Jamie Lynn Fletcher describes her latest album, My Desire of You, as an 11-track album “about all of the micro-steps of finding love and hoping to get it right,” but it could just as easily be about the micro-steps the political journalist-turned-professional musician has taken to find her footing in the world of music.
Fourteen years ago, Fletcher – whose bold, intriguing vocals can be heard every Saturday at Stone’s Throw Winery – became disillusioned with the world of news. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in International Political Economics and a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism, Fletcher recalls the pivotal winter evening after she returned home from Washington, D.C. where she was a political correspondent.
“I came home from D.C. as a young correspondent, praying for any opportunity in music though I had no chops or background with the exception of enough trombone and a few cocktail songs under the piano fingers,” she recalled. “Have you ever heard of solo lounge trombone? Me neither.”
After incessantly praying one winter evening, Fletcher was surprised when the phone rang the next morning with the offer of a music gig on a cruise ship.
“Supposedly my name had been passed through a pile of people when I was living in Chicago, being a huge music junkie by night, but the story attached to my name was changed immensely,” Fletcher said. “And in my favor.”
She relayed the conversation with the Director of Carnival Entertainment humorously – the entertainment company did not have time to audition Fletcher, so they asked her a few important questions: Can you read chords? Can you play jazz? Can you sight read music?
Fletcher responded enthusiastically to all three questions, though her affirmative responses to each may have been a bit overblown – she knew three chords, a few jazz songs, and had “somehow failed to hear ‘sight’ before ‘read’” in that final question. A week later, she joined a ship orchestra playing Vegas-style production shows, cabaret acts and headline entertainment to audiences of hundreds.
“The guys in the band quickly discovered I had no experience, but the MD was terribly kind and told me I could stay on if I learned the shows by the end of the cruise,” Fletcher said. “We were hundreds of miles off the coast, and so it was a little difficult to fire me and make me swim back. But I worked my tail off to learn the shows and try to figure out everything else that goes along with being a professional pianist. It was sink or swim, pun intended; and the first few years were not easy by any means. Outside of the odd beach day, all I did was practice. I was no fun, but I learned how to be a practical working musician.”
In the years since, she has traveled the world on cruise ships, super yachts, international hotels and self-booked touring as a pianist. She considered the early years as a musician as a safe time, but when her father’s health began to fail, she started writing songs and earned a songwriting scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“I was only able to spend one semester at Berklee, but made it into Joey Scott’s high-end corporate band which provided amazing musical challenge and experience,” she said. When her father passed away in 2008, the piano suddenly wasn’t enough to capture Fletcher’s emotions so she decided to “give the singing a proper try.”
She formed a jazz trio, ever evolving between Wisconsin’s jazz pros, and also began playing duos with guitarist Phil Nelson. She served as bandleader of show orchestra and music director for P&O/Princess Cruise Lines in 2006 and 2011, and launched Jamie Fletcher Music in August 2007.
Since then, she has self-released three albums: Dark Honey, Jamie and My Desire of You, released on Valentine’s Day 2015. The album’s song, “I’ll Kiss You In the Rain,” has been nominated for “Jazz with Vocals” in the Independent Music Awards, an international program that “honors top-ranked independent artists and releases.” Fan voting is open until Sept. 30 for the IMA Jazz with Vocals Award.
“The album is about all of the micro-steps of finding love and hoping to get it right,” Fletcher said. “It details our vulnerable hopes, fears, terrors, and the games that we play with ourselves while going through all of the above. The album is super intimate, very delicate in emotion, thought provoking, heart provoking, and perfect for cuddling up this winter season. What happens after that is not my responsibility.”
Fletcher is quick to point out that “the new album is not for the masses,” due to the music industry’s inability to “pigeon-hole” a genre that includes adult contemporary, acoustic singer-songwriter, waltzes, Latin, Brazilian, jazz, swing, and Afro-Cuban, among others.
“Perhaps I should take a nod to Facebook’s relationship option of ‘It’s Complicated’ and ask the industry to create such a genre,” Fletcher joked.
Today Fletcher has found solid footing splitting her year up between performing on cruise lines, playing gigs in Northeast Wisconsin, and making her musical mark across the globe.
Hear Fletcher live at Stone’s Throw Winery, 3382 County Road E in Baileys Harbor, every Saturday through Oct. 10 from 1 – 5 pm. For more information about the artist or to purchase her album, visit JamieLynnFletcher.com.