Photos / Kristy Benjamin
Story / Olivia Inkster
Although originally from upstate New York, Henry Jamison moved to Burlington, Vermont with his family at the age of two. That’s been the home and backdrop (quite literally!) for his melodic, visual lyrics. Praised for his songwriting, he is enjoying being back in his inspiring surroundings, even if it’s just another temporary stop between his last tour (with the band, Tall Heights) and his next. Jamison‘s debut EP, The Rains, was released last October through London-based Akira Records. But Jamison says he doesn’t plan to continue coasting on the accolades from that album any longer and has already written his second, The Wilds, which will drop this fall. “I’m in the middle of moving too right now, so it’s been hectic. I don’t mind it, though, because then you have a new room and can make it homey feeling…it’s good to change your environment. It helps to keep creating.” After traveling on and off, Vermont is a necessary retreat from the road for this crooning singer/songwriter.
“I think that I live a fairly healthy, wholesome life here. It’s like being in the amniotic fluid. When I’m here, I hole up and read,” Jamison divulged. Both his extensive vocabulary and his artistic process reveal the importance he places upon being a wordsmith. “I’m into the poet Rilke (Rainer Maria Rilke). Sometimes more than musical inspiration, there are authors who inspire me. I was reading in earnest when I was writing The Wilds. It still isn’t a direct thing, mostly unconsciously. I am going to start a blog about my musings.”
Vermont, home, is a subject he revels in discussing: “I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains here I can look out and see. That’s the point. I love Vermont. It’s a sweet spot. It keeps me out of trouble somewhere else.” Jamison speaks softly and with particularly dreamy introspection.
Jamison does visit six-hour-away New York City “about once a month,” but he always returns. He goes then pulls back, much like his sound. Although a city like New York might offer more grit, something he doesn’t claim to have experienced growing up, he appreciates what he soaks in while traveling. “I think it is a great idea for a lot of people to move to New York, but I don’t think it was right to move for me, at least.”
Even so, this singer/songwriter won’t be getting too terribly comfortable for long in his new digs. He is preparing for a U.S. and Canadian tour, and European dates are being solidified for fall after a summer trip to Switzerland that entails plenty of “hiking in the Alps and all” with his family.
Speaking of family, Jamison‘s has been cautiously supportive of his music career. His mother invites her friends to his shows. “My dad is supportive in the quieter way. he’s a musician. He’s inspiring in that he bought me my first guitar and recorder.” He also notes that in terms of mentors, his father lands at the top of his list. “My dad– that’s the easiest and hardest to talk about. He encouraged me to play in the orchestra and to sing in a chorus. But, that’s my childhood. Now my mentors are the people I’ve listened to for a long time and are classic musicians. It’s more like Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.” When asked if these artists influenced his personal sound, Jamison admitted that although he enjoyed these iconic music makers, he intended to create his own niche, a hybrid. “I feel like it’s a big mixer. I’m not emulating one specific person. There’s also an electronic influence–mostly James Blake. I’m not trying to be any one of them or any one particular style.”
Jamison’s unexpected moments of directness juxtaposed with bouts of elusiveness represent his varying inspirations. Acknowledging this quality, he speaks about his excitement of the first new single from this record, calling it “the least ironic thing I’ve done. It’s got a wide-eyed honesty to it.” He adds, “The single should be released this summer. I wish that it had already happened.” Labeling each song’s style or pitting one against the other in terms of popularity isn’t a concern for Jamison. “I like all of them equally except for the few that I don’t like,” he said with a mild laugh. Real Peach, Jamison‘s most popular single from The Rains, has accumulated over 12 million streams on Spotify. “A few couples told me that they had their first kiss to it or got engaged. It’s adorable, and a lot of them were so young. I thought it was a romantic ditty when I wrote it. It has a thoughtfulness to it.”
When comparing his two albums as a whole, Jamison has made some slight lyrical changes, but maintains his visionary songwriting. “On this new record, I do have a group of songs that are less, ‘I do this, she does that.’ There is some symbolism on this record. They are stories from my life…more of a mythical account, though…personal on one level, an attempt to get to the essence of it. The album doesn’t exactly have a diary energy, and I repeat the story to get to the point. For the most part, it’s my life, you know,” he mused as he began laughing. “Romantic exploits.” Ah, the story of boy meets girl (or boy meets boy, for that matter) has constantly been the inspiration for artists since the beginning of time. Those relationships, those encounters (and their repercussions), shine brightly and heartbreakingly in Jamison‘s writing. He recognizes this and laughs it off, embracing his own truth about life.
“If I had to give [advice] to myself, looking back, my confusion was important. It led to some difficult stalling. In the hiatus, basically that I took from touring, I grew up a lot.” The storytelling aspect of Jamison‘s personality moves in and out, varying by the subject, just as it does within his music. He then added, “But, I’d keep it simple when talking to other artists: Write songs, record them, and get people to help you out. You can do the first part, but you’ll end up needing other people.” The idea of needing other people sounds like a lesson learned by a musician who has touted the solo act as a way of life in almost every aspect of life. By now Jamison has been exposed to the business side of the music industry, as well as the “grittier” sides of America, perhaps adding a perspective that will enable even bigger things to come in his writing and touring in the upcoming months.
Jamison’s quirky, pensive style in music is him. He’s long-winded and philosophical when he feels that it’s right. At other times, he allows his silence to speak more powerfully than the words themselves. When it was time for him to hang up the phone and resume slowly, steadily moving into his new home, he simply said, “No last words. But thank you.”
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