Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Jamie McLean Band Releases New CD, Completely

Over the years we have had the pleasure to see Jamie McLean perform live, both as a solo artist and as lead guitarist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. During these performances we have come to appreciate and admire his guitar playing - not flashy and showy - but with that quiet confident that he doesn't need overact. McLean is also an accomplished songwriter and vocalist - having a soulful - sometimes bluesy - sound. Accompanying him are bassist Derek Layes, keyboardist Jon Solo and drummer Brian Griffin, and these artists share the same traits in that they
cam easily transition among several genres - rock, blues, R&B and funk. This style is evident in their new CD Completely, the first under the Jamie McLean Band moniker, and the first where the other band members collaborated on most of the content. We received an early copy of Completely and found it very compatible with our tastes; in fact we enjoy it more after each listen. It contains a diverse compilation of songs, “Cupid’s Greatest Thief” includes some R&B rhythm; “Peace and Glory" is rockin'; "Checkmate" - another classic rock song; and "Brother" and "Bible" bluesy soul. This is a CD worth checking out and see for yourself by download the free mp3 the band provided us of “Cupid’s Greatest Thief”.

The Jamie McLean Band is touring this spring in support of Completely, and for those in the Washington D.C. area, they have a show scheduled at the Music Center at Strathmore on April 16th. And McLean was kind enough to answer some questions we had regarding touring; Washington D.C. venues; and, of course, the new CD.

1) focuses on live music. What are you're favorite venues in terms of atmosphere, location, acoustics, fan reception, etc?

Thankfully there are a ton of favorite venues. Obviously we love rooms with great sound. Cafe 939 in Boston is run by Berklee School of Music and they have an unbelievable sound system. We just played World Cafe Live in Philly which has a great stage and sound. As far as fan reception we love all of them! DC has been great for us. NYC, Charlotte, Roanoke, Atlanta, Boston are always a lot of fun. Anywhere we can really feel the audience response is fun.

2) What factors go into selecting a venue for touring and do you try to cycle through previous venues\locations or pick new locations to expand fan base. Tricky equation - you want to play to a full house of fans, but also need to expand your fan base to new consumers.

We have a core group of markets that we play a few times a year. It depends on each city but if we have a club that we like and the fans have a good time at we try to stick with that. We are always branching out to new cities and parts of the country. We just finished up a tour of California with North Mississippi Allstars and are headed to the midwest later this spring. Obviously when clubs get too small for a certain city we try to expand to other rooms but there is definite loyalty to clubs that treat us and the fans well.

3) You will be playing at the Music Center at Strathmore on April 16th. Have you played at the Strathmore before and if so, thoughts...

This will be our first time at Strathmore but we've heard great things about it. Our agent works with Derek Trucks Band and their singer just played there and loved it. We are really looking forward to this one and it will be our "Washington DC" CD Release party!

4) What are your favorite Washington D.C. venues, past and\or present?

We've been fortunate to play a number of them. Obviously the big rooms are fun but we like all of them. The 9:30 Club was a lot of fun. Great sound and stage and we did a photo shoot in the dressing room. The State Theate is really nice. IOTA is a really great smaller room.

Now to the new CD,

5) How long has this been in the process - from writing, recording, etc?

We started recording the new album early in 2009. Right after we released and toured behind American Heartache we started writing a lot of new music. We had a great stretch where songs really started to fall out of us. We were rehearsing and writing and touring a lot together and things gelled very quickly. We went into Water Music Studios outside New York City at the beginning of the year and tracked all of the basic instruments in 3 days which is incredibly fast. It wasn't like we were rushing through it. I feel like it's a testament to how tight we are as a band. We did some more tracking and mixing over the summer and fall and can't wait for everyone to hear it!

6) I became a fan of yours through your guitar as a solo artist and with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. "Completely" has very few of the "searing" guitar solos which I had come expect and admire - mainly "Peace and Glory". Instead your guitar blends in mostly with the band, was this by design?

The guitar solo is a funny thing. Believe me, I love going wild and taking extended guitar solos but lately I've been drawn more to songwriting and the overall vibe of the band especially on an album. I am more drawn to hearing guitar solos in the live setting. When I'm driving or hanging at home I sort of prefer great melodies and vocal harmonies and songs. When I'm out in a club I definitely want to see what the guys in the band can do. So with that in mind I really wanted to release an album that focused on the songs and the vocals and the lyrics and the harmonies and the melodies and the way a band sounds together. There are definitely moments on here where I cut loose and take solos. There are guitar solos on most of the songs but I chose to keep them at a length that served the song more than myself. Once we take these songs to the stage I extend those moments and take more liberties and drop more of the "searing" leads you're used to. Have no fear. The band and my soloing are burning on tour.

7) I really found myself enjoying the bluesy tunes such as "Brother" and "Bible" - they reminded me a bit of JJ Grey and Mofro. Are you familiar with this band?

Absolutely. I've know JJ and the band for years. We actually toured with Mofro for about 3 weeks when JMB was first getting started. I love JJ's vocals and his songwriting. Thanks for the compliment. The blues/soul element has always been a big part of my playing. I was lucky to have spent a lot of time with really soulful cats in New Orleans and on the road and I'm glad some of the bluesier type songs are presenting themselves to me and finding their way onto the set lists and albums.

8) Speaking of the blues, who were some of the blues artists that influenced you.

I've always dug Taj Mahal, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Howling Wolf, Son House among many others.

9) And speaking of "Brother", what was the inspiration behind writing that song?

The riff was sort of an AC/DC thing that came together in a rehearsal. The lyrics were written after we had the whole groove worked out. Brian and I were both writing lyrics at the same time but separately. I was working on a sort of roadhouse, live music, rock and roll thing and he dug into the whole brother concept. We ended up blending both concepts together which worked out really well. We both have brothers who are musical and it ties in really well.

10) "Ain't Nobody Like My Baby" is a little bluesy, a little Americana-ish, and little classic rock-ish - was the intentional to blend different genres?

I wasn't intentionally trying to blend genres. That opening lick just fell out of me. I remember walking around the house and riffing on it for a while. I wanted to keep it simple but gritty. Its not a ballad but its not an upbeat rocker. It sits in a very unique place which I'm really proud of.
It felt like a Ryan Adams and The Cardinals thing at the time but people always tell me it reminds them of The Band which is a monster compliment to me.

11) The other day I was humming a song to myself and I asked myself, what is that song, before realizing it was "Checkmate". Does that happen to you with your own songs - or someone else's?

That happens to me all of the time. It definitely happens to me with other peoples music but it also happens a lot with my music especially after I've just finished writing new songs. Its always a good sign when I'm digging on a new song a few weeks later and I start singing it out first.

12) Finally, who are you listening to right now?

I've been diggin' Them Crooked Vultures which is David Grohl's new band with John Paul Jones. Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, The Band, are always in rotation. I'm diggin' the Band of Horses, Wilco, Avett Brothers, Bright Eyes, Dr Dog, Hold Steady, Susan Tedeschi, Brendan Benson and a million more.

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