Art & Culture

Interview: Jamie-Lee Dimes Aims to Address Society’s Biggest Issues Through Music

Photo Credit: Travis Cosentino

Jamie-Lee Dimes is an inspiring up and coming singer/songwriting that is pouring her heart and soul into her art. As she navigates the music industry, both in her home country of Australia and abroad in America, she is making sure that her sound stands for something. While now her shows in the US have been on hold due to the current health crisis, her music is still making the rounds and spreading her important message. Learn more about Jamie-Lee Dimes from our interview below.

You’re currently based in LA, how has being in LA changed the progression of your music career? Are there any major differences between the music scene here in comparison to Australia?

I’ve been in the California desert for the past week. Every time I try to move to LA, something terrible usually happens that stops it from happening. This month, I’ve been in LA looking for a place to set down roots for a little while. I’ve been recording and touring the last 13 months, so I haven’t really been based anywhere. I do feel very tied to California, though. It was my base for about three years – even though I feel like I have more of a New York attitude at times. I think being in America opens doors to touring full-time and doing music full-time. In Australia, that hasn’t been my experience. It can be as much as a 10-hour drive between cities back home. I think there’s also a more established music scene in America and a larger population to perform for.

You wrote “Release Me” in ten minutes at three in the morning? I know it’s a very personal song for you. Does it make it more nerve-wracking to release work that is essentially a part of you?

Definitely! I’ve called my mother a lot over the past few weeks for pep talks and spent two weeks in Joshua Tree grounding myself. I’m feeling more confident in myself now, but it’s nerve-wracking. I have a tendency to doubt myself, especially when my music gets really personal, but I want to be as honest as possible. The world is tough, and my life has been challenging – the only way out for me seems to be though music and making myself vulnerable.

You said you “found your voice and power” when writing “Release Me”. Has that inspiration leaked into other more recent writing? Is your writing process usually that quick and cathartic once inspiration strikes?

It has been lately! I’ve just grown a lot as a songwriter, and writing “Release Me” helped me have a bit more faith in myself as a musician and artist. I used to be my own biggest obstacle. It’s impossible to make meaningful art if you’re thinking you’re going to fail while doing it. 

I’m working on a full-length album and have been writing and recording while touring. I wrote the songs in a very dark period of grief where I lost a best friend and a lot of people around me. My newer music is definitely a cathartic release – everything has been quick. I finished the lyrics, melody, and music within 20 minutes for most of the songs. Sometimes it takes a little longer if I write a bridge or an outro in another session, but typically everything has been very fast. I think I’m just getting good at documenting my emotions.

The video for “Release Me” was very simple and artsy, but very fitting for the song. How was the process of making it and who did you work with?

I worked with Tori Styles from Wild Rose Media based in Melbourne. She is a badass film director. I stayed at her house for a few days in the country and we just got creative. We had our scenes and ideas planned, but just had fun shooting it between facemasks and good food. She lived in mount Macedon, so we decided to shoot in at hanging rock and the surrounding areas. It was pretty perfect. We also wanted to capture the natural beauty of Australia with all the bushfires happening.  It all came together in about five days. 

You recently released a new single named “Virginia.” Can you tell me more about why the story behind it matters to you and what the process of writing this one was like?

I think it’s important to address racism and equality head on in 2020. Especially when it involves people rallying and using Nazi rhetoric to riot. I’m disgusted that this is the reality of the world right now, and that it doesn’t seem to have improved enough since the civil rights movement. There’s still so much more to do, so this is my statement on the subject through a song.

I was angry and trying to channel my energy. I could either pace up and down the street until it went away, which I did but had a man follow me a block catcalling me which did nothing to calm me down… or channel it into something. So, I went to my apartment, turned on my keyboard, and started writing a blues song. The lyrics just poured out of me. It was in a very raw state, so then I took it to guitar and had a band develop it with me.

I read that when you were working on Liminality you wanted it to be presented as a soundtrack for a film. That’s a very grand thing to do. As an up-and-coming artist, how are you navigating concepts for your next full body of work? Are you aiming for a similar direction?

Liminality was a representation of a year in New York and dancing at a school on Broadway. It felt natural to write music that was fluid and fitting for a dance or film piece since that’s what I was doing every day. I actually disliked performing because I was too nervous to let myself be vulnerable, so I was like “I’ll write music for the film.” It was only March of last year when I realized that I would have to tour in order to open doors – now I absolutely love performing.

My new music is completely different from my last. I think a body of work should sum up the headspace of the artist. The album I’m working on is a body of work inspired by living between New York, California desert and Mexico. It’s about opening my heart to love, reflecting on bad endings, and unpacking very political moments. It’s almost like a three-year therapy session – but hopefully more romantic than that! I was living in the middle of Mexico in love and wrote half the songs there, and then I was either in the desert alone going through utter chaos or in New York watching the news. It has been very turbulent.

I’m always writing and have even more music that I can’t wait to work on – even past the current album I’m working on. I still need to record the newest songs, but their concept centers around love, death, and a lot of pain and longing. It’s hard because I’m re-recording some of the songs for the album I’m working on now, but my new headspace and music is so different. There’s overlap.

Since that was released in 2016, how have you grown as an individual and musician since then? Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew then?

So much! I was in a horrible place back then. I think I had to break many negative cycles, bad habits, and stick myself in the desert to change my life for the better. I’ve learnt a lot about people, and the negative things people do when you are happy and on a path that has you doing well. I’ve learnt to set boundaries. That’s the biggest thing. People often try to change you, but I wish I knew all along just to stick to my guns and trust in my instincts to say no.

Any last words for the interview?

Thanks for supporting women in music! Come and see my play in NYC or LA if you’re around and follow me on Instagram for more times and dates to be announced. And: love each other!

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