News Column

A rare breed of entertainer

July 25, 2013

YellowBrix

July 25--CHATEAUGAY -- Jamie Lee Thurston is Jamie Lee Thurston.

It's not a stage name. It's his real name, which his parents picked as a cool name for an entertainer.

"They were obviously planning ahead," said Thurston, who goes acoustic Saturday evening in the newly renovated Chateaugay Town Hall Theater.

Born in Montpelier, Vt., and the youngest of three, Thurston was raised in Waterford. His father, Jimmy, was a music man gigging the New England circuit. Thurston was named after one of his father's bandmates.

"The first time I sang, he (dad) was holding me in his arms. I was 3. I watched him throughout my life and learned a lot from my dad. I like to think, as we go on in life, the way I live my life, I like to grow and be smarter and better than I was yesterday," he said.

"So with the tools he gave me, I have worked hard to take those tools and try to get better at those every day, which is a challenge in the entertainment industry."

At 15, he was his dad's roadie, water boy, light guy and sound guy. After this dirt time, he jumped into the band after high school.

"I got a chance to do that, and then I lost that job and had to work my way up. That meant a lot of work, a lot of reading and trying to learn the most you can to be the best you can be. Hopefully today, I'm not the best I will be or tomorrow or the next month," Thurston said.

Before he relocated to Nashville 15 years ago, he flew back and forth, bimonthly for two years. In the intervening decades of music making, he's had three record deals, including Warren Brothers and a publishing deal with EMI that led to songs recorded by Trace Adkins and Montgomery Gentry.

To sum up the changes in the recording industry, he said it's not the music business but the business of music now.

He has eight solo releases, the most recent "The Stayin' Kind."

In Nashville, he's written songs with a ton of people, including Tony Mullins. Four years ago, their hit "15 Minutes" was covered by Rodney Atkins.

"Tony has written a number of hit songs," Thurston said. "I love to write with that guy. I've written with George Teren. He's written No. 1 songs for Trace Adkins, Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley."

Some days Thurston doesn't know what keeps him going, but he keeps writing, singing, producing and playing his guitar.

"It is what I do. I've done this so long. If Bob the mechanic or Bill the house builder has been building houses for 20 odd years, he has to be some good at building a house. I have worked very hard my whole life to be good at what I'm doing," he said.

In his heart-and-soul execution, he hopes he can help somebody along the way like the children at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp for children who have had cancer, in his native Waterbury.

"You hope that somebody hears your song, and it is an inspiration to them. It's just a part of what I do. I have people send me stuff that (say), your song, whatever it is, got me through a really tough time," Thurston said.

"I look from the inside out, other people look from the outside in. I'm just some guy who had some dream and worked hard to achieve whatever amount of success that is at this point. I've been lucky to have record deals and have songs recorded by artists and have people say thanks to me. It's moving and humbling that we can help people like that.

"The older I get, I realize life is really about being happy. You have to take the good with the bad. As bad as things get sometimes, it makes you appreciate the good."

If there's one cat Thurston wishes to jam with, it's Billy Gibbons, guitarist and lead vocalist of ZZ Top.

"That's the first thing that came to my mind," he said. "That would be unbelievably cool to me. I've never been one to run up to people and say, 'Hey man, you're amazing.' I've never been that guy. They won't remember me from Adam. Boy, if I could do that someday."

But Thurston gets backed by the likes of Steve Turner, who has drummed for Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker and Dolly Parton.

"I look behind myself on back of the stage on a Saturday night. He (Turner) not only plays and drums for me, he likes me as a person and loves my talent and believes in what I do. It's amazing someone so iconic, his favorite gig is to play with me. Stuff like that is amazing to me. I'm some kid from Waterbury, Vt.," he said.

Thurston never wanted to be a police officer, firefighter or engineer. It was all the way singer, guitar player, artist.

"Ghosts in His Eyes" is the 10th track on "The Stayin' Kind." Four to six years ago, he penned the song with Vip Vipperman.

"We just hit it off and started writing this song one day. We ended up writing this song about a soldier with PTSD," Thurston said.

The writing process was free-form with no hook in mind. The song sat in Thurston's catalog until he decided to put it on this album.

"It's about after they go over there and dodge bullets and manage to come back and survive; the effects of what they saw don't go away," he said.

Thurston's passion for the song was fueled by politicians and their practices that annoy him. Instead of Washington's well-heeled getting full pensions and health benefits after only two years in office, the soldiers, who risk life, limb and mind to defend all Americans, should, he said.

"We don't send soldiers to war, politicians do at the end of the day," Thurston said. "Bill Fitzgerald (Chateaugay Town Hall Theater volunteer) played 'Ghosts in His Eyes' for this guy (Arthur Fisher) building hospitals for soldiers with PTSD and TBI. He (Fisher founder of Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund) freaked. We're working on a music video/documentary to raise awareness for this. I'm excited to try and help."

Email Robin Caudell:rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

IF YOU GO WHO: Jamie Lee Thurston WHEN: Barbecue at 6 p.m., doors open at 7:15, and show starts at 8. WHERE: Chateaugay Town Hall Theater, 191 E. Main St., Chateaugay. ADMISSION: $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets are available at Wendy's Quick Stop in Chateaugay, International Border Co. in Malone, Studley Printing in Plattsburgh and Dick's Country Store in Churubusco. WEBSITE: www.themusicoasis.com

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(c)2013 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

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