Sierra Jamerson
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Sierra Jamerson

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Solo R&B Pop

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Music

Press


"Sierra Jamerson Uses New EP for Musical Catharsis"

"For musicians, there’s a thing called red light fever: artists are known to freeze up when recording music because of nervousness. When the recording light turns on in the booth, something you’re capable of playing in your sleep suddenly becomes impossible to play.

For Edmonton musician Sierra Jamerson, the opposite happened one day while recording vocals for a song she was working on. She finished her take and found herself crying afterwards.

The track itself, “Blood in the Water,” will be released at Cha Island on Saturday as a single to promote an upcoming EP of the same name to be released in May. Recorded with 100 Mile House’s Peter Stone on production , Blood in the Water deals in dualities. It’s based in heavy issues, but it doesn’t come across as such. Jamerson is quick to point out she is not depressed (and based on the amount of energy exuded during our interview, it’s certainly believable) yet there are no love songs on the EP either. It’s mostly soul/R&B with a pop sensibility all its own. But a lot of the songs revolve around both personal and social issues that felt personal; a choice that only seemed natural to Jamerson.

“We hold a mirror up to society and we reflect it onto ourselves, and society is fucked,” she says. “Music is such a powerful platform to change people’s paradigms, you know? You can get more people to feel how you feel or step outside of themselves and understand a different perspective if you use music.”

“Trail of Tears,” named after the historical relocation of Native Americans in the United States, incorporates both traditional African and Native American drum elements as a nod to Jamerson’s heritage, resulting in what she called a “drum intense” song. The title track, a rock-inflected soul tune, evokes the feeling of being in a vulnerable situation, of being cornered. It’s all catchy stuff, while still being heavy.

“Everything on the record is a little dark,” says Jamerson. “Not like Black Sabbath dark, more like Frank Ocean dark.”

It’s an appropriate metaphor if you’re thinking in terms of edge, but one theme Channel Orange never exactly explored was catharsis. Cue the story of the red light, for instance. When Jamerson recorded vocals for “Blood in the Water,” enough time had passed for her to question whether or not she’d feel any emotions about the events that had inspired in the song. Turns out it wasn’t necessary.

“The red light came on, and it was like something took over me. All of the pain, sadness, suffering and heartbreak that I went through to write that song, it all came flooding back,” she adds. “It was so cathartic and really healing; it just blew out of me. So I was sobbing, and usually you can’t sing and cry at the same time, but somehow it sounded good!”

“I think that experience, this whole process, has been a way for me to heal myself and confront some of my own demons,” she adds. “And share ideas I really wanted to talk about or bring awareness to, just things that are so heavy upon my heart. So I think that’s why this project means so much to me. It is me; it’s everything that I stand for.”

The Edmonton musician, who’s been performing around the city for years and only recently finished a two-year stint in MacEwan’s program for music as a vocalist, is well aware that it’s her first EP. Regardless, the release of Blood in the Water will be a symbolic twofold: it’s the first release in her burgeoning career and it’s a goodbye to the years that inspired it.

“Well I think it was me at one of my darkest points, you know?” she says. “I was really in a super dark place and this music and this project has given me something – I mean I’ve got lots of things to live for. I’m not suicidal. I love life, but it gave me a goal, it gave me something that I can focus on every single day. It gave me a dream to work towards.”

“So now that I’ve come through on the other side and things are good, I can look back at this work of art I made in one of the worst emotional times of my life and be like ‘wow, despite all of that I’m still here and this is beautiful. I’m a survivor.'” - The Griff -Jibril Yassin


"Edmonton R&B singer Sierra Jamerson talks debut EP release, musical roots and catharsis"

"Sierra Jamerson grew up with stories, stories that instilled a sense of responsibility in the Edmonton musician.

The one that sticks out most in her memory is one of her aboriginal grandmother, who risked her freedom preventing development on sacred indigenous land, inspiring Jamerson to speak out against the inequalities she sees today.

The stories that caused a heightened sense of social justice soon mixed with the R&B singer’s own stories, represented by Jamerson’s debut EP Blood in the Water, to be released on May 8.

The album, she explained, is about loss, in many ways — in the middle of a recording session, a close relative to Jamerson passed away, and she also ended a “toxic” relationship.

“This EP, I guess, is bridging the gap between ... personal themes of struggle and, I guess, cultural themes as well,” she said.

“Stylistically, I try to tie that in with the soul and R&B music I grew up with.”

Recording the EP began late last year, and the process allowed Jamerson to throw herself into her work when she experienced these losses. She lets the work take over her life and doesn’t really deal with it until it’s done.

“Just being able to create that and have that musical connection with my band and being able to be in the studio and deliver the vocal performance ... and knowing that, despite all the things that have happened in my past, I have this one like really beautiful thing to show for it was really healing for me,” she said.

Jamerson said the process of recording the album was cathartic, and this is reflected in her writing.

“I think I’m one of those people who really draws a lot of emotional release in writing. It allows me to express ideas and emotions that sometimes I struggle to vocalize,” she said.

“So, for this project, it was interesting because so many things had happened leading up to the creative process.”

Despite Blood in the Water being her first EP, Jamerson has had a long history with music. When she was 11, she began playing shows professionally with her mother’s traditional African-American gospel group, in which one uncle played keyboard, and another uncle and her aunt also sang.

“All my friends were playing Pokemon or whatever or having fun at recess, and I would occasionally have to miss school and stuff because we were playing a gig in Saskatchewan,” she said.

Being surrounded by this professional level of musicianship from a young age also gave Jamerson a different perspective on music.

“I think that because I grew up studying this music that was so strongly the foundation of what I’m doing now, I’ve been able to amalgamate that and add different more modern elements to it and create, not a different sound, but move it forward — carry the torch, so to speak,” she said.

After she releases the EP, Jamerson hopes to play gigs in support — in particular, she’s looking to perform at rallies and other social justice events." - Edmonton Examiner - Doug Johnson


"Gospel Roots Feed Jamerson's Growth"

"Sierra Jamerson is evolving beyond her gospel roots but whatever style she's singing, she likes the vibe to be positive.

"The biggest thing I've gleaned from music is how to uplift people," she says. "Even if it's a sad song, gospel music is a joyful, expressive, connecting kind of music and when I'm singing my own songs I always try to channel that energy. I'm not out to save souls but I care about giving people comfort and making a difference."

Jamerson grew up experiencing the emotional highs of inspirational songs as part of the latest generation of Alberta's first family of gospel music. She's the oldest of five children of Junetta Jamerson, leader of the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers, which makes her part of a family legacy going back six generations to the early 1900s.

That spirit persists as she shapes her own heartfelt songs in a contemporary urban soul groove that hints at the greater continuum of black music from gospel to jazz to hip-hop. Jamerson sings Thursday at The Artery to mark the release of her impressive debut EP Blood In The Water.

Co-produced by Peter Stone and Jamerson at the Bird Shop early last winter, it's a compelling set that grabs you right away for the singer's finesse with phrasing, her catchy vocal hooks and the supple strength she brings to it all. The opener Edge Of Reason is a moving song about conquering loneliness, while (She's Gonna) Save The World pays tribute to an idealistic friend (it's reprised in a live version where her scats interact beautifully with trumpeter Matt Graham).

The haunting tune Trail Of Tears is a metaphor for the struggle her grandfather encountered as part of the Tahltan First Nation. But the disc's slower title track is a highlight for the way she dances through its gorgeous grooves for a killer build to the close. She calls Blood In The Water "a simple breakup song" and laughs that she should thank a certain guy for inspiring it.

Throughout the set, guitarist Brayden Treble, Eric Doucet's keys and Paul Cournoyer's bass offer smooth support while Graham's mute trumpet weaves in and out. The singer had a good idea of what she wanted going in but was thrilled how everyone contributed to the process.

Jameson has been performing onstage for a decade after she started singing with her mother's gospel group at age 11. She admits she had a unique upbringing in the midst of so much music-making.

"I remember all the other kids would be out playing at recess, but I sometimes had to miss school because we would have to do an afternoon sound check. I didn't talk about it too much to friends because I didn't want to seem different, but I think spending so much time with an adult group at that age gave me a more mature outlook, especially when it comes to leading a group."

Today she counts herself lucky for being exposed to so many influences, like John Coltrane, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin. Graduating from the music program at Grant MacEwan University in 2012 helped her to "harness and focus my energy with some fundamental tools."

Singers Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan became favourites in the jazz sphere, but she also draws lessons from contemporary crossover artists like Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper and Esperanza Spalding and from '80s rap artists like Run DMC and Public Enemy.

As part of the Black Pioneer Heritage Singers, Jamerson even got to sing for the Queen in 2005 and toured around Alberta. She's "really conscious of my cultural heritage," but you sense that she's also excited to spread her wings, to be doing her own thing.

"Gospel is the foundation of so much music. I want to interpret that and move it forward."

These days she's also a busy vocal instructor for 50 students at Long & McQuade. For her CD release Thursday, Jamerson is joined by bassist Rebecca Stasiewich, guitarist Brayden Treble, Eric Doucet on keys, trumpeter Matt Graham and drummer Brendan Lyons." - Edmonton Journal - ROger Levesque


Discography

See You On Sunday
[written in memory of Tineka Mayes and Canada's missing and Murdered Indigenous Women]

Come a long way from where I began
4 months and 7 days
since you walked out the door, backwards 
and you smiled at me
Said "I'll see you on Sunday"
Tore it out of my hands
All my joy, my peace of mind
Bloodstains on their conscience
4 months, and 7 days
I'll see you on Sunday

Brought me to my knees
Hurt so deep inside
Your laughter in my ear
The light behind your eyes
-vamp-

I'll see you on Sunday x4

With that smile on your face
And your green dress on
With your hair over one shoulder
Beautiful as I remember
Said I'm gonna take you by the hand
And your hands will not be cold
And your lips will not be blue
No more aching in your bones
And no more sadness in your soul
And no more ice in your veins
No more chains around your neck
I'm gonna break the chains around, the chains around
There's gonna be freedom girl, when I see you on Sunday
Say goodbye to the ones who hurt you
Nevermind the lies, all the promises they couldn't keep
It's nothing but a mystery girl, blowing in the wind
Blowing in the --
And all of the things you could not say
And all of the pain that wouldn't go away
And I never got to say goodbye
Said you were much too young, too much, too young 
To die, die
You were much to young to die

Brought me to my knees
Hurt so deep inside
Your laughter in my ear
The light behind your eyes





Photos

Bio

A seasoned vocalist and performer even in her early twenties, Sierra Jamerson bares her soul on stage, with climbing vocals, locked in grooves, and an authenticity that electrifies audiences. Lyrically she is raw and honest, tackling themes of self-love, body image, heartbreak, passion, and embracing the goddess in oneself. Her songs are derived from a wisdom beyond her years, and the desire to uplift all audiences, but especially to empower other young women. As a full-time voice instructor and style coach, she spends most of her time offstage mentoring youth, and bringing creativity and confidence into their lives through song.
  
   Sierra has performed with many notable international artists, including Mavis Staples, legendary Motown group The Drifters, Madagascar Slim and Josh Groban. One of her proudest achievements occurred in 2005, where she sang in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II. She has received numerous awards for her music, including the Rawlco Radio Continuing Award and the Astral Media Radio GP Scholarship. She was also a featured soloist on the Canadian Gospel Music Awards Album of the Year “Ain’t That Good News”. Her debut EP, "Blood in the Water"reached number two on Ride the Tempo's indie charts, and has been played on radio stations across North America. She is currently writing and recording her second EP, gearing for her upcoming Canadian tour, and lending her voice to various social justice causes in her community.

  Born into a family of gifted musicians, Sierra has been surrounded by music since birth.  She cut her musical teeth at the tender age of eleven as one of four lead vocalists in her family's Traditional Black Gospel group, touring nationwide. At that same age she began writing original music influenced by the history of her father's people, the Tahltan First Nation. This unique musical and cultural upbringing provided her with the ability to interpret Jazz, Soul and R&B music with an expressly intuitive understanding. Personally eschewing the "R&B/soul" label, she likes to refer to her music as politi-soul, meaning contemporary soul music with a deliberately conscious/ social awareness slant.

Sierra has been described as "[having] powerful vocals with hip-hop grooves" a "true performer; a “bright up and coming artist" and a "fresh sound in Canadian music".Look out for her next release in 2015.

Band Members