This incredibly talented and very interesting artist, now based in LA but originally hailing from Washington state, kindly agreed to talk to me at London’s Borderline ahead of the final show of her recent UK tour, with Beth Bombara as opener.
We had already conducted an email interview with her last year when her album “Felony Blues” was released, in which she spoke openly and honestly about her past, in particular the time she served in prison after being convicted of robbing her drug dealer and the subsequent problems faced being labelled a felon (you can read it here http://bellesandgals.com/
This time round I therefore tried to steer my questions in a different direction, focusing on her music. I really enjoyed this interview and the “unofficial” chat in which I discovered that as well as our shared love of country music we are both dog owners, vegan, and love checking out vintage clothing stores! I hope you enjoy the read…..
It’s a bit late to welcome you to the UK as tonight is your last show here this time round……I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience and i wonder how you found the audiences over here?
Well this is our first meeting so that welcome seems appropriate! Oh man, the audiences here are so courteous and lovely…not that the aren’t back in America, but sometimes here they’re just silent. they’re extremely respectful. To a point where I’m like “ are you ok? It’s fine to talk to your neighbour”!!. I guess they’re just intent on listening!
And have you had any time for sightseeing?
A little bit but really we’ve just been working …..I mean I drove by Stonehenge! But we’ve got tomorrow off! You know i just like cruising round Hackney and Shoreditch and going in the vintage clothing stores! I really appreciate 60’s and 70’s English fashion.
I’m so excited to hear the tracks from “ Felony Blues” live tonight…..do you have a favourite from the album to perform?
I use pick up bands wherever I go, it’s just the way budgets are, on this tour we’re really having a great time together! That’s a tough question as I’m enjoying all of it but “ From Outer Space’ is really nice. ( LH That’s one of my favourites from the album!) Ah good! It has a nice feel. Mark Lewis on bass ( from Manchester) has a really lovely touch.
And although you wouldn’t know it, the album was made on a shoe-string budget wasn’t it?
Yeah, friends did me a lot of favours! My bass player at the time is an incredible producer and engineer and deserves thousands upon thousands of dollars! My ex husband was a big help, I sold and traded guitars for studio time, I almost called the record “ Nickel and Diamond” because I was making it in between touring …..sometimes touring by myself, driving around the North West and down the West coast to get money for it. I don’t have a day job, no other career…
Felony issues are still causing you problems in that respect ?
Oh yeah …at this point it’s funny ‘cos it’s ten years on!
So, being an independent artist…..obviously it has its downs as you don’t get the monetary backing of a label but it gives you control I guess?
Yeah, i don’t think I could tolerate someone telling me how to make records….it’d be hell for them too!
Ha it may lead to another term in prison?
At this stage I wouldn’t do anything else bad, I’d just bitch and moan about it!! But yeah, the trade off is a lack of finances. People are asking about vinyl for of “ Felony Blues”, but we’re in the process of recouping still but I’m working towards that. Vinyl is my favourite, actually when I’m back home I do DJ-ing, with vinyl, country nights, in bars.
You should do that here!
That’s a good idea!! Thanks I appreciate all the help I can get! And when you’re in LA come and help me pick out some music! Anyway the moral of this story is vinyl is coming soon!!
Can you tell me a bit about your songwriting…..do you favour solo or co-writing?
I prefer writing on my own, I don’t mind co writing but I just get intent on an idea.That said there’s like three out of four co-writes on the album!
But there just the ones that happen to have been recorded…..
Yeah! “ Giving Back The Best Of Me” was written with my good friend Matthew Szlachetka ( a good Polish name!) and i wrote “ Your Loving Saves Me” with my friend in Nashville Jamie Kent. And to top it off, I was writing “ Wishing Well” at home and my Mom came in and she was humming something in the chorus so she helped me write that! I write all the time, in a journal, most of my songs start with lyrics then i get a melody in my head and it’s just about getting that to an instrument.
If you could chose to co-write with anyone, who would you pick?
Umm….Probably Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. Or Bernie Taupin. My French Bulldog is named after Elton John!
I’ve heard you cite several male artists as inspiring you ( Cash and Haggard included) but are there any females who you look up to?
Yeah, there are maybe more great men as there were more of them, females weren’t given the opportunity, but I really love Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Lucinda Williams ( who’s an incredible songwriter) Kitty Wells, Billie Holiday ( my number one as a singer) and Patsy Cline….
Have you ever thought about doing a “Johnny Cash” and performing in a prison?
I’m desperately seeking how i can do that! There’s a level of clearance you have to have, with a criminal record, so that deterred me from trying, but it’s funny you should bring that up as today I started googling different activist groups looking at changing the penal system and how it’s geared towards felons in America. Wondering if any of them have panels in prisons, maybe that would be a way in.
Do you have a career highlight to date?
This tour has been part of that, helping me to see that things can work out! But prior to that I played the Outlaw Cruise earlier this year with a lot of my heroes ( Steve Earl, Lucinda Williams, amazing bands) and also I was on tour with Shooter ( Jennings) for a few dates, on the bus with them, that was amazing. They are like family. And also I got to record one of Waylon Jennings unrecorded songs, it came out on vinyl in November with Jessie Colter, Waylon himself, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Shooter Jennings …..its just crazy!
In retrospect what advice would you give to your 17 year old self?
Ooooh…..don’t do drugs!!! I should have marooned myself on an island!
Any news about another album from you?
Yeah! I cut some demos with Butch Walker over the Summer, and I just tracked a song with Shooter Jennings for a Jack Daniels documentary….it’s going to be a good year! I’ll be back here too later this year, probably late Summer…
Great, yes come when the weather’s warmer!! Well thanks for your time, it’s been great to talk to you!
Jamie is out on the road back in the States with Shooter Jennings and The Black Lilies, for further information about all her upcoming tour dates and more check out jaimewyatt.com
Interview conducted by Lesley Hastings (twitter.com/lesleyhastings)