After being smitten by his unique sense of style, which consists of a melting pot of many different periods, I soon realized that Jamire Williams is the real deal when it comes to rhythms and vibes. And like his wardrobe, the range of his influences and interests are vast. It is refreshing to hear and see an artist like Jamire who’s not afraid to go against the grain and take risks—especially in today’s music scene. Check out below as we discussed his upbringing, what’s in store for ERIMAJ, and what other projects lie ahead.
Tell us a bit about your background as a musician and what inspired you to play the drums.
My mother is a musician—she’s a pianist and vocalist. I was raised in the church so I just followed her around as she played at churches. She was a choir director who did some contemporary and jazz stuff on the side. I was always around music growing up. I never chose the drums, the drums chose me. It was definitely a gift from God. My mom always tells people that she knew that I was a drummer when I was two years old because I was banging on everything and singing. I would tell her to play the piano and I’d keep the beat on the couch, the table, headboards, lampshades—whatever was around. I started playing at church probably around six or seven, before I could even reach the pedal. I was doing what I could to keep the beat, keeping the choir moving.
How did growing up in Houston and in the church impact you as a musician?
Most of the popular music and musicians have some type of church lineage—either someone’s uncle was a pastor or a lot of our mothers were ministers of music. Being in Houston, that was evident from all the different musicians that you probably know of. And then you had everything else—blues, folk, country. Houston was a thriving city for different types of music and art. And it’s a fairly large city so there were a lot of things going on and it tends to follow the trends of what’s happening in the mainstream. It’s southern, so they get it a little later down there (laughs). When I wasn’t playing at church, I was either drawing or acting in magnet programs at school. It was a very nurturing city and atmosphere for the arts when I was growing up.
Did your mom encourage you to pursue music as a profession?
My parents have always been encouraging. It was always like “try this” or “do that.” My mom would always take me to performances, gigs and tryouts. She’s a musician, too, so she knew the dream and vision that I had and how to instruct me.
Talk a bit about ERiMAJ. How would you describe this band and its overall sound?
ERiMAJ is a mash-up, a blend of every type of musical or artistic experience that I’ve been a part of. It’s kind of an organic way of me putting all of those things together. We can’t just call it one thing, or one specific genre, if you will. I like to call it “social music” because it’s for the people to enjoy. I’m really happy about it because it blends a little bit of everything with vocals and lyrics. The vocalists [do] not necessarily sing lyrics, but they are another instrument and will just sing the melodies versus melodies and lyrics. ERiMAJ explores that big beat, alternative rock and hip-hop—everything’s in there.
What inspired the track “Conflict Of A Man”?
“Conflict Of A Man” was written by myself, trombonist Corey King and a great singer/songwriter Alan Hampton, who’s also a great bassist and they’re both from Houston. I keep my people around me, man [laughs]. Corey and I write a lot of the music together for ERiMAJ and he’s kind of my right hand man with the project. We were just working on material for the record and we came up with the melodic bass and the body of the track, rearranged it with the band and I brought Alan in on the session. We didn’t talk about a specific concept, just floating ideas around about a vague ending to relationship, not knowing where it is, and where your mind goes as a “man” in general. He came up with some great lyrics and we added strings to it and that’s “Conflict Of A Man.”
The video for “Conflict Of A Man” has a Bernard Wright “Who Do You Love” feel to it. How did you come up with the concept for the video?
Tiombe Lockhart, a great singer/songwriter and now a great videographer/director (who’ve I also known for about 10 years), has a group called Cubic Zirconia and has directed all of their videos. I don’t think of myself as just a musician and a drummer, but I think of myself as an artist. I want this band not only sound great and have undeniable music, but I also want the visuals to always tell a story. I came to her with an idea of what I wanted to do and I was inspired by a couple of a different movies, which I won’t put out there [laughs]. Can’t put out all the goodies, man! I don’t want to say which movies because [so far] only one person’s got it right [laughs]. There were a couple of movies that I peeped and wanted to play on a specific scene for the video. She just took the ball and ran with it. It’s so funny because the video was supposed to have three or four models. The day before shooting, two of the models cancelled, and on the day of, one of them just didn’t show up. We had to go with it and that’s the beauty of just having great artistic minds around. Tiombe was like “Don’t worry, it’s gonna be great.” It turned out amazing! Things like that happen for a reason and that was the way it was supposed to be. Now it’s a classic, if I do say so myself. I loved the way it turned out.
Few jazz musicians have incorporated music videos with their music. Do you think that your video for “Conflict Of A Man” and hopefully future projects will help garner new listeners for jazz?
I hope that this definitely inspires and opens the minds of the listeners. That’s the goal, to capture the hearts of the true listeners and it’s definitely evident that people are out there and that they want more. They are tired of being saturated with and force-fed this stuff. As an artist, my goal is to make artistic statements, to open up the minds and grab people that wouldn’t normally hear or see stuff like this on videos. I hope that this does inspire more artists who play instrumental music that wouldn’t normally create like this to dabble, take a risk and jump into it.
What lies ahead for Jamire Williams? What can we expect to see from ERiMAJ?
More videos are coming as well as a full length album this spring, which will be entitled CONFLICT OF A MAN. Also more live performances and we’re planning a European tour either late summer/early fall. Just more music and more art, man! As for me, as a sideman and artist, I’m doing some short film acting and some more records with various artists, including Christian Scott, which comes out this summer. And another collective project for Concord Records. Just trying to give more of the gift and letting the light shine for the people!
Interview by Shannon Effinger
Be sure to follow Jamire Williams on Facebook and Twitter. For tour dates and album news, check out ERiMAJ on these websites: