Singing 'Sunshine and Rainbows' and Loves Lost
Occasionally, I go see a show of an artist I don’t know and find something I like. Almost never do I see an artist I don’t know at all and leave with a better understanding of myself. Back in March, I had that experience at the Her HRC benefit show.
Jamie Floyd’s singing captivated everyone in the room. Where just seconds before had been a loud audience, the crowd fell silent, hanging on her every word. The songstress had spoken, and we needed to hear what was coming next. Those moments are so rare and precious.
Floyd’s credits include cuts on the TV show Nashville and the title track to Ashley Monroe’s Grammy-nominated album, The Blade. She has recently released an EP titled Sunshine and Rainbows. Its six tracks include songs about gambling, the devil, lost friends, lost loves, new love, and remembering that things aren’t always that easy. Obviously, she fits well into the country music genre.
Floyd is the daughter of two classically trained musicians. “Dad is an incredible jazz guitarist. He’s written theory books, jazz theory, just a very serious musician,” she said. “Even though he’ll get on stage and play all the pop hits and things everyone knows, he’s one of the most gifted guitar players I’ve ever known. And my mom also grew up studying piano with some of the most incredible pianists out of New York, so both of them are really classically trained, very gifted musicians. But they get up on stage and they’re really great entertainers… So getting to grow up and watch them entertain was really a great learning process for me.”
Her parents made a successful career out of playing high society gigs in Floyds hometown West Palm Beach, Florida. “They’d play country clubs, peoples high end weddings, and they even used to be one of the bands Donald Trump would use for his Christmas parties, and his parties at his house in Palm Beach which I got to do with them sometimes.”
Shocked, I asked her if she’d met him. “I have, at his home back when no one thought he was ever going to run for President,” she said. “He was just a socialite and a businessman back then, but yeah… At the time he was married to his first wife, I think Ivana? So we met them playing at their parties and just kind of being their band…”
Eventually she’d join her parents performing and make a name for herself. “My parents were musicians,” she said, “so I ended up playing a lot of the clubs in Palm Beach and a lot of the country clubs, and shows that they would play which a lot of times were on the water and really picturesque types of places. So that was always really fun to get to do.”
When asked about her other musical influences, Floyd explained, “Growing up, I was really inspired by what I called The Georges… George Strait, all of his records, starting in the 80’s... And then, at the same time, my dad being the jazz guitarist really exposed me to kind of R&B and jazz artists, especially George Benson.” Besides the Georges, she added, “Also, Trisha Yearwood and Bonnie Raitt are two others [who], growing up, I listened to all their music. And even Mariah Carey, honestly the Daydream album. I used to sing along to her as best I could!”
One of my favorite songs Floyd has written is the title track on The Blade, the third studio album by Ashley Monroe, a member of Miranda Lambert’s girl group Pistol Annies. “The Blade,” co-written by Floyd with Marc Beeson and Allen Shamblin, two of the most sought after writers in all of country music, is one of those songs you hear and relate to on such a deep, emotional level. If you’ve ever had a broken heart, you can hear this song and remember the pain and know you’re not alone.
Discussing that song’s origin, Floyd gave some insight into the writing process. “Allen had heard a preacher say in a sermon, ‘Sometimes you catch life by the handle, and sometimes you catch it by the blade, and it’s up to you how you deal with it.’ And so Allen says this, so initially we started off down the track where it was going to be kind of a life’s lesson type of song,” Floyd explained, “but it just wasn’t fitting right with all of us. So we kept going around and around for quite a few hours, and we started to explore what it would be like if we put the blade in the terms of relationships and in terms of love. When we did that, we found the concept of ‘you caught it by the handle and I caught it by the blade’ hook. Once that happened, the song took off.”
It took a second session to complete the song, but she said, “I just remember by the end of it, we knew that we had something very special. Not in the sense of patting ourselves on the back, but we were all just sitting there crying. It made us feel very close to the song. I felt personally, that this was my story, the best possible way I could tell it. None of were even thinking about radio or it getting cut or anything. We were thinking about having just crafted this song that at least moved us if no one else. That’s why I write songs. Every now and then, you get to feel absolute magic go through the room. That’s what happened when we wrote ‘The Blade’.”
The passion that she feels about songwriting just poured out of her like a waterfall. “That’s the trick of song-writing,” she said. “Just trying to take your own personal heartache and experience and relating it to as many people as possible.”
This authenticity is the key to her music. Her new EP, Sunshine and Rainbows, deepens the theme of lost love with “The People You Knew” by exploring that loss not between lovers but between close friends. Co-written with the incomparable Lori McKenna, the lyrics touch a place in your soul and cuts even deeper than “The Blade”.
“I got to write this song with one of my heroes, Lori McKenna,” Floyd said. “I have been aware of her brilliance for years. So I got the chance to finally write with her, and I had saved this idea for her…. I really wanted her to feel like it was worth writing with me. I really tried hard to bring a decent idea to her, and I already felt like I wasn’t worthy in general, but anyway, I brought her this idea of ‘people you knew.’ I told her kind of the concept, and she immediately brought it so down to earth, you know, in that special way that she does. She just came right out with the ‘laugh ‘til we cry on the back porch’ line. That’s her, that’s all her. So many of her fingerprints on that song.”
“But for me personally,” she explained, “that song doesn’t signify a romantic relationship in my life, it was about the loss of a friend who was close to me that isn’t anymore. Just how that happens and how that effects the rest of your life and how you never stop thinking about certain people and the impact they had on your life. So when we wrote it, we were just being as sincere as possible and trying to be as true to the emotion of that line, ‘when the people you know, become the people you knew.’ I’ve had people come up to me and say that they can relate to it on a romantic level or about a friendship, so it’s one that’s gone across the boards for people….”
The music is so full of emotion, for Floyd, that singing it can be difficult. “At my EP release, I actually lost it on stage. I started crying and I couldn’t finish the end of it. And I’ve sung that song for years … and I still get up on stage and can’t get through it every time. Even when we cut the EP, my producer fought for the best cut because I was crying my eyes out in the vocal booth. Like at one point, I just sat down and cried and he opened the door and was like, ‘This has never happened to me before. Are you ok?’ – I was not ok. I was definitely not ok. That’s how emotional it was to me. I couldn’t even record it without breaking down. But that’s how I knew it should be on there. Because if it’s that effective with me, then surely somebody out there is going to relate to it. At least I hoped.”
She was right. The night I saw Jamie for the first time she played this song: it’s the one that silenced a loud crowd at a sold out show at Third and Lindsley. Those around me, as well as myself, were moved to tears.
Floyd’s thoughtfulness in her music translates well into her personal and professional life too. She has been a huge ally to the gay community. I first heard her play “The People You Knew” at the annual Her HRC benefit. Her passion for the community is genuine and rooted deep in her friendships.
“I’m so happy to be involved in helping HRC and the community” she said. “Although I’ve never faced the discrimination that people in the gay community have, I’ve been so close to so many of my dearest friends, like Wrabel—I’m so protective of them—and Shelly Fairchild... I love them so much that it hurts me on a deep personal level to think that any of their freedoms are at stake, so I’m happy to stand with you all. Any day!”
Floyd, who has been playing all around town this year, including sets during Tin Pan South and CMA Music Festival, dropped hints that she will have some huge news dropping later this season about an up and coming project. Follow her on all the socials for the latest, and check out her EP Sunshine and Rainbows on iTunes to hold you over while you wait!