Interview with Jimi Jamison
Jimi Jamison has influenced an entire generation of singers in 45 years of a stable career. A heart attack took him away from us in 2014, but his music will always be here. The opportunity to interview this AOR icon was priceless. Songs like "Burning Heart," eternalized as the ROCKY soundtrack will be forever in our hearts.
Maila-Kaarina: You started your career in 1970, after 39 years of excellent work, you've always been faithful to the AOR hard rock. You have always wished to be a hard rock singer, or this is something that just happened and went on?
Jimi Jamison: I actually started out singing soul music or R&B as it is known now. Growing up in Memphis (the home of Stax Music), ruling the airwaves, and having such influences as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and so many other artists, I guess it was a very natural way to start. I got into rock music when we decided to add a guitar player by the name of Bob Horn to the group. He turned us on to a band called Deep Purple (yes!)…Man ...it was all over then. I loved it. We started playing heavy music and never looked back, so I guess it was something that just happened.
Maila: The Rocky movies put you on the map. Was it the big shot that took Survivor to the next level? Tell us an unforgettable moment in your career.
Jamison: Yes, the Rocky movies put us on the map, but what really got us into the minds of the public was the release of Vital Signs, which had nothing to do with any movies. We shot a lot of videos with this album, and the one thing I'll never forget is when the video for I Can't Hold Back went to #1 on MTV. It stayed there for several weeks. This video did more for us than any of the Rocky movies. The Rocky movies are remembered more now because they are still visible shown a lot.
Maila: Many years have passed, and you are still one of the most acclaimed vocalists of the world. What do you do to keep your voice in shape?
Jamison: I try not to abuse it when I sing. By abuse, I mean drinking alcohol, which I used to do to calm the nerves before a show. Later I realized that when I drank, my brain would take a break, and I found myself screaming instead of singing. I also discovered warming up the voice before shows, which I highly recommend for all singers.
Maila: Tell us a moment of your career that you consider unforgettable?
Jamison: I was playing a club in Memphis, and a messenger was sent to the club to invite me to a famous singer's home. The messenger was sent by Elvis Presley. He wanted me to come right at that moment, and I didn't go because I was in the middle of a show.
Maila: You played in Rio 2 years ago and was very sick on the day of your concert. Tempestt from San Paulo was your supporting band, and even though you were voiceless, your charisma held the audience that could understand something terrible was going on there. Tempestt guys did a great job with you too. Would you like to say something about that day? Explain what happened and how you felt?
Jamison: Tempestt… what a great bunch of guys and fabulous musicians. I hardly ever get sick, but somehow I caught some kind of bug, and my voice just went away. One day I could barely make a sound. I would try and talk, and no sound would come out. I was so frustrated and worried about what the people of Brazil would think that it made it worst.
BJ, the singer of Tempestt, really helped me out by covering for me and giving me this magic liquid that helped my voice come back by the time we did the last show.
Maila: On the 8th of April of this year, you debuted a new release, CROSSROADS MOMENT, please, talk a bit about the production, the process, and the album.
Jamison: I was contacted by Frontiers Records several times, and I just really wasn't into doing a new cd. Finally, I said yes, I want to do it. What's funny is that when Jim Peterik and I started writing for the cd, I still couldn't get motivated enough to finish a song so Jim and I would sit around and talk about what was going on in my life and what concerned me in the world today, and he wrote the songs through my eyes …. The things (at the time) that I just could not put down in words. Vocally I think it came out well, and I think it's the best work I've done to date.
Maila: What's the line-up?
Jimi Jamison – Lead & Backing Vocals
Ed Breckenfeld - Drums
Klem Hayes – Bass
Jim Peterik – Guitars, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Tommy Denander - Guitar on "Battersea"
Mike Aquino- Guitars
Joel Hoekstra - Guitars
Christian Cullen - Keyboards
Jeff Lanz - Keyboards
Don Barnes, Mike Reno, Mickey Thomas, Dave Bickler, Joe Lynn Turner – Backing Vocals (on "When Rock Was King")
Bill Syniar - Bass (on "Make Me A Believer")
Maila: Besides being a musician, you have been a member of the Grammy Awards committee and several other institutions too. What kind of work do you do at Grammy's committee?
Jamison: I was on the committee assigned to putting nominated songs in the correct categories. Even create a class if necessary. And we did.
Maila: People have several reasons to admire you, and you are one of the few long term artists I've never read anything wrong about. What's the secret of being so respected?
Jamison: As a singer, I've always believed in perseverance and being the best you can be, but also I believe in helping someone else be the best they can be. There are a lot of ways to do this. Artists sometimes don't realize the effect they have on others who are up and coming in the industry. Merely showing someone respect when they perform can have a lasting impact on them.
Maila: You also do charity helping prestigious institutions, would you like to talk a bit of them and to tell us how we could help also?
Jamison: I've long been associated with many charities. My affiliation is not sitting in an office but by performing to raise money or making personal appearances at events like golf tournaments and playing golf with company leaders as a perk or reward for their contribution.
It's effortless to get involved. You just chose your favorite charity, call them and tell them what you have to offer and ask…" how can I help." They will be glad to tell you exactly what they need you to so and usually set the whole event up for you in return for your time and talent.
Maila: Have you already started the new tour? Will it happen worldwide?
Jamison: I haven't started a tour yet in the US but have been talking to promoters in the UK, Germany, Spain, and France.
Maila: Among all stuff you recorded, what is your top 5?
Jamison: Across The Miles, Man Against The World, Rebel Son, Crossroads Moment, As Is
Maila: And what's the top 5 of your general playlist?
Jamison: Crossroads Moment, Friends We've Never Met, I Can't Hold Back, High On You, The Search Is Over
Maila: What's your opinion about the music market of today, and the difficulties related to selling CDS, selling music in general?
Jamison: Everyone pretty much has to accept today's situation of the music business as there is not much we can do about it. I think the internet is an excellent outlet for a lot of music, maybe too much music. There's such a wide choice that a fan can't listen to everything out there. So, a lot of good artists are getting overlooked. These days if you have enough money and can get some tv exposure, you can get famous overnight without going through years of the hard knocks of the music business.
Maila: Talk a little about your life as a family man. Are your children musicians?
Jamison: I have 3 kids - Amy, James Michael, and Lacy. Great kids… I couldn't ask for better.
All three have been paid to sing jingles/commercials. Amy and Lacy are singer-songwriters who are getting better all the time.
Maila: What significant advice would you give to those who intend to follow your footsteps?
Jamison: The best advice I can give is to be persistent. Keep doing what you do, and soon you will get so good at it that you can't be denied.
Maila: Are there any special tips for the singers?
Jamison: Exercise, get in shape, and avoid drinking while singing.
Maila: What's the big secret to never stop believing in a passion and never let it fade?
Jamison: I don't think there is a secret. Either you feel it, or you don't. If you do feel it it's something that will never leave you even if you try to stop.
Maila: Please, leave a message to your fans.
Jamison: To all my beautiful fans/friends, thank you so much for listening to my music. And please get all your friends to listen if possible. You are the Best!