Whitton: Vintage-Inspired Songstress on the Rise to Stardom
OCTOBER 31, 2011 0
Singer-songwriter Whitton takes vintage to a whole new level with her timeless voice and sense of style. The Nevada-born crooner sat down with Cliché and told us all about her childhood, road to fame and what’s to come in her life as a budding artist. Check out Whitton’s newest album “Rare Bird” on her website or Facebook page now!
Whitton: Well, I grew up in Reno and I went to catholic school. I started dazzling Reno folks at the age of 6 in a theater show called “Sunshine Generation” where I would sing in all the old age homes. Now I’ve finished my new album “Rare Bird” which I’ve been in the studio for two years making, so I’m just getting my touring boots on and getting ready to go out and tour the US this coming spring. I typically like to tour with only about a four piece because you know how much money that is to have such a big band on the road, but I have a CD release on the 22nd in Reno with my full 10-piece band.
W: As you can tell my stage name is Whitton, but my first name legally is Jaime. My parents decided to have 6 kids because of the movie sound of music. My mother cut her hair like Julie Andrews, she made all of our clothes out of curtains, and she sings and plays the ukulele. My dad is an actor in Hollywood, James Lawrence Whitton, so they decided to raise us there and now we all have our own musical endeavors.
W: I graduated high school when I was 17 and then had a record deal in Malaysia with my first band called “Jaime and the Blue Suits,” which was a big 10-piece band. We played jazzy techno-blues music, a very interesting, very European sound. So, that actually fell apart and from there I joined a reggae band for a couple of months. At the end of my 17th year I moved with my sister, Stacey Whitton-Summers, to Myrtle Beach, SC where we recorded my second album, but our first album together. She’s actually a Marilyn Monroe, Shania Twain and Gretchen Wilson impersonator. I was so fortunate to get to travel with her because she goes all over the world. We would just go play music on the side. It was really a fun experience. However, as far as this album I’m just releasing, I saved all my pennies that I made over the last few years installing voice and data cables for computer connection, building microwaves and radios for corporate buildings and then bartending on weekends. So I really saved all my money to get the top players, the top recordings, the top engineers and even down to the illustration, so I’m very, very proud of this new record.
W: I’ll tell you how this endeavor got started. I play guitar, and anytime you play guitar and you’re just a vocalist you have acoustic music or folk music or Americano or what not its all in the same family. So I was playing guitar at an open mic in Pasadena and there were four people in the audience and my current producer with this album, Ian Coyne, was one of them. I had just been hired for a 1940s review show on a cruise line and I was getting ready to leave and he wanted to write a song together. I decided to go in and we wrote a song together and it was immediately placed in a film called The Fifth Quarter with Andie Macdowel and Aiden Quinn. So then I thought, “How can I leave now? I can’t leave!” So we just ended up writing a handful of songs. He produced a couple of my acoustic songs. I’ve also had the liberty of writing with a couple of great writers on the album in Joe Solo, who’s written for Macy Gray and Fergie, and Peter Fox who’s written for Rachel Yamagata, so its been quite the experience. As far as my music, you take my natural acoustic sound and intertwine it with a little big band, singer-songwriter stuff and that’s what the sound came out to be on this album.
W: They’re all very, very personal. I was the last of 6 kids so I have just a natural ability to observe, so I’m always observing strangers, people, family, and friends. So I do write about other people, but they all come from a very personal place.
W: Well when I met Ian, I had a few side projects coming up where I would sing big band songs and jazz songs and blues songs, so yes. But I’ve always loved the style of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. I used to sing them in my room in front of the mirror, so I’ve always had a love for that type of music. But Iam a singer-songwriter and that’s where my roots are. My acoustic music is a little more vulnerable and melancholy sounding. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jeff Buckley, but that’s kind of where I stem from. Ian really dissected my vocal ability and saw a little bit of vintage in it, so we built the instrumentation that was appropriate around the songs. When I met him he had never done big band or jazz music either. It’s just naturally what was developed.
W: I’ve always had a love for vintage type clothing, like flowers in the hair. Actually, my sister Stacey makes these amazing flower pins that you can pin anywhere. They’re actually part of my merch called “Whitton de Fleur.” I them in my hair and they are a very vintage cloth with a little sparkle to them. Anything vintage and off-collar I am attracted to.
W: It took a long time, but all good things take a long time. We really crafted the songs and focused on making them the best they could be by getting the best players, building relationships and networking. That all takes time. It was definitely a process. But I’m seeking a manager right now. I have a marketing team, a publicist and a good group of people, but there’s always a time and place when you’re ready and now I’m ready to find management! I’m planning to tour all text year through the US and parts of Europe. The tour is not booked all the way but that is my intention. So in the next couple of months it just depends on who I meet, but it’s all beginning to roll and I’m very excited. I have a handful of shows coming up in the next couple of months and I have two residencies that I’m going through until the end of the year. Now I’m just getting people to my shows and by next spring definitely doing a lot of shows outside of California
W: Absolutely! I would love more than anything to write and sing with a handful of artists: Rufus Wainwright, Amos Lee, Colin Hay, Ray Lamantaign. And Thom York would be absolutely… well my life could end that day!
W: I had a friend named Shane Gooding and he was probably one of the most amazing and gifted musicians and songwriters that has ever lived. I was very close with him and he passed away of cancer three years ago at 25. He really was a huge person in my life that I walked with and just adored.
W: I’m very, very fortunate to have such a brilliant family. All my siblings are very unique in their own way and have such a gift specifically and I admire all of them. They’ve all taught me so much.
W: Well, I was a complete loner! [laughs] I was kind of in my own world, I didn’t have a specific group of friends. I had one friend here, one friend there, I was friends with everyone! But I always had older friends that were out of school. I looked up to different mentors in music or in health and yoga, and I really look up to my family so I spend a lot of time with them.
W: Sure! I made tie-dye clothes and traveled to all the festivals around California and Nevada selling hemp necklaces and tie-dye clothes. That definitely has a package of being a little bit of a rebel. I did date a guy in high school that drove a Harley. He used to show up at my high school with a rose in his mouth and pick me up! He was only about five years older, but it was still the fact that some guy on a Harley was picking me up. He used to drop me off at the end of my street so my parents wouldn’t see.
W: I really think real heartbreak never goes away. It sits with you and you either accept it or you don’t and that’s how you survive in your life; just accepting a lot and trying to do the best that you can to deal with it. I don’t really have the best advice for that sort of thing!
W: I’m a nutrition freak, so I do try to mix different vegetables and fruits and all sorts of fun green things in juices. I make a mean peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fresh berries and nuts. I just kind of put things together! My mom had to piece things together in the fridge if we didn’t have a ton of food, so I’ve just learned to do that and make masterpieces out of almost nothing.
W: I toured up to Seattle and I have a friend up there whose dad said to me, “What do you like to do when you’re not working?” I thought about it and I realized, wow, even on vacation I’m always working! Sometimes that can be overwhelming, so even on vacation I love doing yoga. Another really therapeutic thing for me is gardening; I love to garden. It goes with my cooking. I’m actually working on a cookbook for my merchandise. I’ve been trying to rack my brain on what’s different, what unique merchandise can I come up with. I love to support local artists and I’ve been looking into getting a person who makes mugs by molding them and making them look really cool and authentic. I already make these matchboxes with my face on it for your fridge and my sister’s flowers. I try to be as creative as possible. But a cookbook is definitely on my agenda.
W: This coming year while I’m touring (probably the beginning of spring or summer) I’ll be working on my next album. I have 40 songs under my belt that I’m finessing and now I’m working with a new producer named John Avila, who is the bassist of Oingo Boingo. I’m so excited about working with the top guys in the studio and I hope for a release next fall or next winter after the promoting “Rare Bird”
W: I was raised catholic, but I don’t necessarily think I’m a religious person. I’m more of a spiritual person. I connect with nature and just try to get to a place where I can mediate and just think about the good things in my life and look at other peoples’ life and be thankful every day for what I do have.