Jaime Wyatt is a fantastic country singer that has just released her third album, "Feel Good," and is currently on her first headlining tour. This trek has taken her to places and venues where she's never played before and has been a heartening success.
Wyatt is chatting on a special day for one of Wyatt's musical heroes. "It was Lucinda Williams' birthday," she recalls fondly. "So, I did "Something About What Happens When We Talk" at one of the shows."
One reason why Wyatt's most recent album, "Feel Good," actually feels so good is because it's just as soulful as it is country. Let's not forget there's always been a soul music component in country music, ranging from Ray Charles' style to Dusty Springfield's unique approach. Furthermore, the best country music digs deeply down into the soul of humanity, lyrically. While Wyatt sounds most traditionally country on "Ain't Enough Whiskey" on her new effort, she could easily pass for a Southern soul singer on "World Worth Keeping" and especially the album's title track.
"Being that soul music was so popular in the '60s and '70s, it was the pop," states Wyatt, a Tacoma, Wash. native, "So, a lot of the country music that I, you know, idolized and was inspired by, just has that influence. And so I think it was a pretty natural progression and sound follow. You know, I just started writing on piano a lot. I've always loved, like Otis Redding, Al Green and kind of just respecting those records and finding Adrian Quesada, who is Black Puma's founder and producer to make this record, was huge."
Quesada is the guitarist for Black Pumas, which has been described as a psychedelic soul group from Austin. "Feel Good" may not be especially psychedelic, but it's certainly soulful.
It's not psychedelic, maybe, but there is a Grateful Dead cover of "Althea" on the album. The Grateful Dead was many things, stylistically, and psychedelic was certainly one of the boxes that famous Bay Area act checked. Wyatt gives it a low key vocal, which is placed over a bouncing groove filled with plenty of funky electric lead guitar. Wyatt has said her dad was friends with The Dead's Bob Weir and that she grew up going to Dead shows as a baby. After she started seeing today's kids wearing Dead shirts, she realized how this band's music has never really gone out of style. She just knew they'd appreciate her take on one of their songs.
When asked what factors influenced the writing and creation of "Feel Good," Wyatt mentions the pandemic, which was still a going concern when she put these new songs together. However, closer to home, Wyatt also came out as a lesbian. Granted, it's not all that unusual for performers to make their sexuality public knowledge these days. However, country music is, and has not always been the most LGBTQ-friendly music community. Therefore, this was a huge step for Wyatt. So, why make that step now?
"You know, safety, feeling, seeing other people do it, you know what we call visibility," Wyatt explains. "It was family for a few years, but I wasn't really - being in country music - I wasn't feeling super like it would be a good idea. I chose not to for several years, but I mean I saw some other artists do it, you know, and I see the times changing. Finally, you know, the younger generation, they don't care. They don't call people faggots. You know, they don't do that like the generation did when I was growing up."
"And so yeah, times, like, the times are changing," she continues, "and that's what gave me the courage to come out. So it's better late than never. And a lot of things come with that. Writing a song called 'Love is a Place' (on the new album) singing to the actual gender that I'm thinking about was certainly freeing."
"Love is a Place" is a track with a lovely, retro soul feel and features one of Wyatt's best lead vocals on the album. It has a gentle groove, which is infused with plenty of organ and Stax-y electric guitar.
Despite being conceived during a worldwide pandemic, "Feel Good" nevertheless comes off far more positive than negative, emotionally. For instance, the record kicks off with the upbeat "World Worth Keeping," which is a bit of an environmental anthem. Lyrically, Wyatt asks listeners to look around them, at all the Earth's natural beauty and then states emphatically states how ours is a world worth keeping.
In addition to this universal message about saving the planet, the title track is of a far more personal nature. It's simply a song about learning how to enjoy life and feel good about oneself. It's almost like a prayer or a daily affirmation when Wyatt vows to quit "begging for redemption on my knees" and "hurting myself this week." After relating all these easier-said-than-done goals, Wyatt sings. "All I want to do/Just to feel good, is just to feel right."
Another key song, "Fugitive," digs deeply into some of society's most distressing social issues. It has a rumbling, western movie soundtrack feel to it, although its message is distinctly modern. On it, Wyatt sings: "And politicians talk about the poor man's plight/But I see lip services on the left and the right."
Nobody in their right mind questions Wyatt's musical talent. However, is she now aiming for mainstream country success? Does she imagine herself up there with the Mirandas and Carries of the popular country realm? "No," she responds frankly, "because that would never happen. I would have to conform my artistic vision, and that is not something I'm interested in. But I could write a song for Maren Morris," she adds. "I could most definitely do that."
She's reminded about how left-of-center artists, like Zach Bryan, are getting radio airplay and that there is always hope. "I mean, he's a guy," Wyatt intones, "so that's a little different. But I do think success for people like Tyler Childers is promising for people like me."
Who knows, maybe one of Jaime Wyatt's soulful country songs will someday hit mainstream radio just right and become a hit. Never say never. After Bryan's success, one can now hear many songs that feature that stripped-down country-folk feel of his music coming over the airwaves.
No matter what may happen in the future, nothing is slowing Wyatt down. After this tour there will be what she terms, "tons of touring. Europe, tons of festivals this summer." She will take the month of March off, but after that, she's back at it full-time. "You know the nature of music," she reminds. "You gotta keep playing, keep eating."