Jamie Lee on her debut album "Introspective"
Photo by Laura Harvey
Jamie Lee (she/her) is a professional drummer and a composer who graduated from Capilano University's Jazz program in 2019 and released a 10-track jazz album "Introspective", consisting of all original music, in February 2020.
She loves music (obviously), food, sleep, playing video games, documentary movies, and animals. Her family immigrated to Canada from South Korea in 2008, and they've been loving it so far - especially the Tim Hortons!
Jamie is an amazing asset to the Vancouver jazz scene, as well as an advocate for marginalized folks and all around badass lady.
1) How did you get into playing music? Any defining moments?
It's kind of a funny story. When I was around 10, my church friend bragged about this new drum groove he had learned and started showing off. He was taking drum lessons with the support from the church because the pastor was passionate about raising young worship leaders - but of course, the church only supported the boys to take music lessons. I was kind of a brat then, so I really didn't like listening to my friend bragging about it! Also, why didn't he even ask me if I wanted to take drum lessons?! So I watched him playing the groove for a bit - it looked really easy and I felt like I could do it too. So I told him to move away from the drums, sat down, and played exactly what he played. I didn't realize that it was something special at the moment, it just felt good to crush the "boys only" territory. Soon after my parents heard about the incident and let me play drums.
But drumming was still an on-and-off thing and I completely quit during middle school. Then I came to Canada and restarted playing on a practice pad because I was so bored. Canada had bad internet in 2008. And I didn't have any friends. Time had passed and I was graduating from high school. I thought I had to go to some kind of university because that's what Asian people do. But wow, I was so sick of re-learning everything in English! So I thought, "well I think I'm pretty good at drumming so I will just go to a music school". I started taking proper drum lessons for the first time, and that's when I first heard jazz music. I immediately fell in love with it because it was nothing like I had ever heard. It was SO COOL. I loved the concept of improvisation too, the unpredictable nature of jazz captivated me so deeply. Here I am now, still pursuing in music with a full-length jazz album!
2) Who are your musical influences - either in jazz or other genres? Favourite drummers?
There are so many! I would say my favourite genre is jazz, but my music library definitely goes above and beyond jazz. For example, all I listened to last summer were Emily King and Chvrches. My favourite drummers are Bill Stewart, Ari Hoenig, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnnett, Marcus Gilmore, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes... gee, the list just goes on and on and on.
Photo by Jalen Laine
3) What was the inspiration behind your debut album "Introspective" and what was the process like leading up to its release? Do you have a favourite track from the album?
"Introspective" is a result of the musical and emotional journey I have been through so far. As the title suggests, the songs are about the
introspective thoughts and emotions. I tend to write songs when I go through a rough patch, because it helps to capture the negative emotions and thoughts inside the music and "visualize" them. That way I can assess them from afar and move on.
The album making process started from 2018 along with planning for my grad recital. I wanted to try out my original tunes with different groups of people, and ended up deciding to ask James Dekker and Marcus Abramzik to play for my album. I still remember the very first rehearsal we had - James and Marcus brought the tunes to life in the way I couldn't have imagined and it made me so happy and humbled. I was still pretty insecure and vulnerable to present my original tunes back then, but the guys helped me so much to grow both as a musician and a person. We rehearsed a ton and did few gigs, and recorded the album in 2019 summer at the Crew Studio in North Vancouver. We spent 3 full days recording 10 songs, it was the most intense 3 days of my life. SO INTENSE. I couldn't have done it without the boys. Then the songs got mixed and mastered, and I finally set the date for the release! It was originally going to be just a small private gathering than a concert, but people convinced me to do a bigger one. Luckily, Guilt & Co. agreed to book us even though it was a super last minute searching, and we did our release gig on February 29th, 2020!
It is so hard to pick a favourite track from the album... I'd say Sarajida. It is one of the first tunes I'd ever written specifically for a piano trio, and it's epic! It's a suite about life and death and I think the music captures the concept well with such different sections intertwine with each other.
4) Is there anything you'd like to say to young people of marginalized identities in jazz?
Two things: you're so worthy, don't ever stop. One thing I struggled the most was convincing myself that my music and playing is worthy listening to. It's so easy to underappreciate your value and tremendous amount of effort you have put into to get to where you're at especially as young marginalized individuals. But really, if you're truthful to your music, there will be a lot of people who will understand and appreciate it. You'd be surprised by how your music could be so meaningful to others as it is to you. Our stories are unique and the world needs to hear more about us. One thing is that music can be quite slow at showing results - but be patient and trust that first intense feeling you got from music that made you pursue it!
5) Are there any upcoming projects or shows you would like to plug? Where can we find you online? (Social media, website, etc.)
I recently received a commission award from Coastal Jazz, so I will be releasing something sometime in the next year. It will be with my trio, but I'm thinking something different than conventional jazz releases. I'm also in the writing process for my second album! I have been doing quite a bit of recording for different projects these days. I can't disclose them now, but you can visit my website or Instagram for the latest news/updates about future projects and gigs!
Visit me at:
You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or want to have a chat!
Photo by Laura Harvey