Monday, August 23, 2010

'Start of Something New' with Jamie Bendell

I was contacted a few days ago by a New York City-based musician named Jamie Bendell, a young pop singer/songwriter, about coming to see her live show at Pianos in SoHo. I always enjoy checking out new acts, especially when we share so much music in common (as well as age).

Jamie is an NYC-resident (like yours truly), who has decided to spend her post-grad life pursuing the ever-difficult unsigned artist career path, and her list of upcoming gigs is very impressive. She also has recorded two EPs, Waiting for Owls released back in January and _Something More_ a few weeks back in late July, both of which are available for your perusal at iTunes.

What originally caught my ear was Jamie's unique vocals -- she alternates a bit between quiet, breathy, more husky timbres before launching in to brighter, stronger, more melismatic riffs. She has a very clear, pure kind of voice, which really compliments her more melodic and simplified writing style.

In an age where pop music seems to correlate to the masses as Lady Gaga, Jamie brings to us a return to pop music's origin. Much of her material is just her and her guitar (although at the show the other night, she was supported by a full band, including an electric guitar, bass guitar and drumkit behind her), and she writes her own material. It's more along the lines of Jewel's Pieces of You album -- quietly thought-provoking, seemingly sweet on the surface with more meaning and feeling hidden underneath the surface. Her vocal style reminded me quite a bit of Sara Bareilles.

In addition to playing the NYC bar scene, Jamie also occasionally uploads poppy song covers onto her YouTube account. If you're looking for a place to start, I particularly enjoy her takes on The Script's "Breakeven" as well as a slowed down mash of Drake's "Successful" and Jason DeRulo's "Whatcha Say". There aren't too many new uploads available -- hopefully she'll return to the YouTube scene soon (perhaps with one of Bareilles' newer tunes?).

Her set at Pianos bar this past Thursday was also her birthday show, so I was honored to be able to see her perform on a night that clearly meant a lot to have family and friends present as well as supporters. I'm not quite sure how long she's been performing live professionally, but I do think stage presence is something every artist must work on, and Jamie's no different. All of the original songs she performed were quite strong, and with a promotional and marketing arm behind her, as well as some time to develop her artistic direction, Jamie could truly have her hands on something special. At times, she come across as a bit demure, something I know she's aware of as she describes her own sound as "sweet 'n' powerful" and "endearingly neurotic", something I indeed do adhere to. Overall, I find her very relatable -- as she's able to write about things she knows and flesh them out into something more symbolic.

I really like her stripped down vocal approach -- it takes away the distraction that lies in over-production and is a reminder that a good song is a good song, and a good vocal is a good vocal. This is particularly present in my favorite track, "Start of Something New" (listen here on her MySpace, listed as "Start of Enough"). Jamie also shows some variety in terms of instrumentation, as newer track "Rescue Me" (from _Something More_, see the cover to the right) highlights a tinkling piano backdrop while lamenting betrayal and loss. The spotlight is her soft-turning-strong-turning-soft-again voice that really makes me excited for her potential. Somethings you can't learn, you must be born with. As excited as I tend to get when it comes artists at the beginning of their careers, only a fair few can take their lump of clay and construct something truly amazing. I do think that Jamie is well on her way toward exactly this.

On the flip side, while much of her material undertakes a rather serious tone, her quiet speaking voice evokes a more quirky demeanor. When describing the aforementioned "Rescue Me", she stated it was inspired by someone hacking in to her e-mail account, and another song, "Chocolate Milk" (also available on her MySpace, along with "Rescue Me"), was written about her indifference toward New York's club culture.

It's clear Jamie is still in the beginning stages of her career and artistic journey, but for a beginner, she certainly has all of her moves planned out. For more on Jamie, check out her MySpace, friend her on Facebook, or check out her music through iTunes. Thank you so, so much to Jamie herself for pointing me in her direction and inviting me to her show. I can't wait to see what else she's cooking up, and to check in on her live again soon!

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