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Finding His Groove: Jamie McLean Talks New Beginnings and New Music

Nov 02, 2017 04:00PM

Photo by Evan Felts

By Cate Reynolds

Every musician dreams of making it big and playing music for people all over the world, and Jamie McLean was living that dream. As the guitarist for Aaron Neville and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, McLean traveled the world and played at some of the most famous music venues, but he was never quite able to fulfill his own creative itch.

In 2006, Jamie McLean decided it was time for a change. He made the choice to leave the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and start Jamie McLean Band.

“After five or six years I started to write a lot of music that didn’t seem like it was the right fit for [Aaron Neville and Dirty Dozen Brass Band]. I really felt this was original music I needed to do myself.” –Jamie McLean

The band, which also features Brian Griffin on drums and Ben Mars on bass, is set to release their sixth album One and Only in February 2018. Aside from including some of McLean’s best songwriting to date, the new album also features special guests Sam Bush and Jeff Coffin. With a musical blend of rock, soul, and blues, Jamie McLean Band gives listeners originality that is guaranteed to make you groove.

Jamie McLean Band will be playing with Davy Knowles on Wednesday, November 8th, 8 p.m. at Rams Head On Stage. Tickets are $25.50.

Photo by Evan Felts


As the guitarist for Aaron Neville and Dirty Dozen Brass Band, what made you decide to start your own band? How did the Jamie McLean band come to be?

I was touring with those guys for years and it was such an honor to be playing with them. I kind of call it my post-graduate work because it introduced me to the music business and I was able to travel all over the world. After five or six years I started writing a lot of music that didn’t seem like it was the right fit for the band. I really felt this was original music I needed to do myself.

I was living in New Orleans and my group was in New York, so I was flying back and forth a lot. Around the time Hurricane Katrina hit, I had to make the decision to stay or leave New Orleans, so I decided to move to New York City. I started to get a lot of offers for my band to tour and play some shows, and it just seemed like the time was right. A lot of original music was coming out of me and I just wanted to play it.

You’ve shared the stage with some music legends, and played several famous venues and festivals, is there a show that stands out as one of your favorites?

To play live in general is such an incredible experience. There’s been three times where I literally felt like I was floating on stage. Twice was at Madison Square Garden and one time at Red Rocks in Colorado. I grew up outside of New York City and Madison Square Garden was the Holy Grail. When I got out on that stage, I just felt like I was floating. Playing those hallowed grounds that I had a connection with are some highlights for me. On the best nights when you’re really in the groove playing, it really feels like you’re flying.

Which musicians have most greatly influenced you and your music?

There are so many. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix to name a few. All I listened to growing up was classic rock, so all of those artists were super influential. My first concert ever was The Rolling Stones. When I saw them, it clicked for me that playing music is a job that people get to do and it was what I wanted to do. I also have a lot of soul influences like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. I always say if I can make my guitar sound like Aretha or Ray, I’m doing something right.

Your new album One and Only is set to release soon. What can listeners expect from your new music?

Yes, the new record is coming out in February. I think it’s my best songwriting to date. I feel really strongly about the songs. We recorded it in Nashville and it was produced by Ken Coomer from the band Wilco. We’ve got some special guests like Sam Bush on the mandolin and Jeff Coffin on the saxophone.

I think the songs are really strong and the performances are great. I love all my records, but this just feels like such a cohesive group of songs that are meant to be together and are telling a story. Definitely the most honest and heartfelt lyrics I’ve ever written.

Photo by Evan Felts


You mentioned the new album features special guests Sam Bush and Jeff Coffin. What did you enjoy most about working with these musicians?

It’s so cool. My core band is always there and we’re so tight, so bringing in someone is the icing on the cake. With Sam Bush, we recorded the song “Virginia”, and we recorded it all together, completely live in the studio. The first take ended up being great, and I think we ended up using that one, but we had such a good time playing it I said “can we do that again?”, and we ended up playing it five or six more times just for fun.

You and the band have toured all over the world. Does the band have a favorite place to eat while on the road?

If I can just pick a town, I would say New Orleans. We were just there for the New Orleans Jazz Festival and the show was great, but I ate my way through the town. The culture is amazing and the food is so good.

What can someone expect when they come to your show?

I want people to just shake it a little bit. I want everybody to have a ball and not be afraid to get up and dance a little bit. My favorite shows are when everyone is up dancing and we are having a party. Everyone in the band is at the top of their game. People can expect to see great musicianship, fiery guitar solos, great vocals, great harmonies, and just a big party where you can get down.