A setting that inspires is better than a setting that entertains any day.
Austin, Texas, is a city that can entertain with its countless numbers of bands and venues whose calendars boast live music seven nights a week. While many aspiring songwriters can find lyrical and melodic inspiration as easily as they can find late-night food, hipsters and traffic on a barstool, street corner or back alley in Austin or New York, others may need a place more remote to seek out inspiration. Chris Jamison is choosing the remote path.
The Texas-born folkie spent his youth in Virginia and his teen years in London before moving to Austin. His years in London were fruitful; it’s where he started his career, blocks from the Abbey Road Studios, which is where his first two releases were mastered.
His 2013 release, “Sleeping with the TV On” made the Austin Chronicle’s top 10 releases of the year, after he left the city. It’s a quiet record; a combination of the folk of Townes Van Zandt and the wordplay of Leonard Cohen.
He now lives in the small ex-mining town of Jerome, Ariz., a dot of a town on the historic register with a population of about 450. Jamison will hold short residency in Durango for the next week; he’ll perform tonight at The Office Spiritorium, Saturday at the Derailed Pour House, Monday at the IAM Music Institute, and then again Feb. 22 at 6512.
“I was never bored in Austin, but I was never inspired, either,” Jamison said by phone from Arizona. “I’d rather be bored and inspired any day.”
Jamison’s foray into music began with an attraction to words, and an attempt at mastering the art of writing and phrasing via poetry.
“I’ve always been drawn to words. I’ve always written poetry and lyrics and stuff, even before I ever wrote songs,” Jamison said. “For me, it’s all about capturing poetry in the motion of melody, and then creating the music that sinks that like a hook into people’s ears. It’s like the music is the bait.”
On a tour like this, Jamison is finding himself playing in a variety of spaces. Even in Durango, he’s bouncing around from the quiet confines of The Office, to a regular bar such as Derailed, to the listening room that is the IAM Music space.
Different venues don’t matter as long as he’s capable of making an audience connection. While some spaces may just recognize the guy in the corner as a soundtrack of background music, he’s happy with the variety of venues that make up his workspace.
“I love the place that I’m at right now as a performer,” he said. “I’m playing at farmers markets outside, or I’m playing in tiny little 700-square-foot wine bars, or I’m playing in a big hall opening up for somebody.
If you’ve got a crowd that’s really listening and really into what you’re doing, that’s when you get the best show, whether you’ve got great acoustics or a great stage. I find the best performances are those that are, where it’s really a give and take with a good audience listening.”
Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.