Jamie Lin Wilson on Keeping a Journal and Avoiding the “Bright Lights of Fast Food Joints”

June 2, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

I have been through every type of touring vehicle – Dodge, Chevy & Ford vans, hatchback cars, rentals. But now, I travel in my family vehicle – a 2004 GMC Yukon XL. I get 15 miles to a gallon, but with 3 children under 5 and a nanny in tow, the larger vehicle makes it all worth it.

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

I pack a cooler and take healthy food with me that I can use to supplement whatever is on the road. I also travel with children, so I need to take things for them. Packing a little more for myself is not that hard. Oatmeal packets, avocados, fruit and carrots are always in my car. I’m no stranger to a drive-thru, but I try to keep healthy things handy so that I don’t succumb to the bright lights of the fast food joints late at night.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I don’t break many strings… and I generally don’t change my strings until they break. They’re about $15 a pack, so I try to stretch them as long as possible. I know some people who change them every show! No way. It’s maybe 4 or 5 times a year for me.

Where do you rehearse?

Most of the time, if there’s a rehearsal at all, it’s at someone’s house or garage. The other day, we practiced in the basement of the grocery store that’s here in the tiny town where I live. My band members all live in different towns, so when I need them to learn something, I generally will just send them a track and they learn their parts. Sometimes it never gets played until show time and it’s usually perfect. I have a good band!

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

Even if I could remember, I probably wouldn’t admit it! But, I really don’t remember the first song I wrote and I’m sure I forgot it for a reason.

Describe your first gig.

The first gig that ever had my name on the sign was at Zapato’s Cantina in College Station in the summer of 2002. I had been playing the open mic nights there for a couple months and Rick, the owner, said if I learned a few more songs then I could have my own set. My parents drove up for it and my brother made all his friends come and watch. It was an early show – still daylight – and it was packed. I had a friend come play with me so that I could fill 45 minutes. I was so nervous, but pulled it off by looking at the floor and closing my eyes the whole time. Real professional.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I have a degree in journalism, so ever since I got out of college I’ve been doing graphics for a weekly newspaper. At first, I worked at the newspaper in Hondo, Texas, where I live with my husband. After a few years, I quit that and began doing the layout for a paper that my parents bought in Wallis, Texas. I do it remotely (I live about 3.5 hours from them), and have put the paper together every Tuesday from wherever I have been. All I need is my computer and an internet connection, and the Wallis News-Review is assembled. I recently gave up that job also, but it wasn’t the touring that did it. It was the third baby.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

It has probably gotten more steady… more paying gigs, less shows just for “exposure”. Hopefully in 5-10 years, I’ll be getting more mailbox money and depend less on touring.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

To keep a journal. There are so many things I’ve done and places I’ve gone that I have faint memories of. I’d love to go back and read my non-existent journal.

When describing Jamie Wilson’s voice, two aspects come to mind: that honeyed tenor twang that’s become known as one of the sweetest instruments in modern folk music, and that poignant, poetic, down-to-earth point of view she brings to her songwriting. The spotlight shines brighter than ever on both with Holidays & Wedding Rings, her latest release. Even fans may be surprised to realize it’s the first full-length solo album from one of brightest and busiest stars in her recent years amid the folk/Americana/independent country music scene.

An artist of singular talent and restless creativity, she broke into the Texas country/folk scene as one of the co-lead vocalists of the Gougers before the band gradually gave way to not only Wilson’s solo work (the fine EP Dirty Blonde Hair was released in 2010) but also higher-profile musical adventures with The Trishas, an all-female singer-songwriter band that has toured through some of the state and nation’s best venues. Scoring one of the best albums of 2012 with High Wide & Handsome, the Trishas lit up the genre for a few years while always leaving Wilson room for solo gigs, guest spots on over a dozen albums by now, and song-swaps with like-minded artists all over Texas and beyond.

Both deeply personal and solidly collaborative, Holidays & Wedding Rings is an evident labor of love from the sort of songwriter who can delve into the sweetness of family life without hitting sap. Someone who can dig into heartache without wallowing in it, go slow and subtle and still leave a listener rapt. Someone who can share the spotlight with top-flight musicians: veteran Texas music hands John Ross Silva, Scott Davis, Cody Foote and Reckless Kelly’s David Abeyta are all in the mix here, along with alt-country star Wade Bowen on a spine-tingling duet/co-write. Wilson’s home life as a wife and mom come through often in her music (and are known to many of her fans through her humorous social media profiles) but creatively, she can portray lonesome and restless with the best of them.

Connect with Jamie Lin Wilson online and on the road.