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Jamie Slocum Bibliography: (click on each album cover to view tracks and Jamie Slocum lyrics)
Jamie Slocum Biography
After two successful records, marked by strong radio hits and critical acclaim, signed by Curb and about to begin tracking his major label debut, Jamie Slocum had life by the tail. The problem was, however, he didn't really have any songs, and he wasn't feeling much like writing them. Instead, Jamie was having a crisis of conscience.
It's not that Jamie was depressed or conflicted. The remarkably upbeat and endlessly likeable singer/songwriter is just not that kind of guy. But as Jamie reflected on the next steps in his music career, he was becoming more and more aware that the "ideal" of an artist in the Christian music industry and the reality of his life were two different things. He was no super-Christian. He didn't have all the answers. He just loves to write and play music, and loves to write and play about his life with Jesus.
The answer to his conundrum came for Jamie while was driving on I-17 in Northern Arizona, filled with thoughts about the future and what will and should come next.
"It was one of those days, you know?, when all the possibilities, good and bad, come rushing in on you, and you begin to feel the weight of the unknown. For a moment it was overwhelming, reflecting on the ups and downs of life, the inconsistency in my walk with God and those I love. Then, suddenly, I was overwhelmed by this one thought-that regardless of whatever I didn't know, there was one thing that remained constant and true, that no matter what happens-trials, success, failure-I know where my home is, my heart knows my home is with God."
That realization brought Jamie a peace that was overwhelming-as overwhelming as the moment of uncertainty that had preceded it. And in that moment, driving on I-17, Jamie began to sing aloud to himself what would be come the chorus of the title track. And as he sang, the floodgates opened.
"When I started writing I really didn't know what the CD would end up being about, but it quickly became clear it was becoming a simple testimony about a flawed person being accepted and loved, unconditionally, by a perfect, kind and gracious God. I didn't need to try and project some kind of perfect image of a Christian 'celebrity'-whatever that is. Against the backdrop of God's grace, I could offer my entire experience, good and bad, to my audience. I felt a freedom to be as vulnerable as any given song idea demanded."
That commitment to vulnerability quickly found Jamie back in the studio where he began to craft songs that offer diverse and colorful glimpses into his life and faith. The result is My Heart Knows, a collection of radio-ready pop classics and worshipful ballads that shimmer with crisp, spot-on production and a vision of faith that is as real and fresh as the daily news. It is also Slocum's most intimate, personal work to date, as well as his most commercial.
"The first lesson in communications 101 is 'be honest with your audience', and that's the approach I took. I trusted that what encouraged or entertained or moved me would move my listeners as well, so that's what I offered them."
And this offering is a delight. Produced by Slocum, showcasing performances by the likes of Scott Dente (Out of the Grey) and Lisa Bevil, and mixed by Bill Deaton (Steven Curtis Chapman, Superchick) My Heart Knows suggests an artist and songwriter with a diverse set of musical tools at his disposal. From the galloping strings and rhythmic playfulness that opens the disc on "Top of the World" (a sunshine and light declaration of the promise of a good day), to more somber reflections of songs like "Faith Holds On" (a statement of faith in the face of trials and frailty), to the edgy power-pop of "Unchanged" (which juxtaposes our fickleness with God's unerring faithfulness) Slocum's songs are immediate, accessible and hummable.
"I love a good, hook-y melody," Jamie reflects. "I cut my musical teeth on 80s bands like the Tubes, Squeeze, Mr. Mister, even Michael W. Smith, and the lessons of those songwriters have stuck with me. I try to write songs that can fit on the radio and hold their own in a concert setting. I am unapologetically, proudly even, a pop artist."
And the tunes on this record are radio-ready. Slocum's production is current, but not over-programmed, smack in the middle of the mainstream even as it stretches the boundaries of what that means, with just enough production tricks and quirks to make things interesting for the earnest, critical listener. Take "Way Back Home," for example, Slocum's rollicking meditation on the message of the Prodigal Son. Grounded by alternately chiming and crunching guitars and punctuated with a circa-1981 moog-like synthesizer counterpoints, it suggests a sensibility as much at home with Elvis Costello or XTC as it is with N'Sync.
My Heart Knows finds Slocum growing as a singer as well as a musician/producer. "One of the best things about me as an artist," Jamie jokes, "is that I don't have a great voice. I don't have an instrument as much as I have a solid tool, and that means I can't impress just by opening my mouth. The judge of my performance will always be 'will this move the listener?' and 'does it serve the song?' It's a critical spiritual as well as an artistic lesson."
The resulting performances find Jamie reaching as deeply into his soul to find the right colors and inflections to bring to each lyric. While his tenor can sustain a note to near perfection, it can also break, at the perfect moment, to reinforce a lyric's weightiness. In short, while Slocum does have a good voice, he's learned to be an even better singer.
"The truth is that I love to sing," Jamie states, "and I'll pretty much sing anywhere. This isn't about fancy living or being a star, it's about offering some reflections, 3-and-a-half minutes at a time, and trusting God to do with them what he wants. I'm going to do my best with them, certainly, because that's what I'm responsible to do, but beyond that, well, it's about me learning to be a servant."
And Jamie is serving worthy material. The songs on My Heart Knows are not only solidly constructed, but carefully crafted to be at once painstakingly vulnerable-even intimate-as well as encouraging. "I wanted the audience to hear echoes of their own pain and struggles in this record," Jamie says. "So while these songs are all about me-be they as light as "Top of the World" or as dark and moody as (Wayne Kirkpatrick's) "Hanging By a Thread" or "Faith Holds On"-I wanted to suggest to my audience that I've been where they've been, and that my music can be a companion with them there too."
But the vulnerability that grounds My Heart Knows is far from a calculated Clintonian rhetorical device ("I feel your pain") or even a simple catharsis for the artist. Rather, it's an attempt to testify to genuine Christian faith. To Slocum's credit, however, this testimony is not of some idealized vision of faith, but is instead a simple statement (and celebration) of his faith in this moment, an honest portrayal of Jamie's life as a man and a believer. The centerpiece of this portrait is found in Slocum's composition "I Cannot Turn Away," a compelling meditation on the lifelong grip of grace in Jamie's life, and perhaps more importantly, the goodness and holiness of the God that offers that grace-"a love so beautiful, I can never turn away."
Offering an apt summation of (and punctuation to) those sentiments, the classic early-20th Century hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour" closes the disc. "Ultimately, this record is an acknowledgement that there isn't a single aspect of life that isn't totally and wholly God's, and a testimony that I can just rest in that fact. So I've just made up my mind to offer whatever I do in my life, including my songs, to God, because I know I can trust him, no matter what."