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Life & Work with Jameson Tabor

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jameson Tabor.

Jameson, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up performing in the theater with an incredibly supportive family. But it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles and officially hit go on a music career as an artist that I started to think of myself predominantly as a singer, songwriter, and producer in the music industry. I realize now that all of the work and study I did until that point gave me the skills and creative perspective to become the tenacious artist I am today. It was instilled in me at a very young age: You can love what you do, you can make an impact, and you can make money doing it. Music has been inside me since before I could even breathe. My mom makes sure to remind me of that every year when the holidays come around. She claims I was kicking to the beat of “The Little Drummer Boy” in her womb! My mom’s sister says she saw me dancing to the music in my highchair at six-months. Haha… I don’t really know how true any of that is or not, but I do know that since I can remember, I have always had an enormous love of music. That probably happened because I was just always surrounded by it. Family dance parties to Whitney Houston happened every Saturday night. Long car rides were spent serenaded by the sweet falsettos of The BeeGees and the crooning of The Eagles.

At age five, I remember writing short songs and shows with the cousins and then performing them for everyone in my grandparent’s basement. You might say my family was pretty musical and creative. My mom and dad both came from big baby boomer families, with four and five siblings each, and I guess we were pretty loud and shameless. Being embarrassed was pretty much a daily ritual when we went anywhere as a family. “Do you have a smoking section? It’s for her,” my dad would say, pointing to my baby sister as we walked into a restaurant. My dad was a salesman, so I honestly expected his cheesy comedic lines and his low-key way of commanding the room’s attention and making everyone feel seen. Meanwhile, my mom’s experience as a right-brained/left-handed elementary school teacher kept us all thinking creatively on our feet. My parents had both learned to play piano too, as well as clarinet and guitar. They sang in choirs also. My grandma’s both started teaching me to play the piano at a young age. I remember jamming out at the piano for hours with my Grandma Margie, with her vamping chords while I improvised melodies on top. My mom’s sister Teresa was a Bay-area actress and author. Her brother Garry had even written a complete ballet and self-produced his own mixtape to pursue a career as a composer and songwriter. Their influence and encouragement as creatives definitely shaped my perspective on taking on a performing arts career.

When I was six years old, our family went to see my cousin Katie perform as Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web.” Afterward, I remember her talking about getting paid and how much fun it was and thinking to myself, “I can do that.” That night I told my mom I wanted to audition for theater too. One week later, I walked into a room full of people I’d never met before and somehow performed a memorized monologue that we’d taken from a Goosebumps novel and did a somersault with no hands! Little did I know that audition at Northwest Children’s Theater in downtown Portland would launch my entire performance career and that it would soon become my second home. I spent the next 12 years making lifelong friends out of the strangers I was cast with. I was surrounded by other kids my age, teens and adults who all loved to sing, dance and act just as much as I did, and who would challenge me, teach me lessons about who I was, and even more importantly, give me the public space to be literally whoever and whatever I wanted to be. Being a child actor was tough but all-in-all super rewarding. I would have to play roles that were not “me” exactly, but more of an amplified version of some part of myself.

Eventually, each cast would become, sometimes literally, my family. The number of “moms and dads” I had alone was a huge blessing. Doing that kind of work on the regular as a kid, as a paid professional, and even gaining some local recognition for my work at times, made me really want to continue in the entertainment industry. There was a lot more diversity downtown, too, compared to where I lived in the suburbs. You’d see people from all walks of life. I remember sometimes walking down on the breaks between our school-day matinee shows to go get McDonald’s. We weren’t really supposed to leave, you know, haha, but I might go down with a friend and just get some fries or an Oreo McFlurry. One time, somebody came up to me asking if I had a pen to make a sign and then asked me, “Do you have any spare change?” I was only 10, but I remember thinking, “Wow. I actually do. I have a job right now, and they don’t. I guess I can afford to help…” I would always try to give whatever I had. It was a truly humbling experience to feel that I had a role to play, not just in each show I was in but for the greater Portland community. For people coming to see me—family, as well as friends, school classes, and strangers from all around the city—it was literally my job to entertain them.

Of course, I am eternally grateful to have had a family that was supportive of me through all of my activities in the first place and that they had the time and means to drive me downtown and pick me up every night of the week. It was a huge ordeal for my whole family and I definitely felt there was a lot of pressure on me as a kid to succeed. I think I probably still feel like I owe it them today too. I’m so grateful to have had the experience of really following my dreams and for my fans continuing to ask me, “What’s next?” so that they could see it. I know I’m really fortunate to have felt their encouragement at an early age to keep doing what I loved: playing in piano recitals or school band concerts; singing in the church choir; or Scandinavian dancing with my little brother. Whatever it was, my family was always there for me, smiling and with lots of praise. I just look back on that so fondly. It was such a unique childhood as well as something that taught me so much. I think it made me pretty mature at a young age: it taught me about work ethic, responsibility, teamwork, and what it means to be part of a community. These things have all become so central to who I am. I think all of that made me a real go-getter and someone who believed I could kind of do anything I set my mind to. Haha… not that that has always been true for me, but it really helped me want to keep going: go to college and then start a career in music.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Well, as smooth as that may sound, haha… no. I mean, the number of times I have failed or been massively embarrassed is just like, literally endless. I can tell you about the times I was almost fired from shows for being late or not having my lines memorized, or LITERALLY $#*%ing my pants on stage—the number of songs I sang or played horribly wrong in front of hundreds of people. Then, there is the part about my family falling apart when my parents got divorced, their inability to communicate and listen to one another, admit their faults, reach common ground, and the impact that I felt it had on our community. I wrote about that in my song “Black Dust” which I released a little over a year ago. I was left with nowhere else to turn except music. But honestly, all of that was just a precursor to the real challenge: moving to LA with absolutely zero industry connections and zero plans as to how I would survive.

Thankfully I had a partner in crime, my inspiring, focusing, and always encouraging wife Jenna there with me to keep me healthy, grounded, and sane. I would have probably gone off the deep end without her. She’s been behind-the-scenes in almost every part of my music career—everything from photography and videography to social media management, fashion consulting, and songwriting. She’s been my rock and filled the vast void of familial support that I always had growing up. I’ll admit, though, that maintaining our romantic relationship—aside just from our working relationship—has been hard. There have been so many ups and downs. It came to a point where, right before releasing my first album, “PURSUIT” that I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. Several songs from that album talk about my struggles with my work addiction and the loneliness and disconnect we felt at that time. We went through some very dark times. I had to realize my role in being there for her too. I had been all “take” and no “give.” Learning to balance work time and downtime has been such an important lesson for me in learning to focus on my overall wellness.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I often tell people that I create Blues-inspired Dance-Pop music, because most of the time they just simply haven’t heard of Bluestep. It’s an emerging fusion genre that takes inspiration from classic Blues, as well as Jazz, Funk, Gospel and Soul, and pairs it with the modern and futuristic sounds of Electronic Dance Music, generally in Pop song format. I don’t know many other artists who call themselves Bluestep artists, which speaks to the fact that the genre is still pretty new. That sort of makes me a leading voice right now. I tend to describe my music as upbeat, playful, hopeful, sometimes even joyful, while at the same time emotional and story-driven. Everything I write initially comes from my driving need to entertain and bring people positivity. I love to dance, and I want to help people get moving or at least feeling a pulse.

Ultimately, my goal is just to write what comes from my heart; that’s authentic to me. So the fact that this happens to land me in an up-and-coming genre is pretty sweet. Blues music is therapeutic for me, and I always try to capture that same feeling when I write and record. There are tons of artists and groups that have helped me tap into that heartfelt and emotional style of singing now central to my overall sound. Many old Blues artists, like B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, or Big Mama Thornton, as well as other Blues-inspired artists like Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson… they just know how to take you there… I recognize that I am in a privileged position in society that comes with unfair advantages and that by replicating and representing blues music in any form I have a responsibility to do right by its history. So standing up for others’ struggles, fighting for their rights—is super important to me. I am painfully aware of the struggles that most people in minority groups continue to face every day. And my friends come from a variety of backgrounds. So it’s something that I am passionate about.

Through my music, I’m forming a new sense of what it means to be a man, especially an emotionally available and vulnerable man in today’s world. I’ve always wrestled with how society defines masculinity. There’s a lot of media in American culture that puts forward this masculinity concept, and I don’t think that is all-encompassing of men. I believe that contributes to some of the more horrific things that we have to deal with in the world. I want to encourage the world to give men the space to be more emotional.

As for what I’m most proud of: there’s not necessarily a specific moment. But when I look back, the fact that I moved to LA with no connections and launched a career as an artist is something I’m very proud of. Yeah, I’m not a multi-platinum selling artist yet, but I’m making major progress. I feel so proud to say I’m making a full-time living as an artist in LA while maintaining a balanced life. Really anything else beyond this now is just icing on the cake. Of course, there is always more to be done, but I am so grateful for what I’ve already accomplished. If it wasn’t for this last year and being forced to leave my day job with the pandemic, I may not be able to be where I am today. It has helped me focus in on what really matters to me: my music, my family, my wellbeing, and challenging systemic inequality and rigid concepts of masculinity.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
This answer changes for me all the time. Still, at the moment, the most important thing I’m learning is to trust the process—that there isn’t a defined timeline or a path for me to follow. I can be happy each day knowing that I’m laying the groundwork for a sustainable career in all of my years to come. That takes patience. I’m a person that tends to just be “Go, go, go!” so it’s been good and beneficial for my creativity to slow down a little and get out of my head. To create great work, it needs to be authentic and genuine to me in some way.

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Image Credits:

J.R. Foto

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