The first thing you notice when listening to his new album Me Daza is Reid Jamieson’s voice.
Like lead singer Thom Yorke back when Radiohead were writing conventional songs, or the late Jeff Buckley, or the current Jeremy Dutcher, Jamieson has one of those rich, resonant voices, with a high-end range that never ceases to astonish.
Then there’s the artistic voice of the songs, co-written with his life and musical partner Carolyn Victoria Mill. Those include thoughtful meditations on human self-doubt (“Enough”), and encroaching middle age (“Evergreen”), and portraits of the dogged resilience of spirit required to best meet those challenges (“Better Man”). There are conscious views of the way humanity continues to re-visit the same problems (“Circles”), and how we so often fall in line, especially on social media (“Dominoes”). And there’s a gentle but moving pro-choice song (“She”).
Recorded with producer Kieran Kennedy at a small seaside cabin in County Cork, Ireland, the album sounds plush and cinematic, centred around Jamieson’s nylon-string acoustic guitar. The words of the album title, “me daza,” are local slang for “most excellent,” though the direct translation is, “I’m dying.” In the face of inevitable mortality, this is an album made by adults, for adults, that stands up to it.
It was recorded quickly, in just a week. “The first morning, I figure I’m just testing the sound of the guitar,” says Jamieson. “ ‘I’ll just do a run-through of the songs, just to test it out.’ No, those are the takes that are on the record… I realized that every time I do any little thing and the tape is rolling, I’ve got to mean it.”
“Most of the week was spent at the pub!” says Mill, still incredulous. “Work was furious between 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Giv’er, giv’er, giv’er. Then… pub. The first day, we’re a couple of hours into it, and Kieran’s, like, ‘So… to the pub?’ Me and Reid were, like, ‘Are you serious?!’ Then you realize, hey, this is Ireland. It’s part of the process.”
And how does the couple’s own songwriting process work? “I think that it’s moved in the direction now where we’re trying to use our strengths as best we can,” says Jamieson. “I always seem to have music there to use. But I don’t always have subject matter, or something I’m interested in saying.” Which is where Mill comes in.
Take “Evergreen,” for example, a song about how a couple’s love can grow, even beyond middle age. “I was getting ready to turn 50, and I thought, ‘There’s love songs for the maiden, there’s love songs for the mother, but where are the love songs for the crone?’” says Mill. “Reid reassures me all the time, and some of the things he says are so beautiful. I wanted to capture what he says when I worry, when I’m insecure… when I feel the cloak of invisibility that a woman unwillingly dons at a certain age. I realized that I’m not the only woman out here that needs to hear it.”
“I find it a huge compliment that Carolyn’s able to write lyrics that, by the time I’ve run through the song a few times, feel like I wrote them,” says Jamieson. To which Mill instantly replies, “But he did! He’s said them to me; I’m just translating them into a song.”
In “Better Man,” that translation looks at how challenging it can be for men to become evolved human beings in the current social climate, “Enough” offers words of encouragement in the face of that sort of self-doubt. “I wish everybody could just have that song ‘Enough’ replace the tape that plays in our minds every day,” says Mill. “The one that says, ‘OMG, you’re fat. Look at that old face on you. You really screwed that up. You probably shouldn’t have said that.’”
While that’s a hard-to-reach goal, Jamieson and Mill have achieved another, more modest one – the ability to combine touring with a vacation, in what they call “tourcation.” “Instead of playing night after night in different places, we’ll book three days in a place we want to go,” Mill explains. “We’ll get there one day early, get to know some people, and have a good time. We’ll play a show the second night, then hang out with people we met at the show on the third day. We don’t make any money, but we don’t lose any money, either. And we have a really good time, and end up with incredibly enriching experiences.” Which, of course, only fuels their artistic voice even more.
Not a bad way to go, all, told.