Music was something that Jamie Whitton, the petite, doe-eyed singer-songwriter, knew from a young age would become more than just a hobby.
“As the youngest of six children, I always heard the sound of my siblings and their musical endeavors. My family was really like [the Von Trapp family in] The Sound of Music,” she said.
By the age of six, Whitton was performing and honing her musical finesse as part of the Sunshine Generation, an all-girl song and dance company.
“We would dazzle everyone who saw us,” Whitton said with a chuckle.
Whitton participated in as many theater and dance-related activities as her school offered, and though she enjoyed every second of it, she began to realize that there was something missing.
She still wanted to perform, but instead of singing songs that others had written, Whitton wanted to sing songs that embodied her voice, her melodies and her lyrics — as well as her influences.
“I am a singer-songwriter,” Whitton said. “The ’40s, with its vintage sound from the Big Band era, has really influenced me. You can’t forget about the legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.”
Whitton has a sound that allowed her to stand out from other artists. Her success, however, was due in part to being at the right place at the right time.
Unfortunately, Nevada — not exactly the best place to launch a music career — did not quite fulfill that “right place” requirement. So it wasn’t until her family packed up and moved from Reno to Los Angeles that Whitton was truly able to pursue her dreams.
“California was definitely new and exciting to me. I didn’t know what to expect,” Whitton said.
But before she could start headlining concerts and attracting a dedicated fan base, Whitton had to get her name out there. She was, after all, only one singer in a city bustling with actors and musicians, all waiting for their moment in the limelight.
Though Whitton was approached with record offers as soon as she started performing around Los Angeles, something still didn’t feel right to her.
“At that point in my life, I was not ready. I kept thinking, ‘How come I can’t find the right deal,’” she said. “Yet everything happens for a reason: My music wasn’t ready. It wasn’t perfected. It wasn’t polished. Record deals fell through and I became very disappointed.”
Though Whitton made some initial mistakes, momentum began to pick up and her hopes grew as soon as she put together her five-song EP Whitton, which opened many doors of opportunity.
“As my journey [has] continued, I have been able to collaborate with people who are well-known in the industry, and have learned so much,” Whitton said.
Such people include Peter Fox — who has worked with Rachael Yamagata — and Joe Solo (Macy Gray), who co-wrote tracks on Whitton’s new album Rare Bird.
Her music has also been featured in shows such as Dexter and Gossip Girl and films like All I Want To Do starring Charlie Sheen and Hilary Duff.
And without missing a beat, Whitton has begun a successful tour. She is currently making her way around California, Oregon and Washington in support of the release of Rare Bird.
“I love the freedom of being on tour. I love going to new places, especially playing to an audience that has never seen me before or doesn’t know me. It’s a really cool and fun thing to meet new people,” Whitton said.
Depending on the size of the venue, Whitton either plays and sings with a 10-piece ensemble or a smaller trio consisting of herself on vocals and guitar, a multi-instrumentalist who does brass and woodwind instruments and a drummer.
With such lively presentation, Whitton finds that the shows on her tour attract more emotionally and musically focused crowds.
“Live audiences are attentive. It’s the best when people in these audiences are intimate and pensive — I love when they come talk to me after the show,” she said.
It’s understandably tiring to constantly tour and sing with barely enough time to catch a breath between shows, but Whitton finds ways to stay motivated despite her hectic schedule.
“After my last show, I began to think about why I love music,” she said. “I realized when you see people in the audience and see them singing your lyrics and coming up to you after the show, telling you how your songs have touched them … that’s the biggest high I could ever ask for.”
Whitton will appear on GVB Radio in Hollywood on March 5 and perform at the Villain’s Tavern in Downtown Los Angeles on March 7.