By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
You may not be familiar with the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Jamie McLean right now, but you most certainly will become a big time fan, after you check out his brilliant work. Although it may be easy to dismiss Jamie McLean as just another Eric Clapton clone, as he certainly does resemble the legendary guitar god, and his guitar and vocal style is sort of similar. However, and dare I say it, McLean distinguishes himself from Clapton, with a unique style, that is fresh, innovative and exciting.
Mclean began his career as a guitarist that focused on speed and technique. But soon after joining up with the world renowned New Orleans band, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Mclean realized that one note played with enough emotion and feeling, was more effective than over playing. He incorporated that philosphy in his playing, and has become an even better guitarist.
While with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, McLean toured the world, and performed with many A-list artists including Norah Jones, Elvis Costello, and Chuck D. But in 2006, McLean left the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and decided to branch out, and take center stage, by forming an all out rocking blues/rock band. Mclean then recruited band members Brian Griffin on drums, and Ben Mars on bass. The Jamie Mclean Band was now born and ready to dominate the world of rock & blues.
This year, The Jamie Mclean band will be releasing four EPs, to coincide with the four seasons of the year. So far, the first release, “Time of My Life,” is the band’s best work of their career. It is a rockin’ blues masterpiece, that will certainly help establish the band as one of the best in their genre.
The Jamie Mclean band is currently out on the road. If you can, you must check out, their all-out, live performance. In the meantime, please take this time, to get a little more acquainted with Jamie, by reading the exclusive interview posted below.
RMS: You have some pretty ambitious plans for this year. I heard that your band (the Jamie McLean band) plan on releasing four different EPs this year. Really? Is that true?
JM: Yeah, the first one, “Time of my Life” came out a couple weeks ago. Last summer, I was really writing a lot and I had a lot of material. And with the music industry changing so much, the band and I, decided to do something different than standard CD. We decided to release an EP, every season, for the year. So that’s what we are going to do. I feel like we are insane for doing it. But it’s given us a great opportunity to be in the studio, and create different stuff. The EP that’s out now, “Time of my Life,” is a more electric rock kind of record. We are thinking of doing an acoustic one, maybe a live EP. We are heading down to New Orleans, for Jazz fest next week, and we have a studio booked. We are going to bring in a bunch of special guests, and do an EP, with just special guests on it. So it’s different stuff for us, and it keeps us kind of pushing. We released our last one a couple weeks ago, and it’s usually sit back, enjoy and relax. But now, it’s not like that, because we have to get back in the studio, and write a new EP in a couple of weeks. So this year, is kind of a non-stop year for us, but I’m kind of digging it. It’s good for us musically, but we are also doing it for our fans as well.
RMS: You will be opening for Robin Trower in Buffalo, NY. Are you opening his entire tour or just a few dates?
JM: We have about a half a dozen of them.
RMS: Have you ever been asked to tone it down from a headliner because of your talent and showmanship?
JM: Ha-ha. Never directly, but I have a feeling that some have thought that before. There have been times when we have been asked to do an acoustic set, instead of our regular set, as an opener. Which we do, and we dig it, but that’s a way to tone us down a bit. There have been some tours in which we have gone out, and then we would ask to do more tour dates, and they politely say no. It could be for that reason.
RMS: You were a member of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band for a while. How long were you a member of the band, and what albums of theirs did you appear on?
JM: I was with them from the beginning of 2001 to 2006. I recorded “Medicated Magic,” “Funeral with a Friend,” and then we did a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” for a Hurricane Katrina benefit album. There was also a live one called, “We Got Robbed: Live in New Orleans.” We toured with Widespread Panic and we did a live record with them. But it was a great experience being in the Dirty Dozen. I’m from the North East, and I was the only white guy in the band, and they were really cool about bringing in the outside guy from the band, and taking me under their wing. They were older and been around, they toured with Fats Domino back in the day. There is some real history there. I toured the world with them. I got to record with everybody from Norah Jones, Chuck D, and Elvis Costello. It’s kind of a pretty diverse net that they cast, just because when people want the New Orleans style, with the horns etc., they are the best.
RMS: Did playing with the Dirty Dozen for all of those years have any impact on your guitar style?
JM: Yes, it did. It really helped my playing. Believe it or not, prior to joining that band, I was a much flashier player. I was playing more notes, with more technique. I was younger, and studying a lot more jazz. So going into the band, I was playing as many notes as possible. But then after joining, I learned pretty quickly the blues, and soul, and the R & B, sort of rubbed off on me. To hear one of those horns, from the Dirty Dozen, just playing one note, and then just crushing it. I quickly learned, that one note played, with all of your heart, can trump a thousand notes. But yeah, I got a lot of soul, blues, and New Orleans jazz, under my belt, playing with the Dirty Dozen. And that really did change my style for the better. It also changed my singing too. Not that I sang a lot with them, but they turned me on to so many different, old soul, and blues artists. And that’s something that I would like to emulate in my music.
RMS: Over the years have you ever been approached by a major band to join up with them?
JM: Well, I guess I can talk about this. When the Black Crowes got back together in 2005, I was friends with Chris Robinson, through the Dirty Dozen. He was in New Orleans a lot, when his wife was doing a movie there, so we hung out a lot. And his manager called me a year later, and said they have a project that was going on, and asked if I would be interested. But he never said it was for the Black Crowes. So they flew me up to New York for a weekend. I showed up at the rehearsal place, and there were the Black Crowes. We ran through some songs, and I felt like I killed it , but then they ended up getting Marc Ford back in the band, at that point. I think that, at that point, it was the right move for them, and I can’t blame them for doing that. But since then, I have really just focused on my band. But there is always that possibility.
RMS : It’s mentioned in your bio that you had worked with Norah Jones. What did you record with her?
JM: She was on the Dirty Dozen “Medicated Magic” record. That was a great session, because we were given a line-up sheet, and the special guests were Dr. John, Norah Jones, and Robert Randolf. But at the time, no one had really heard of Norah before. She was sort of a no name. They just told us that she was on Blue Note records, and she was kind of great, and that we should check her out.
RMS: As a member of the Dirty Dozen you have performed at Madison Square Garden a few times. What was that experience like for you?
JM: Yeah, I was lucky enough to play there three different times. I grew up near New York, and MSG was like the Holy Grail. I went to so many concerts there growing up. It’s looked at, if you can play there, then you have made it. It’s such a historical venue. But we did a gig right after hurricane Katrina, it was a benefit concert that was broadcast on TV, and now you can get it on DVD. It was an all-star cast, Simon & Garfunkel, Lenny Kravitz, John Fogerty, and Cyndi Lauper. For our set that night, we played with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall, which was a great experience. I also played there when the Dirty Dozen Band opened for Widespread Panic, for two dates. It really was great performing there.
For more on the Jamie McLean band check out www.JamieMcleanband.com