16 Jul 2024

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Jamie McDell


When she was just age 7, Jamie McDell’s father left a high paying job at an elite Auckland law firm to shift her mother, younger sister and Jamie onto the high seas and began living aboard a yacht in the Mediterranean. It’s here Jamie wrote her first song, a sea shanty to the dolphins. Also on that yacht lived a small collection of her parents’ favourite cassette tapes, which luckily included albums by Jimmy Buffett, John Denver and James Taylor. The young artist quickly formed a particularly strong bond with these records and she fondly remembers watching her parents perform Buffett duets - and occasionally chiming in, learning how to harmonise with her mother and sister. An eager learner, Jamie then picked up the guitar after studying her fathers’ John Denver chord book collection and has never looked back.

Now at age 30, New Zealand singer/songwriter Jamie McDell has achieved a prolific amount in her formative years. Being signed to EMI at age 16 sparked the beginning of a successful musical journey, making her a household name across the nation. With the release of her debut album Six Strings and a Sailboat, she went on to achieve Gold album sales, receive three NZ Music Award nominations, winning Best Pop Album of 2013. Then her sophomore record Ask Me Anything gained global attention, seeing album track Moon Shines Red featured on American TV series 'Pretty Little Liars'.

In March 2017 Jamie made a trip to Nashville, looking for a change of scenery and to
connect with the environment that birthed much of the music throughout her youth. It’s here she wrote the songs that would make up the fabric for her third record Extraordinary Girl. She met with expat Australian producer Nash Chambers for coffee one day and decided they shared the same musical values. Not long after that meeting McDell arranged to fund her first independent record Extraordinary Girl, which was recorded over the space of two days at House of Blues studio in Nashville. She then returned home for the albums’ release, promotion and supporting tours throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Then in early 2019 Jamie relocated to Toronto, Ontario for a new chapter and to be closer to Nashville. It’s here she found herself sitting on the floor of her tiny apartment, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with a friend in a troubled relationship, and out came the powerful song, Botox. “It’s a story depicting the dangers of silencing our instincts and compromising our values, just because a significant other has you convinced that you need fixing” Jamie says. This track would then fuel a new era of unapologetic honesty in McDell’s songwriting, the release of the Botox EP.

After opening a US tour for Robert Ellis (Texas Piano Man) in early 2020, she would then visit Nashville once again, team with Nash in his eastside studio and gather the amazing musical talents of Dan Dugmore, Jedd Hughes, Dennis Crouch, Shawn Fichter, Jerry Roe, Jimmy Wallace, Tony Lucido and Ross Holmes, along with guests such as the McCrary Sisters, Robert Ellis, Erin Rae and Tom Busby (Busby Marou). Her self-titled album, released in 2022, contains Jamie’s most brutally honest moments, in both writing and performance, while the musicians and production take you on modern journey through 70's folk and country blended with a healthy dose of roots and rock. This record became Jamie’s fourth full-length release with Americana UK noting her ‘superb storytelling’, Twangville stating "McDell writes with an enticing mix of strength and vulnerability’ and Holler Country drawing comparison to ‘Patty Griffin’s grit and The Chicks commanding vocal strength."

In January 2023, when travel restrictions had eased, Jamie had since returned to New
Zealand and Nash finally made a trip from Nashville to Australia to visit family and take over his sister, Kasey Chambers, studio. Jamie took the opportunity to connect and travelled across the ditch to record some new tracks. McDell penned Beach House three months in to the job search, feeling defeated by the industry and searching for sanctuary in a special and safe space. Among the recordings at Kasey’s studio, were Madeline, a tale of a dreamer and a 1988 Tracy Chapman cover - Talkin ’Bout a Revolution, a sentiment that is just as relevant today.






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