Despite delay upon delay of their debut release, Everything You've Been Looking For, Jaymes Reunion's record is now finally in stores. But months before the album would finally release, we sat down with front man Cameron Jaymes to discuss his past (touring as a solo artist), present (shaping up his band's debut), and the future (the release of their debut)...
This interview took place on: 4/19/09.
JFH (John): It's funny - I remember you toured with Five Iron Frenzy...
Cameron Jaymes: Yeah, a long time ago. I get that a lot. People are finally putting the pieces together … and they go, “Did you tour with Fire Iron?” And I go, yeah – I did. That was seven years ago.
JFH (John): Wow – that's awesome. It's crazy to think it was even that long ago.
Cameron: Yeah, it's weird, right?
JFH (John): What have you been up to since that tour?
Cameron: Well, I did some college … some. I tried, ya know. I stayed busy enough to not finish college. So, kids, “Go to college.” But after that tour is when I really started to realize, ya know: That - A) I felt called to making music, but that was my first taste. And B) this is what I wanna do for a living. And that I'm really ready to commit to it, and so I locked myself in a room while I was going to junior college with a Pro Tools rig - my old school Pro Tools recording gear - and I started writing, and writing, and writing. And I realized through the Five Iron tour that, I wasn't ready to make an album yet. And I think that is a very important thing to say: "I wanna be great at what I do, and I don't think I'm great yet. People may like it, but – it's not undeniable yet." So, I spent a couple of years just being a normal teenager. I'd go down to L.A., I'd take meetings, I'm a pretty ambitious person, so I would knock on people's doors and make them listen to me. And through that process, the ground work for the tour and hounding people through the years, the ground work sort of laid for what would become my future career. And then I started from there – I started the recording process of the album at about 20 (years old). I started a publishing deal when I was about almost 21 years old. So a couple years after high school, I got a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing, and that was a great situation for me. Then, the head there – David Mantel was his name - said, “alright … let's make something.” And, so, we started the demos and the recording, and they were just great to me. They're still my publishers, so I still get to hang with them. But we started recording the album, the full album, at about 21, 22 – and that was a process, ya know? When I was about 23, it was done. And then, right when it was done, we started shopping it to labels. And, we had a good amount of people listening and interested. I've known Tyson (from Tooth and Nail) and Brandon, since the Five Iron Tour, because they had 2 bands on the tour, Bleach and Holland. And, I sort of kept relationships. I've always kind of been a relationship guy. So I picked up the phone, and said, “Hey – listen to my record.”
JFH (John): Wow, awesome. Which three songs did Tyson hear?
And, we didn't really know that this was gonna be a fit for the record, over here, cuz we were talking to people like Epic and Sony. But, everybody at Universal liked Tooth and Nail, and said, "they're the next big label, and they're doing things kinda really cool." And Tyson heard 3 songs and went, “Let's do it.” He hadn't seen me since I was young, and said, "let's put this record out." So yeah, that was 22, 23 - all in that range. It's kind of a jumbled timeline. But it's kind of in a nut shell – what I've been doing since 17, 18 years old.
Cameron: Tyson heard “Fine” – I'm sure he heard “Fine” – a song called “If You Wanna Cry,” and then he probably heard “More Than A Day.” Those were sort of the most kind of radio friendly pop songs.
JFH (John): So, the record that's coming out is the one that you recorded from a few years ago?
Cameron: Yeah, and we've worked on it, we've changed some stuff. We recorded another song even this last December. So, I'm always writing cuz I write for Universal, and I'm constantly writing – so, from time to time I'll have a song that goes, “well, this is a Jaymes Reunion song.” And I sent that one over to Tyson and the band's management, and to Brandon – and they were like, “Let's record it!” So, it was a late addition, but it's interesting to listen back to the record that was made over a 2-year process, and then hear something that was recorded three months ago, four months ago to go, "whoa... I wonder where the next record's gonna go." So that's exciting.
JFH (John): Yeah, that's cool. So, why the delay? Cuz you guys seemed to be promoting the record last GMA, and now it's still not even out.
Cameron: Y'know, it's actually a blessing for us, that Brandon Ebel, and Tyson, and our management, all really are treating us with velvet gloves, or so I would like to say. Most bands make a record, and the record company throws it out there and says, "if it works, it works and if it doesn't, it doesn't." And because of their belief in the record... I don't want to say we're waiting for the stars to align, but timing is everything in this business.
JFH (John): That's true.
Cameron: And with what EMI has been releasing, and different scheduling and records, like Jeremy [Camp]'s, and some records that need bigger focus than this, they've been great to just say, “Hey, it stinks we're gonna be on hold for a little bit, but we wanna put all our attention into it.” And so we're gearing up into that with another single release, and “Fine” was sort of an accidental single. We serviced it out for radio testing, and to get people's reaction. People started playing it. So we said, "give it an add date." And then that did really well at CHR, and then “Let It Shine” – I mean, the next logical thing since we did the single and it sold a fair amount on iTunes, was we thought, "well, in the mean time, we wanna keep releasing things for people, to keep up with us." So we just shot the video for “Fine” and that will be the next thing. So, we're getting there. We're starting to do the things that need to be done. They're treating us like we're their little baby. It's not a terrible thing, it could be worse.
JFH (John): So, why the name "Jaymes Reunion?"
Cameron: The million dollar question! Y'know, I go by "Cameron Jaymes." Jaymes is my middle name. "Cameron Jaymes" is what I've gone by for so long, and y'know, just through writing songs, and song writing, and recording, I have all these buddies that I really admire. And over time, it sort of just was like I'm writing the song, I cast the vision for it, but these guys are bringing life to it, too. And, so it was sort of like these little family reunions, and we started recording and different things, and it was like we get together for Cameron Jaymes songs. And so, it started out as "Jaymes Family Reunion."
JFH (John): Right, I think I remember that.
Cameron: Just because it felt like 70's and cool at the time. And it was sort of our working name for the project. And then, people started asking, “Well, is it brothers? Is it...” Well, alright, we don't want to confuse people, it's not a real family. So, then we took "family" out of it, and "Jaymes Reunion" had a nice ring to it. And it's an intriguing name. So, we wanted to be able to have a name that really stuck and branded, and I think "Jaymes Reunion" works for that. It has a story.
JFH (John): What made you choose a band name instead of just calling yourself Cameron Jaymes?
Cameron: Well, some of it was just strategic planning. I'm not gonna act like it was some major artistic decision. The music business is a business, and you have a lot of people all around you telling you what do to. I think there are reasons people do their jobs. There's a reason the record label's a record label. And, there's a reason the publisher's the publisher. There's a reason why people have success. And the consensus was, early on in development, when we started talking to labels and people... there was another John Mayer. There was already a Jason Mraz. And, they said this feels like more than just a singer/songwriter thing. This doesn't feel like that sort of record. And that's when I started pinpointing; well, why does it feel that way? Because of the collaboration. So, we all sort of said, "yeah, but there's not that many pop bands out there. There's Maroon 5, and the Fray, maybe... I mean, there's this whole open market. There's never too many bands in the world. People love bands, so sort of all at one time, kind of organically, the conversations were happening and it seemed to make sense.
JFH (John): And it sounds better than "Cameron Jaymes Band."
Cameron: Yeah. Well, I would never do that. I'm not Dave Matthews. Dave Matthews is maybe the only guy who could pull that off. But, yeah, the whole, “name a band after me” – felt too "me." I'm definitely the personality where I don't mind being in front of people, but to me, I might as well just be "Cameron Jaymes."
JFH (John): Yeah, I hear ya. Has there been a change – or, has there been finished album artwork? Cuz I know it's not the same cover as originally released?
Cameron: There has been, well... the mystery of Jaymes Reunion continues. We did artwork and the first shoot we did got released because of the unexpected take-off of "Fine." So, since we were releasing the single digitally, we needed some sort of artwork for that. And we did that and we had more photo shoots and stuff and some of the newer photo shoots were feeling a little more aligned with where the record was going. And we started looking at photos and saying, "Well, that'd be a great cover! ...But so would that." And we ended up liking the newer photo shoots for an actual album cover. We were like, "We really want the album cover to be defining and since we already used the vibe on the singles that we had before, let's just see if there's something else." So there are a few mock-ups and we're down to a few, I will say that the old artwork will probably just stay for the singles.
JFH (John): I actually like the old cover.
Cameron: It's cool, yeah! It's a neat picture. It was a fun shoot, too. We had a bunch of friends there and I'm sure that'll get used for a lot of things too. I know the label, for branding, wanted that defining band image. They kind of do for most bands. We'll see. I'm sure that stuff will get used. It was a great shoot and the photographer who did that shoot did a really great job on it. So hopefully we get to use it somehow.
JFH (John): What are your musical influences?
Cameron: A lot. I grew up on The Beatles. My Dad was an obsessive Beatles fan. There's that whole "I'm an Elvis fan" / "I'm a Beatles fan." My Dad was a Beatles fan. And he was a Paul McCartney fan more than of any one person. So I grew up on the Abbey Road record, the Beatles White record. I grew up on Paul McCartney's Ram LP, I grew up on Wings. Anything Paul McCartney, I grew up on. Stevie Wonder, Songs In The Key Of Life, is one of my favorite records ever. Two records that influenced me deeply and affected me as a musician are Songs In The Key Of Life, and Stevie Wonder's Music Of My Mind... and Inner Visions, I should say. I was a big Stevie Wonder fan, because - I've said this a lot when people have asked me, but - Stevie Wonder had a way of making you feel like you were on a high during one song and then two tracks later, he was singing about the slums, which I knew nothing about but I knew the emotion he was singing. He had a way of relaying any sort of emotion even if you didn't identify with the situation. I felt like I knew him. And growing up as a kid, I just wanted to relate to somebody, and so Stevie Wonder was one. James Taylor, Chicago, Boston. I love Boston, even though we don't have any double guitar leads! Michael Jackson was a big one cause he was "the man" when I grew up. And more recently, obviously, you have to love records like ColdPlay. I loved Third Eye Blind's first record. It was a huge record for me in high school. Foo Fighters' The Colour and the Shape was big for me. I always wished I was tough enough to be Dave Grohl. I somehow ended up as a pop song writer, but the last song on the [Jaymes Reunion] record has an epic ending that's very reminiscent of Third Eye Blind and a little Foo Fighters, so I felt like I sorta got my tough guy stuff in. So yeah, a little bit of everything!
JFH (Amy DiBiase): I was pretty tempted to buy a Michael Jackson double-disc hits record last night at Walmart.
Cameron: You should be! I might go buy that if it's there still. *laughs* Anybody who's "great," I've always had a fascination with. I want to be great at what I do. And so you look at people who have been great at what they do. Even if you don't love their music. What did Bob Dylan do that was so special? I mean, there are these people that are there. What did they do that makes them great? So, you study those things. Maybe you want to be a great musician, so you study people that for some reason are considered great. And you say, "What is it that makes them great? What is it about me that's my special gifting in music? What do I focus on to make what I do great?" And for me it was song writing. I'm not an incredible singer. I'm not going to shred guitar leads. But I'm charismatic for the most part and I love writing songs. And so my thing was to be a great songwriter and to write songs that you can bring in buddies that are great guitar players. I worked on my voice since I was seventeen and just worked on my songwriting.
JFH (John): Since you toured with Five Iron and Bleach and such, did you listen to any Christian music?
Cameron: Yeah! Y'know, I grew up on Five Iron. That was a thrill for me. My brother, when he was in high school, brought home a Five Iron record from a local show. DC Talk's Jesus Freak, I mean, that's a classic in my life! A rare Christian band I really liked a lot is called Fold Zandura. I saw them once at Spirit West Coast and fell in love with them. Grew up on Switchfoot. They were really influential. Actually, what was influencing on me was Jon Foreman's writing. What a writer! What a great example of a writer! My older brother was really into Newsboys, so by default - we shared a room, so I'd listen to it every morning while we were getting ready for school. I was always a big fan of Kevin Max from DC Talk because I loved his voice. He had the Freddie Mercury thing going. To have a vibrato that good is not fair. So yeah, I grew up on DC Talk records... a little bit of that. Amy Grant's Christmas album was a big one in my house. I'm admitting that!
JFH (John): Is "If You Wanna Cry" about someone specifically?
I had a healthy amount of balance between the two (Christian and mainstream music). I always consistently tried to focus on things that people thought were great. Like I said, there's a reason mass amounts of people like it. A lot of people want to bash on it, but I think there's something to be spoken for why people connect. If it connected, I was probably scouring to find out why. *laughs*
Cameron: Yes! It's about my older brother. I share the story at most shows and it cracks him up when he's at the show because he takes credit for it, basically. My brother was engaged and it was a broken engagement. Really great girl, went to our church, we love her to this day. But I think, from the outside perspective, it wasn't the right relationship. Two great people, maybe not that well matched for each other. And so when that happened, we felt they were sort of speeding through the red lights and when it fell apart, for the sake of both of their lives, in the long term, I think we all sort of exhaled and said "whew!" But what struck me in looking inside myself through that process was that he was my brother and it hurt him, obviously. To date someone for a long time, think that's who you're going to be with for the rest of your life, and he was broken because of it. And in my selfishness, I would call it, I was so happy for him for the future - cause we came from a divorced family, I didn't want that for him - that the "exhale" was louder than me asking how he was. And I realized that a couple months later. I said, "Y'know what? When you were in the belly of the beast for a minute there, and you were broken down and could barely walk almost, I never asked you if you were OK. I was just so thankful that I didn't have to see my brother go through a divorce." So I wrote that song as a tribute to him and say, "Look, I didn't at the time, but I'll immortalize the fact that I should have with a song like 'If You Wanna Cry.'" It says, "If you just need someone to hug you, it's OK to be upset sometimes. It's OK to be hurt. And if you just need a friend, it's what I should have been." It's an important song to me, because family's everything even though we don't show it. And it's my way of saying that, "Even if I'm not perfect, I look at myself in the mirror and I see that I'm not perfect. And I'm willing to admit it."
JFH (John): We were given a half-a-dozen tracks from the label to listen to and I think that one's my favorite.
Cameron: Yeah, I think, in the grand scheme of things, that will be our biggest song. It has the makings of the big ballad, the mid-tempo ballad. And it's a very emotional song. And I think people relate to that. I realized a song like "Fine" people relate to because everyone's been there. And a song like "If You Wanna Cry," everybody's hurt before from a relationship, whether it's a friendship, an actual romance relationship that falls apart. Even kids in high school, they break up with their girlfriend of a month and it's hard. That's a real feeling. But I think it's going to be a real special song for the career of the band. I hope so! For my brother's sake!
JFH (John): Are the songs "Beautiful" and "Forevermore" about the same person?
Cameron: Actually, no. They're actually not. It's not a controversy, but I wrote "Forevermore" for one of my best friends from high school. His brother was getting married and they wanted me to sing at the wedding. And I don't really consider myself a "wedding singer." They wanted me to play during the ceremony. And they didn't really know what kind of song they wanted, and I don't pride myself on being someone who sings a Journey song or some sappy song. So I said, "I'll sing what you guys want, but let me try writing a song for your wedding." I'm not going to pretend I know because I'm not close to marriage, but I said, "Let me imagine how I'd feel." So I wrote the song and they fell in love with it and so it's kind of this idealistic song of the things I wanna say when I get married, and what I feel marriage is and the things that that relationship in my life will mean to me, hopefully. I'm sure it'll be more than that, but at the time, those are sort of my idealistic hopes for how I feel. So it's a very pretty song about that. And then "Beautiful" is about my now-girlfriend. When we met, her mom just knew me as a guy who's a couple years older and a musician, and y'know, some people have a general stereotype of "that's what he does, he's a musician." And so I just wrote this song to say, "Hey, I'm going to be nice to your daughter. I'm not a disrespectful guy. I'm not a 'fast' guy." Y'know what I mean? "And I want to take my time and be respectful, and I believe in doing things in a correct way." It was a fun song I wrote to kind of make a demo of and say, "Play this for your mom!" And it ended up being a song everybody loves so much that they said, "Hey, let's put it on the album!"
JFH (John): Do you have a favorite song on the record?
Cameron: Mmmm.... at the moment, yes. We go through cycles as artists, though. At the moment, it's a newer song. It's the last song on the record we recorded. It's called "Trouble." And it's very funky. It's funkier than anything else on the album. It's got a lot of falsetto and a lot of attitude. So I like that song a lot. But, y'know, I love "If You Wanna Cry." That's always a favorite. The last song on the record might be one of my favorites, because of the ending. It's called "My Song." And the ending, as the publisher put it, "it's like a shotgun to your face when it happens." It's this nice acoustic song, really stripped down, and has very sparse instrumentation, and then out of no where, it's just rock! So it's a pretty special moment and when it ends - it's only about a minute and a half ending - when it ends, it's sort of like, "What just happened?" And then the record's over. Make a statement, it's done. So I like that song a lot too..... until next month. *laughter*
JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?
Cameron: Oh wow, that's a day-by-day basis. Patience! We talked about the record release, and I think, as a Christian for me - and I think a lot of people do this - we sort of look into the future so much. In my situation, I'm in a band, we have a record deal, we're doing this - I want to know what things look like a year from now. And we plan for a year from now! But the reality is there's something today that's happening - whether it's this conversation we're having or people I meet today - where God's trying to do something today. And He's saying to me, "If you continually look at the future, which I've got under control whether you believe it or not, you're going to miss what I have for you today." And so I just have to be patient and not worry about those things and say, "Today I'm in Nashville. Today we're hanging out. Today I'm playing some songs for some people. And it's an opportunity for who knows what, but it's an opportunity."
JFH (John): Yeah, totally. It's tempting to have these dates and days that you look forward to and can't wait for, with days in between feeling like "throw-away days," but those might be exactly where God wants you.
Cameron: Absolutely. It's encouraging to think that no day is a "throw-away day." No matter how you feel, there's no such thing as a "throw-away day." And yeah, we have these GOALS and dates on the calendar we're looking forward to and the danger is that the days in between are all for nothing. And I don't want it to be that. I want every day to mean whatever it's meant to mean.
Jaymes Reunion's full-length debut album Everything You've Been Looking For is available now!