Pontoon perfect possie for Jamie
Special stage a first
Kiwi songstress Jamie McDell is no stranger to a stage but performing on a specially-designed lakeside pontoon in Matamata will certainly be a first.
The easy-going, beach-loving 22-year-old is set to headline the inaugural Rotary Matamata Concert by the Lake on February 22 with Auckland jazz band The Society Jazzmen and local talent Bryan Rawiri.
‘‘This is something I have never done before,’’ Jamie says. ‘‘It will be absolutely unique to play on a pontoon and this will add a very interesting dynamic to a show like this in the outdoors.
‘‘The venue looks really stunning and I imagine it will be one of the most beautiful settings I have played in so far. A lot of the inspiration I take is from the outdoors so I am really looking forward to this concert.’’
With proceeds going to Rotary Matamata projects, Jamie says playing at charity events is always great for her and her band. ‘‘The audience at these types of concerts is always there for a really good reason and we are surrounded by people doing their best to help out and as a bonus you get a really good response to the music. Matamata is giving us as artists the chance to do something we really love.’’
Even at her tender age, Jamie is no stranger to charity work. She is an ambassador for Surf Lifesaving New Zealand – something she feels is more of a joy than an obligation – and she has worked with Sea Shepherd and Legasea – both organisations aiming to protect the oceans.
As a teenager, she even wrote a song, Without a Voice, about the plight of the Maui’s dolphin which she performed both for the Auckland Council and then at Parliament. And last year, she spent time in Costa Rica with Celine Cousteau, the granddaughter of legendary marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau, working in sea turtle conservation.
‘‘The ocean has been something I have grown up with – I was diving at a very young age and you start to notice things changing and you question why,’’ Jamie says of her work with marine conservation organisations.
‘‘When I was seven, Mum and Dad took us to live on a yacht in the Mediterranean and I guess with time on my hands and the environment I was in this was when I started to write songs,’’ Jamie says.
‘‘Mum and Dad are relatively musical and it was a pretty natural progression for me to write songs. A lot of kids keep diaries but my way of coping with things was to write songs.’’ By the age of 16, when she was ‘‘discovered’’ by EMI music, she already had more than 100 songs written.
Her parents encouraged Jamie to share this talent and she started to put her music, videos and thoughts onto social media.
Now, some six years down the track, Jamie has a large and loyal social media following, named the Gypsy Pirates, totalling 213,000 Facebook followers, 30,000 Twitter and Instagram followers and 100,000 YouTube subscribers.
With such a level of fan base, it is almost inevitable that Jamie is seen as a role model, particularly for young women. ‘‘Positive and negative images are very strong over the internet, and young girls in particular need to have a strong sense of themselves.
‘‘I was told as a teenager ‘ you need to respect opinions only of those people that you respect’. It is some of the best advice I was ever given. I’m always interested in listening to those people that I respect and hopefully that is something I can pass on to young girls to consider.’’
It was the release of You’ll Never Take That Away, her debut single in February 2012, that really launched Jamie’s career in the mainstream psyche of New Zealanders.
‘‘ I am really proud of that song,’’ Jamie says. ‘‘I had written it about living your own life and doing the things you love and to
Sunday, February 22 1pm-6pm Private property, 162 Jondor Rd Featuring: The Society Jazzmen, Jamie McDell and local musician Bryan Rawiri. BYO picnic and drinks. There will be some non-alcoholic drinks and food available for purchase on the day (cash only)
Tickets: $40 or $30 for secondary students with ID. Available now from PaperPlus, Colourplus and Visique. have a song like that with a message like that and to have young people believing in the music was something very, very special for me, but at the same time its success was a bit of a shock and it was a little bit weird to hear yourself on the radio.’’
The success of the single was followed by the release of her debut album – Six Strings and a Sailboat. ‘‘I wanted an album title that reflected me and with this the album could just as easily have been called Jamie McDell – it was the perfect fit.’’
Jamie’s music has been described in many different genres but in her own estimation she is a pop artist with strong influences from the country music scene. ‘‘I have learned a lot from country music – how to tell a story and structure a song to make it sound as good with just an acoustic guitar as it does on the radio.
‘‘My song writing is honest, straightforward and never overthought. It came naturally from a young age and it was a coping mechanism growing up – a way to get down your experiences and I have not really strayed from that formula too much.’’
Jamie’s participation in the Concert by the Lake will also feature half her band, including acoustic guitars, keyboard and a violin. With her second studio album – Ask Me Anything – due out on March 27, she will showcase a lot of the new material.
‘‘ I believe these songs have matured quite a lot but they are still based around an acoustic guitar and story-telling. I would say it is a progression and development – I am getting older and dealing differently with things and I am trying to write less about myself and more of other people’s stories.’’
‘‘The Matamata audience will be among the first to hear a lot of the new material and I may even write a song about playing on the pontoon,’’ Jamie jokes. And if she does there is one thing for sure – You’ll Never Take that Away from Matamata!
OUTDOOR GIG: A lot of the inspiration I take is from the outdoors so I amreally looking forward to this concert,’’ Jamie McDell says.
AIR TIME: ‘‘It was a little bit weird to hear yourself on the radio,’’ Jamie McDell says of her success.