Nashville-based artist, songwriter and force of nature Jamie Floyd sits down with The Writer’s Share to talk songwriting, film and about the release of her debut album.
Jamie has written songs for artists in both pop and country Music, including “The Blade” a duet between Ashley Monroe and Miranda Lambert, it is the title track to Ashley’s upcoming sophomore album. She has also written several songs in Dolly Parton’s latest Christmas movie A Country Christmas Story and her work has been featured in the hit TV shows Finding Carter, Nashville, The Client List and Beauty and the Beast.
The Writer’s Share: You grew up in West Palm Beach – what was it like getting into the music business there, and do you ever wish you’d started off in Nashville?
Jamie Floyd: I actually got a very early start in the music business. We started to negotiate my first production/development and publishing deal with Epic Records out of New York, when I was 11 years old. I started singing with my parents (both professional musicians) at their society gigs in Palm Beach from the age of 2. Once I got my record deal, I was back and forth to Nashville to work starting in 2000, while doing 150 show dates a year in Florida…so I definitely got a running start in Florida and opened for some major acts early on including Rascal Flatts and James Taylor. I feel like I did start off in Nashville too, though, because my career had been rooted there from the start.
TWS: You’ve noted before that you are a “nonfiction writer” when it comes to your songs. What stands out as having the most memorable story?
JF: The most biographical songs that I have written besides “The Blade” are songs that haven’t been released but many of which will be featured on my upcoming project, for that very reason! I have such an emotional connection to the majority of the stories in the songs I write, it is hard to pick even a few. One I think of immediately is a song no one has heard yet called “Next.” It is a song I wrote with one of my favorite co-writers, an up and coming stellar songwriter and artist, John Martin (his first cut ever was on Garth Brooks’ latest album if that gives any indication as to where he is headed!). I had just come back to Nashville empty handed after being flown out to L.A. and making it to the semi finals of NBC’s “The Voice” last summer. I came home and John and I wrote this blunt yet heavy song, it says: ‘…wipe away the tears/wipe away the blood/you don’t feel the pain when you’re doing what you love/you didn’t come to quit/you came to fight..’ and it reminded me of just that: to never stop, and to believe in the dream I have. I had tears in my eyes when we wrote it and somehow I feel like the writing of that song made me stronger. I feel the same way about the title track to my upcoming project “Sunshine and Rainbows.” I wrote it with another incredibly gifted singer and writer (WorkPlay regular performer) Shannon Wright. It sums up the realities of life’s disappointments and bittersweet endings for me: ‘people go places you don’t think they’ll go/and when they don’t take you with them/that’s how you know/ it ain’t always sunshine and rainbows.’
TWS: Between working and songwriting, what helps you take a fresh look at songwriting when it’s time to produce a track?
JF: My father is one of the greatest jazz guitar players ever, in my opinion, and something I learned from listening to him playing guitar is that the music and arrangement of a song should communicate the song’s theme even if there are no lyrics. You should listen and be able to feel the emotional message of the song come through– even in the absence of words. I go back and listen to other great instrumentalists like George Benson and that always reminds me to really take the musicality of a track to heart. I ask myself: does this track convey what I’m trying to say if we take away the words? That always re-inspires me to dig deeper, musically. Also, listening to classic George Strait records, particularly the Dean Dillon songs, really moves me. I can listen to “Nobody In His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her” and the bar is automatically reset – it makes me want to delve in and strive to be that kind of powerful writer, lyrically.
TWS: What’s your favorite type of venue to play?
JF: I truly love the intimate theater setting. There is something throwback and magical about places like that. I love venues that are specifically setup for close listening! Usually the acoustics are unreal and the audience is almost completely surrounding you–nothing better.
TWS: You’ve done a lot of songwriting solo and with others – can you talk a little about how collaboration of two (or more) writers usually works?
JF: Co-writing sounds more sterile than it actually is. We here in Nashville almost always schedule our creativity: 10 or 11-ish am every weekday, you are booked to write with one or two other songwriters, typically. Once you are all in that little nondescript room together, though, there is a certain power that can move through that space and all of a sudden it doesn’t matter that it was scheduled or preconceived. Sometimes the music or idea(s) can hide for a bit or jump right out at you. It is different everyday and every song comes about in its own way, in my experience. Sometimes someone will have an idea or a melody and sometimes you’ll start with nothing – but that’s the beauty of it, really. You can walk into a room and start with nothing and you leave maybe with something you’ve been trying to write your whole life. You never know. So you show up everyday, at 10 or 11 in the morning!
TWS: What’s one thing you think most people don’t know about songwriting?
JF: It is really, really hard! Maybe they do know that – I’m not sure! It also doesn’t “happen” every time you sit down to write a song. Some days you can’t stop it and other days you’re fresh out… and it always surprises me. Even after almost 20 years of professional songwriting I am still dumbfounded when we write something that moves me. I think: how in the world did this happen?! It is also a lot like a time machine; I can sit down and write about something that happened long ago and all of a sudden I’m back there – not just on the edges of the memory – I mean right there. It’ll sneak up on you. You think you’ve let something or someone go and you find out very quickly that it is still alive and kickin’!
TWS: Can you talk a little about why you wanted to get involved with The Writer’s Share?
JF: I love that your program is centered around the songs. Your venue is maybe the perfect setting for storytelling and an intimate interaction between performer and listener. My main goal is for people to feel whatever it is that I am playing and singing… The Writer’s Share gives me every opportunity I could want to connect with the audience during the performance. This particular benefit is close to my heart because I believe words unlock hearts. Supporting the goals of The Literacy Council of Central Alabama is one way to truly change people’s lives for the better. I will say this format also allows me to selfishly have a front seat for the incredible talent sitting onstage next to me!
TWS: How has writing for film and television differed from the work you’re now doing for your debut album?
JF: Writing for film/TV usually involves me staying up, quite literally, all night, reading through scenes and writing toward a deadline by myself! It is extremely focused, with a specific goal that needs to be met by a very specific time. I actually love to write that way, it challenges me and I feel like I use a different part of my brain for that process. The process of writing for my album happened much more organically, and, during what I would call “normal business hours!” Whereas film/TV is more of an analytical process, writing for my project was an entirely emotional one.
My project is a collection of songs that came from some of the more recent harder and leaner years, both romantically and professionally, and there are no holds barred. No song is too sad or too true, in my eyes (or ears). I will say that I set out to tell it like it is, in the most honest and sincere way possible. Working on film/TV is certainly emotional, but, because you have a script to reference, you know how it ends. A storyline with a beginning and an ending narrows your focus and sets you on a definite path. When you write songs about your life and experiences, you just can’t approach it the same way–because..well, you don’t know how it ends. It complicates things but it also makes you want to put it all out there. I gave this collection of songs everything I had. I could not get through the recording of a vocal for one song, specifically, without breaking down into tears every single time. My poor producer Brad Hill said that has never happened to him and honestly I don’t think he knew what to do! We eventually got a take we could use, but that is how real these songs are to me. All I can hope is that my (somewhat still broken) heart shines through when you listen to my songs.
TWS: Thanks for talking with us – see you at the show!