JAMIE DUNPHY & TRUE NORTH
No More Waiting
(BEH Music)

 

Boston-area guitarist Jamie Dunphy came to the attention of mwe3.com thanks to the 2010 album he recorded with the jazz-fusion band called Mill City Trio. Jamie’s 2019 album, called No More Waiting, was recorded and released by his new rock project called Jamie Dunphy And True North. In a completely new direction, on the 25 minute, six-track No More Waiting, Jamie proves his merit as a guitarist, songwriter and lead singer. Speaking about the shift from his jazz-rock instrumental band to the country rock sound of his 2019 album, Jamie tells mwe3.com, "I’ve always considered myself a guitarist who sings, but I really enjoy singing. In earlier bands, I wrote primarily with other members of the group, contributing riffs and chord changes while leaving the lyrics to someone else. But over time I got more comfortable presenting full songs, particularly when I started leading that eight-piece group. After graduate school, I became immersed in jazz, and I didn’t sing publicly or write songs for many years. It’s been great fun getting back to it. I was surprised how long it took to get my voice back into shape, but I feel pretty strong now." Very much rooted the Dylan-esque Americana, country-rock style, the six track No More Waiting CD features Jamie’s excellent electric and acoustic guitar work and singing, backed up by the fine rhythm section of Seth Peterson (bass) and Tod Salmonson (drums, percussion). Produced by Brian Charles, the first CD by Jamie Dunphy and True North, No More Waiting shows the expansive range of talent and diversity from an excellent guitarist with a whole lotta varied musical influences and styles. www.CDbaby.com



mwe3.com presents an interview with
JAMIE DUNPHY

mwe3
: I remember the Mill City Trio CD, Looking Up, from a few years ago, and mwe3.com did an interview for it too. So after a great jazz-fusion album what made you go write and record a country-rock album on No More Waiting? Are you still playing jazzy guitar instrumentals or are you now heading straight away into country pop?

Jamie Dunphy: After that last Mill City Trio album, Seth Peterson, the bassist in True North, and I did an album of original songs for lute, voice and viol da gamba called Stare Into the Sound. The performances we did in support of that album reminded me how vocal music can connect with audiences in such an immediate and powerful way. Shortly after that, I did a reunion gig with my college band, which made me realize how much I missed the visceral experience of playing music with that kind of energy. I started thinking that maybe I had something to say again in the context of a rock group. Mill City Trio still plays occasionally, and I still do some freelance jazz playing in addition to the rock and early music/lute stuff. Leading a triple musical life, as it were!

mwe3: One thing is consistent between both of your styles is your expert guitar playing. Were the No More Waiting tracks recorded live in the studio and did you do many overdubs and what guitars are you primarily using for both acoustic and electric on the new CD?

Jamie Dunphy: Thank you! The basic tracks were all done live, although we cleaned up a few guitar and bass bits later. The solos on “I’m Not Here” were done live; the others were overdubbed because we wanted a rhythm guitar underneath. I like the way we did it-primarily live, so it has that feel of a real performance, while still allowing ourselves to polish things a bit and experiment with some guitar and percussion overdubs. For the more country-rock songs, I used an early 00’s Epiphone Casino. It’s an inexpensive guitar, but I love it. I use John Pierce archtop strings on that guitar, which gives it a nice acoustic sound. For the more rocking, overdriven stuff, I played a D’Angelico EX-SS. Beautiful guitar, incredibly versatile. It works great for these heavier songs, but I’ve used it recently on a few jazz gigs, and it has a nice, warm, clean sound too. I played my little Seagull Coastline Grand acoustic on “I’m Not Here” to double the solos and beef up the rhythm guitar. It’s a small parlor guitar, not super-powerful, but I wrote all of the songs for the album on it, so I thought it deserved an appearance! The solo on “After All” was done on an old Guild acoustic guitar that lives at Zippah Recording Studios, where we did the album. It’s one of those instruments that just records really well.

mwe3: Tell us about the band that plays with you in the True North band? What’s the chemistry like between the musicians and tell us about working with producer Brian Charles up in the Boston area? Are you planning to play live shows for the No More Waiting album?

Jamie Dunphy: The band features Seth Peterson on bass and Tod “Fish” Salmonson on drums. Seth was one of the first people I met when I moved to Boston in the early ‘90’s, and he is one of my dearest friends. We’ve done all sorts of crazy projects together, and he’s been a hugely important part of my musical development. Not sure I’d still be at it if it weren’t for Seth. Fish and I were in the college band I mentioned earlier as well as this wacky 8-piece rock band I led for a few years. He’s such a great, positive person, and one of my oldest friends. The two had met but had never played together before this project. They are both superb musicians, and while I suspected they would form a mighty rhythm section, one never knows. But they clicked right away, and the group has really great chemistry. I feel very fortunate to be able to make new music with two great friends at this point in my life. And the parts they add to the songs really bring them up to a whole different level.

Brian is an amazing person to work with, incredibly talented and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I believe this is the seventh album I’ve done at Zippah... why go anywhere else? Brian is a topnotch engineer who gets beautiful, warm sounds. But to me, the producer role is where he shines even more. He’s always supportive and positive, but is not afraid to speak up if something just isn’t working. Those situations are always approached with a problem-solving attitude, and we’ve always found a good solution. Brian also has a great ear for vocal harmonies and where to add percussion and acoustic guitar overdubs. I’m always surprised by how those little things can really change a track from good to great. The band has a number of shows booked in the Boston area to support the album. March 30th at Uncharted in Lowell and June 21st at the Burren in Somerville are the two “official” release gigs. We’re looking into some out-of-town dates, New York, etc. but will probably not stray too far. We all have jobs and families, so touring is not really in our plans.

mwe3: Your vocals are great on the new album. What’s your background like as a singer-songwriter and lyricist and what were these songs inspired by?

Jamie Dunphy: Thank you! I’ve always considered myself a guitarist who sings, but I really enjoy singing. In earlier bands, I wrote primarily with other members of the group, contributing riffs and chord changes while leaving the lyrics to someone else. But over time I got more comfortable presenting full songs, particularly when I started leading that eight-piece group. After graduate school, I became immersed in jazz, and I didn’t sing publicly or write songs for many years. It’s been great fun getting back to it. I was surprised how long it took to get my voice back into shape, but I feel pretty strong now.

mwe3: Who are some of the singer-songwriters that influenced your own singer-songwriter style?

Jamie Dunphy: Honestly, one of the biggest influences on my songwriting has been our own Seth Peterson. The words he contributed to Stare Into The Sound are beautiful and thought-provoking, and really raised the bar for me. That project was my first experience setting preexisting lyrics to music, and it made me rethink a lot of things. I see now that the underlying music really needs to serve the words, first and foremost. We all want to play interesting parts, and there is room for that too. But sometimes something very simple is what’s called for. Along those lines, I’m a big fan of Jason Isbell; he has such intelligent lyrics and beautiful melodies. And I’d say Stuart Adamson of Big Country has been a big influence, particularly in terms of picking subject matter and exploring themes of social and personal change. To me, that band was the perfect balance of song writing and musicianship, with four great players who played intricate parts but left enough room for the vocal to shine through.

mwe3: Tell us about “Ashes Of You”. Is it about reincarnation? The plight of the humanoid thrill… or the metaphor of how death is like winter and under the ice is the promise of a brand new day.

Jamie Dunphy: Wow, I had never thought of the reincarnation angle, but that interpretation really fits pretty seamlessly with the lyric. To me that song is about the danger of becoming numb to our political situation. It was written right after the Trump inauguration, which, political leanings aside, was a pretty nervous time for a lot of people. There was an undercurrent of fear, and I think a lot of people who were unhappy with that outcome were unsure how to act. So the song is a call to arms of sorts, a call for “fire in the valley,” meaning passion and the courage to speak up and fight for what you believe in. I think it also serves as a reminder that nothing is permanent, that this dark winter will pass.

mwe3: “Reveille” is an interesting track. Interesting title, how does it relate to the lyrics? Is it about war?

Jamie Dunphy: Such a cliché, but that one was inspired by a dream I had. I was long gone, looking down on my daughter roaming this sort of post-climate disaster wasteland. The song turned into an apology to her and her generation for the way my generation has damaged the planet and left it to them to deal with the aftermath. The line “I should have pressed that flower in that book and sounded reveille” was meant to mean, “I should have done my part to preserve the earth and help call attention to the irreparable harm we’re causing.” But obviously, the word “reveille” has military connotations, and I like that it can be taken as an antiwar statement too.

mwe3: “I’m Not Here” is a really funny country music song. Is it about not being able to face something or someone? You have some interesting lyric citing, Rio, Cain and Abel too… very funny. Any clues on your frame of mind on “I’m Not Here”?

Jamie Dunphy: To me, that song is about not taking responsibility in conflict. I think we’ve all been in those situations where we feel like we’re not being heard, like we’re invisible in a sense. At that’s particularly difficult when you’re trying to resolve a conflict of some kind. The choruses are this sort of comical list of all the things one can blame for one’s behavior, instead of admitting the “inconvenient truth” that in almost every contentious situation, both parties bear some of the blame and need to take on some responsibility in the resolution process. It takes two to tango, as they say.

mwe3: Sounds like “The Great Flood” was inspired by Dylan. Tell us about “The Great Flood”.

Jamie Dunphy: Maybe not directly, but certainly his strong imagery and sense of place are an influence on my writing. He’s one of those iconic figures who influenced every modern songwriter whether they’re aware of it or not! I wrote “The Great Flood” during a very trying week when I was overloaded with e-mails, texts and bad news everywhere I looked. So it’s about how the flood of information that technology brings us can be very damaging, how despite what advertisers would like us to believe, it separates us rather than brings us closer. And the song is also about the flood of time, and how those waves bring us along whether we want them to or not. “You can’t hold back time; take it from someone who’s tried.”

mwe3: Is “Shadow Crossing” about living through the hard times? Do you write more from the heart or the head? It’s an emotional plea but also clear-headed.

Jamie Dunphy: That song is a tribute to the late Stuart Adamson of Big Country, who as I mentioned earlier has been a huge influence on me. I weave in a lot of references to his lyrics, while very loosely telling part of his story. That band was a mighty force, inspiring and encouraging audiences while drawing attention to important social issues. But after their fourth album, their popularity plummeted. I assume partly for that reason, Adamson started drinking heavily. Sadly, he took his own life in 2001. But the song ends hopefully, with the notion that we can learn from his life and death, and pick up where he left off.

My favorite music has a good balance of the head and the heart. I think a lot of my early writing, particularly the material I contributed to Mill City Trio, was almost hyper-intellectual. I’m allowing things to be simpler now, and trying to speak from the heart, particularly on some new songs I’ve written in the last few months. It’s scary to be vulnerable like that, but I think you have to be to really connect with people.

mwe3: Is “After All” about your family? Tell us about your family and where you’re from and where you live now? Also what plans do you have this year for you and you music?

Jamie Dunphy: That song was written for my daughter, who my wife and I adopted about a year and a half ago. Like a lot of people in their 40’s, I had gotten to the point where I thought, “OK, this is what my life is going to be.” And I was perfectly happy with that. But then she came along and turned everything upside-down in the best possible way. I suddenly realized that life could be much better than it was. The first two verses are about the experience of meeting her, and the third is a bit of fatherly advice. I cringe listening back to some of my older songs. I think I was a bit of a know-it-all, and a number of those songs are a bit pushy in giving unsolicited advice. But I think in this case, I’m entitled!

After the release shows, we’ll actually be back in the studio this summer, working on a couple of tracks for a benefit album for Musicians Without Borders, a wonderful organization I’ve worked with for the past four years. Those sessions will also be the start of a new full-length album, the working title of which is Sophomore Slump. We have gigs booked through the end of this year, so we’ll be busy. Out of that lute recording grew a group called Night’s Blackbird that’s been performing pretty regularly for the last few years. In addition to our concerts, we’re going to start working on our first album at some point this year. Much to look forward to!



 

 
   
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