Early in 2012 Jamie McDell became a hit among New Zealand pop fans with her debut single “You’ll Never Take That Away”. Now, four years on, Jamie has finished her graphic design degree, released a second album Ask Me Anything and is spending time inspiring others through her music and social media presence. A coast-loving, outdoors junkie, Jamie filled us in on her personal inspirations and aspirations, what’s in the pipeline, and how she thinks music can spark more generosity in the world.
Tell us a bit about you! You grew up in Mangawhai, right? How do you think that helped shape the person you are today? I’m lucky Mangawhai is eventually where my parents decided to settle but that was after a few years of different adventures! Our first started when I was seven and Dad decided it was time to pack up, live on a yacht and sail around the Mediterranean. Living on a yacht is not your usual upbringing but probably what really shaped how I see life today. My sister and I both have a strong appreciation for the outdoors and the simpler things in life. Living on a boat taught us to be adaptable to many situations and I think gave us open minds at a young age.
Some have compared you to Jewel and Taylor Swift – how do you feel about that? Do you have any musical idols, someone who inspires you to be a better person?
As much as musicians usually find it frustrating to be compared to another I find these comparisons extremely flattering. I hope they’re not just because I’m blonde and play the guitar, I would love to think it’s got something to do with my songwriting ability! But if not, that’s okay too, I’m also proud to be blonde.
Usually a musician will inspire me by what they use their music for rather than the actual music itself. For example, Jack Johnson has always been a real legend to me in the way he uses his platform to promote the protection of our environment. I'm a big fan of country music and I think that’s mainly because I enjoy listening to good storytellers. I’ve said before that I think my best work will come when I’m around 40 years old, once I’ve had some solid lifetime to sing about.
You’re an avid supporter of one of our partner charities, Sustainable Coastlines, how did you get involved with the team there? Sustainable Coastlines have done such an amazing job at being a familiar name amongst the New Zealand community. Because my music is often ocean themed I was a good fit for one of their charity balls, so that was my first event with the team. Later (2015) I was invited on a trip to Australia to help discuss the issue of plastic pollution alongside other Contiki Storytellers and Surfrider. We did beach clean-ups and experienced first-hand the devastating affects; I’d always been aware of the harm single-use plastic had but it really hits you when you’re there picking it up off the place that has brought your life so much joy. When I got back to New Zealand I wanted to invite some of my fans along to a beach clean-up and that’s where Sustainable Coastlines came in and helped to make it happen. I find their whole team so inspirational.
You have really embraced the power of social media to make a difference environmentally. That’s awesome! I do really love social media and the freedom it gives you to discuss anything. My intentions behind a lot of my content is to inspire young people to get outdoors and experience things like surfing and diving etc. My want to protect the ocean comes from the amazing adventures it has given me throughout my life so my theory is, if I can share those experiences with others then maybe they’ll develop their own passion for protecting it. When people feel their own sense of responsibility, without being told they should care, they care because it becomes part of who they are.
So, what’s next? What’s happening in the world of Jamie McDell for 2016 and on? I’m always creating new music, but at the moment I’m working on a project that is a little different! I’ve started writing songs with my sister, Tess, which we’ll be releasing throughout this year as a duo called Dunes. It’s been really refreshing working with Tess, she’s got a few different perspectives on things and it’s really nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other. I’m also hoping to start some initiatives that will give people alternatives to using plastic bags – I’m at the beginning stages, but keep an eye out, I guess!
Why do you think that music inspires us? That’s actually a hard question as often, as a writer, I find we inspire the music. Topics that are being discussed in today’s music are stories of what is going on around us and in our communities. Luckily a lot of those stories revolve around change and becoming more comfortable with being yourself, so I think we’re being encouraged to be more creative and confident in sharing our thoughts and opinions.
And, last but not least, how do you think that music can, and is, sparking more generosity in the world? The greatest thing about music is that it brings people together. We are all starting to realise that the more we work together and understand each other’s needs and wants, the better and more effective our chance is of truly making a difference that works for everyone.
We would love to hear why music inspires you and how you think music can, and is, sparking more generosity in the world? Share your thoughts with us at www.whymusic.nz
Words by Jd Nodder. Photography by Jordan Stent.