After the better part of 30 years in the music business, Jamie Warren’s got a story or two to tell. If you stop by the Commercial Tavern in Maryhill Sunday, you’ll get to hear a few of ‘em. Oh, and a whole lot of music, too.
Warren and fellow Canadian country artist Duane Steele will be presenting Stories and Songs in an intimate look at their hits and the tales behind them.
“It’s been fun. Duane’s got the same fun sense of humour as I do,” said Warren from out on the road as he and Steele play several Ontario dates with the show they’ll bring to Maryhill.
Typically, each will come out separately and play some of their songs. After that, out come the stools as they sit on stage, sharing some banter and stories from the road. They’ll discuss and play some of their songs, perhaps playing a few duets.
“I’ve been doing this for a while – there are some stories to tell,” he laughed.
It has been a while, years that have seen him ride the rollercoaster that is an ever-changing music industry.
A Hanover native who now calls Kitchener home, he originally embarked on a career in broadcasting, but got the singing bug after he won a regional talent show at London Ontario’s Western Fair. That win sent him to Memphis for an international competition, where he placed second. Warren remained in Memphis, pondering his career potential as a singer while he worked a one-year gig at Libertyland Theme Park.
Returning home, he concentrated on writing and singing songs, scoring his first Top Ten hit with “Take Me Home Mississippi,” and rolling in to a win as New Artist of The Year at the 1985 RPM Big Country Awards.
Five more singles were released from that album but Warren’s particular style of country didn’t sit well with either ‘80s country radio or the Nashville labels he almost convinced to sign him (they passed on him in favour of a fellow named Randy Travis).
By 1993, Warren was convinced that both radio and Nashville might have relaxed enough to make room for him again, and he released Fallen Angel, which yielded a fan favourite and radio hit, “One Step Back.” The success of this record was followed closely by the album Just Not The Same, which surrendered several Top Ten singles and led to a handful of JUNO and CCMA nominations in multiple categories, including wins for Independent Song of the Year and Independent Male Artist of the Year.
Since then, Jamie released the critically acclaimed “Really” in 2003, and a career retrospective collection of greatest hits in 2005 under the title “Make Me Believe.” In 2008, Jamie released the very personal “Right Here Right Now.” In 2010, he released “Howl At The Moon,” continuing to ask hard questions, but this time with a kinder tone as he closed in on his fiftieth birthday.
Now 51, Warren said reaching the half-century mark didn’t necessarily bring any new wisdom, but it did allow him some perspective on life and his music. Some of that is sure to be reflected in the new album he’s working on for release next spring. A few of those new songs will certainly make it into tomorrow’s show. The rest of the set list will be a little more difficult as he combs through the better part of 50 singles and a long list of album tracks that have built up over three decades.
The recording industry has changed, but he continues to do what he’s always done: write the songs he wants to sing.
He comes by the music naturally, as his mother sang and played piano, and his father played guitar and mandolin. He had piano lessons at age 5 and guitar lessons at age 8. His earliest influences were whatever his parents listened to on the radio, and the only thing his parent’s radio seemed to play was country music.
The music genes run in the family, as his daughter Katy, 22, is working on her first CD, while son Josh, 17, is also a singer and performer, having just appeared in the KWMP production of Hairspray.
As this weekend’s show is close to home, Warren expects Katy may join him on stage at some point.
Warren and Steele perform at the Commercial Tavern Sunday (November 25) at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at the venue, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644. For more information, visit www.commercialtavern.ca.