Jimi Jamison has influenced an entire generation of singers in 45 years of a solid 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 a very solid work, you´ve always been faithful to the AOR hard rock. Have you always wanted 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 Reding, 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 of 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 in order to keep your voice in shape?
Jamison: I try not to abuse it when I sing. By abuse I mean like 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 singing which I highly recommend for all singers.
Maila: What´s the best moment of your career until now?
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 then at that moment. I didn't go. 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 bad 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 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 itself.
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. Whats 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 category 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 bad about. What´s the secret to keep you career in such a nice pattern and to be 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 affect they have on others who are up and coming in the industry. Simply showing someone respect when they perform can have a lasting effect on them.
Maila: You also do charity helping important 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 really easy to get involved. You just chose you 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: Are you touring with your own band or is still playing with different supporting bands as you did here? How difficult is it to play with different line-ups several times a year?
Jamison: If the band you're going to play with is good, and they are good people - then it is really easy. That has been the case for me so far.
Maila: Among all stuff you have already 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 market of today? Although communication is easier and it helps our careers a lot, Internet is the main source since it´s possible to manage everything from a computer desk. Selling cds is much more difficult, though and the market invests little on artists. Booking concerts became also more difficult because of that. Not considering fame and fortune, would you say the 80´s were much better? Do you miss it as rock fan and a musician or today is OK for you? What´s been lost?
Jamison: Everyone pretty much has to except today´s situation of the music business as there is not much we can do about it. I think the internet is a great outlet for a lot of music, maybe too much music. There´s such a wide choice that it is impossible for a fan to 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. No love interests at this time.
Maila: What big 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: Is there any special tips to 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 letting 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 wonderful 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!