiences with record labels in the past haven’t you?
JW Yeah, true story!
3. LH The variety in the production on the album is amazing, I know you worked with your good friend Shooter Jennings in that respect, he really recognises your many musical influences and taps into them…
LH But when you write a song can you hear how you want the studio version to sound, did you leave it up to him or was it a combination of the two?
JW Usually when i write a song I can hear all the production and how it should come out, I have rhythms and feels in mind, but sometimes he’d say ” yeah, but how about THIS?” and I’d be ” Oh, that’s much better!” . Or I’d be ” I don’t know man but I’ll try it!” …then I’d try it and it was better! But also he trusted me too. The prime example I can come up with is “Rattlesnake Girl”, that was a straight ahead Buck Owens with a little bit of like 60’s soul, and we got that in the chorus but the intro and the verse feel is so rad and different..that was all Shooter.
4. LH Have you ever thought about getting into production yourself? There’s quite a few female artists doing that I’ve noticed, at least co-producing …
JW Yeah I love it! It’s a goal of mine, especially to produce female artists because I’m always wanting to support other women just because all of the things I’ve gone through. I had an opportunity to produce one artist last year, it was my first dab at it so it went ok, I learned a lot from it…I love it and I really think I could do well at that.
5. LH And you just had a week in the studio didn’t you too record the tracks ….I actually think that time restraint ended up being quite beneficial, I don’t know about you, but i think it helps give the album a really great rawness and energy ?
JW Yeah…it was the BEST thing but scary as hell! I’m a perfectionist ..it was like “no I can do a better….'”
LH Ha I spoke to another artist recently who said exactly the same, but sometimes it’s best to just draw a line under something I think…
JW Yeah, I work well with deadlines!
6. LH And obviously it’s not an ideal time release music because you can’t tour, but have you enjoyed ( or not!) the challenges of promoting the album in these strange times?
JW Well, I feel very fortunate that in a time where it’s easy to get really, really depressed, I get to share my creative work with world and it’s been so well received. I’m very grateful and I see my situation as good, gratitude is my life goal for my mental health, I do see the gifts I’m being given. It’s hard cos yeah, I want to get out there of course, but it’s just not the time yet.
LH It will come!
JW Yeah I just trust the universe!
7. LH But you have been performing some of the songs alone in stripped back version via live streams, I’ve seen a few and loved in particular your performance of ” Goodbye Queen” for CMT.
JW Ah cool! Thank you SO MUCH! I’m glad you liked that!
LH CMT are massive aren’t they, it must feel so good to have them backing you and putting your music out on their platform?
JW Ah man, it’s amazing, that’s a dream! I grew up watching CMT and you know that’s so neat! And they were supporting Pride which was also wild! How amazing!! I did one full band stream and another with just an upright bass player and one other player….you’ll see more of that….. but whatever I do with my band, I’m really trying to protect everyone. I’m not going to say I’m not an opportunist but not at the expense of health. My mother would be so upset if i were to do anything risky.
LH I’m with her on that!
8. LH You just touched on Pride, the release coincided perfectly with the start of June’s Pride Month
JW Right, yeah!
LH I know you’d come out as a gay woman to your family and friend a few years back but the album was the first that the rest of the world knew about this. Were you concerned about the reaction you might get, despite quite a few female country artists already having paved the way in that respect?
JW Yeah, absolutely. I was convinced for a while that I was not going to do that, not going to be out on a public level, ‘cos I was afraid that people would judge me. And some of them have. But mostly, I don’t care ‘cos i feel that me being out is helping other people who are struggling. People like Brandi Carlile, Orville Peck, they helped ME so it is my duty to now help others. And in turn it is extremely liberating, I feel more confident ….I think y’all will see a difference.
LH Have you read Chely Wright’s autobiography by the way?
LH That’s a really interesting one, she hid her sexuality for a long time and it really affected her…
JW Ok, I may check that out!
9. LH And you explore your feelings of being an outsider in the album track ” Rattlesnake Girl” which you mentioned earlier ..can you tell me a bit more about that particular song?
JW Yes, that is one of the most autobiographical songs ( altho’ they are all autobiographical!) . It’s my journey to understanding myself ….not just being gay but also i was acknowledging why I’d been so standoffish with other artists, with friends… I’d isolated myself because of the things I’d been through. I’ve lived and been through some things that most people haven’t , and that’s why i’m the way I am. But awareness is the first step. Even in the business, I’ve been taken advantage of repeatedly, because I have been naive , trusting people too willingly and trusting the wrong people. And I avoided the people that were trustworthy because i didn’t know myself, and that my internal compass was off kilter. So ” Rattlesnake Girl ” was me, learning to accept myself for what I was, acknowledging it, accepting it and celebrating it.
10. LH I’d love to discuss every track on the album but I’ve only got a few minutes left
JW Ah shoot did they do just 15 minutes again?
LH Yep! I particularly wanted to talk if we can, quickly, about something you just brought up, your experiences and frustration with the treatment of women in the music industry. A couple of the album’s tracks , ” Just A Woman ” and ” Make Something Outta Me” touch on that…
LH Do you think things are improving in that respect?
JW Um I think they are or they’re going to! I mean, I’m pretty pushy and very determined, but there are kinder, softer people , women in particular, out there who are still getting screwed, overlooked and less opportunity. We still have an issue with festivals …
LH Yes! In little letters at the bottom of the line-up ,look carefully and you might see a woman….
LH And radio…
JW Radio!!!! You know when I do interviews i try not to shame the boy’s club too much, It’s like i understand that it’s comfortable but like in the song ( ” Just A Woman”) I’m just trying to plead to people to just take a look. Like, ” wasn’t your mama just like me?” How would you treat your Mom? We are creatures of habit so to make a change we’ve got to have awareness…I’m generalising but that has been my discovery, change comes when someone brings it to my attention, I have to remain open minded, willing to discuss and take a look at where I’ve been wrong on a regular basis. So I’ve been doing that and been doing pretty well, but it seems some gate keepers at the top would feel pretty good if they got more involved in women’s opportunities.
LH Well as you say, all we can do is make people aware of things, acting on it is ultimately down to them .
11. LH Well sadly I have to wrap this up , but when you finally do get back to touring I hope we’ll get to see you here in the UK?
JW Oh you will, it’s a HUGE priority for me! I’m looking at a map of the UK in my kitchen, it’s framed, I bought it in Manchester …..it means so much to me. I love it, i just dream about it all the time!
LH Aw…that’s so sweet! Well I hope when you do come back I’ll catch you and you’ll sign my vinyl for me…
JW Of course!
Stream/buy Neon Cross here http://newwst.com/neoncross
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)