Jimi Jamison: the Survivor Singer on His New Solo Album, Alex Chilton Connection (INTERVIEW)
“The first song I ever performed in front of a crowd was ‘Daytripper’ by the Beatles when I was a kid in the ’60s. But my background is really more in a blues-rock kind of thing. I grew up on soul music too,” Jimi Jamison told Noisecreep during a recent chat with the powerhouse vocalist while discussing Never Too Late, his upcoming solo album.
Famous for his work fronting Survivor (who will be releasing a new studio album in 2013), Jamison was born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., a place that has a rich musical pedigree with artists like Isaac Hayes, The Bar-Kays, and Booker T. & the MG’s all calling it home base during the late ’60s and ’70s. If that weren’t already enough, the legendary Stax Records label was also located there and helped a young Jamison get his footing within the music business: “I used to do session work at Stax when I was in my teens. So yeah, I was really weaned on that soul and blues stuff. When I joined Survivor in the ’80s, I really had to learn how to sing more in that poppier style that they were doing,” laughed Jamison.
Already a god among men in AOR and melodic rock circles, Jamison’s hipster cred should boost after the following bit of trivia he shared with Noisecreep when we asked him if he ever got to see Big Star, the critically acclaimed and influential ’70s rockers that also called Memphis home: “Alex Chilton [the late singer/guitarist of Big Star] was one of my closest friends growing up. We went to school together. I used to watch the door for him when he would be carving his name into the desks at school [laughs]. So I got to see Alex have that huge success with The Box Tops [Chilton’s earlier band who had a huge hit with a single called ‘The Letter’ in 1967] and he ended up giving me one of the songs they didn’t end up recording for a band I played in at the time called The Debuts. The song is called “If I Cry” and it came out on Atco Records. The guy who wrote ‘The Letter,’ Wayne Carson, wrote it. I couldn’t believe we actually had a record out on a real label! That was in 1968.”
Listen to ‘If I Cry’ from The Debuts
For Never Too Late, which hits stores on Nov. 6, Jamison worked with Swedish producer and songwriter Erik Mårtensson (W.E.T., Eclipse), and the result is his finest solo work yet. “I played a festival in Europe called Firefest and W.E.T. were also on the bill. Anyway, I rode back to the airport with Erik and we started talking about working together. I was already planning on doing this solo record, so it worked out great.”
Listening to Never Too Late, it’s amazing how a European guy who barely knows Jamison could capture, in words and music, what makes his voice so special: “One of the songs on the album is called ‘Street Survivors’ and I know exactly why he wrote it for me [laughs]. It’s a blast to hear these songs and see the way they interpreted me and my personality. I can’t wait to play these songs live because they have a great message and pack quite a wallop.”
Watch ‘Never Too Late’ Video
Jimi Jamison’s fourth solo studio album, Never Too Late, will hit stores on Nov. 6 via Frontiers Records. Pre-order the CD on Amazon today!