The first time I heard Jimmie sing was at the Royal Room, where he was doing a duo performance with Seattle pianist Tim Kennedy. His sweet and breathy tone, his patient, intuitive phrasing and his overall lovely presence immediately mesmerized me. I was also captivated by the wide-open honesty of his original compositions. Jimmie Herrod had my heart in an instant. While some would try to Kung Fu fight me for the honor, I am quite certain that I am Jimmie’s biggest fan.
By the time Jimmie graduated from Cornish College of the Arts, his career was well underway. He has worked steadily both as leader of his own ensemble and also with the wildly popular dance band Richie Aldente. His show “A Night of Old White Ladies- A Tribute to Karen Carpenter and Barbra Streisand” is a particular favorite among Seattle audiences. Jimmie was recently the featured guest vocalist with the Tony Starlight Big Band in Portland.
Needless to say, it is a real thrill to have Jimmie on tap for this installment of Passion, Fear and Drive. In this series, I ask artists of various disciplines questions about their creative process. Here’s what Jimmie had to say:
1. Define or describe passion as you understand/experience it.
I define passion as the intangible force that mandates or requires you to continue pursuing a cause regardless of the varying minimal to massive obstacles that could and will prevent you from succeeding.
2. What are you passionate about?
In my short life I’ve been passionate about many things. One being boys, ha, another being visual art. For the longest time I only imagined myself drawing. The majority of my days were spent drawing and not in the way many kids doodle to take up time. I used to “design” woman’s dresses as a kid in the large sketch pads my parents bought me. Some time around late elementary I noticed my own singing voice and that, well, I liked it. Despite my fondness for my own voice I felt more comfortable playing clarinet which I also really enjoyed doing. At this point in life, I think the culminating things I’ve found myself largely passionate about are the arts and human relationships.
3. How does fear show up in your creative process?
Is there any creation without fear? This is a common questions that’s made itself more and more present over the years. When I was drawing, using pastels, and attempting to paint I remember noticing others who had for example a better grasp of the paint brush than me and how inferior that made me feel. My very insecurities about what others could do versus what I could do was the very reason I stopped drawing. I allowed myself to be discouraged by myself. With clarinet the same thing applied but not as much. I was a bad clarinet player in middle school and going into high school for not having any private formalized training, however, the competition of “chairs” was frightening.
With my current projects I often feel flooded by the idea that what I see around me is always going to be more accessible than what I naturally create. This is has really impaired me at times when writing. One issue is the whole thought of composing versus songwriting. I ask myself “What makes one better than the other?” “Does this feel more like one or the other?” “What can I do to dumb down/educate a piece/song to make it more one way or the other?” These road blocks are inescapable a lot of the time.
I guess the overarching fear is that people won’t like what I should solely be creating out of love for the art form, for the sake of the passion itself. But then reality kicks in and says “Jimmie, you’re broke as a joke. Get it together. Be commercial. Be unique. Scratch that. Be what everyone already wants and has heard so they can cram you in a box with everyone else in the bland category you can’t make art within.”
4. How do you work with fear?
Fear isn’t something I can turn off and on. If I’m insecure in the process, then I’m insecure and all my actions within the creating process are subject to the mental abuse of insecurity. On the flip side, when I feel really good about something, I try to present it to people in the loveliest, most honest packaging possible. There is nothing like listening to something I’ve created and wanting to sing along or dance. That sort of energy always combats the negative thoughts that can creep in.
5. Define drive.
When I think of drive, I find myself back in 8th grade competing in the state track meet. Since I Was a little kid I loved racing my friends because I was naturally really fast. My mother was super fast and won a lot of awards growing up, which was another chip on my shoulder. And it was athletic; a vein of activities I wasn’t necessarily attracted to. I realized in 8th grade the large difference between someone who is passionate about running, someone who likes running, and someone who has the drive to win. I lacked the passion and the drive to really ever compete. If I had the passion for sprinting, I would have trained harder, I would have been either discouraged or encouraged by losing and winning, and would have kept at it like I have with music. Similarly, if I had the drive to compete, I would have focused when I’d run. It would have been much more about succeeding for me and achieving something better each time.
Drive simply is what makes the difference (in some situations) between your owner of a Mom n’ Pop Shop and the Donald Trumps of the world. The necessity one feels versus the enjoyment of another really is the dividing line between being passionate and having drive. With this there is, of course, the exception of having the once in a blue moon lucky break that everyone wants and few receive.
6. What keeps you in the game, inspires you to continue and keeps you moving forward, even through periods of fear, trepidation or malaise?
My most current anchor in life has got to be fellow artists I know trying to achieve something greater; people who’ve made it to a place I’d like to be and kept their integrity as artists, and the few people I keep close by. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning right now is that I could use more drive, that I could be a better go-getter and make things happen for myself more, that there are simple things I can do everyday that will propel me further than any day sulking at home about a lack of success for the work and energy I’ve put into my work.
A singer I’ve loved for years has really been a reminder for me lately. Marit Larsen is a Norwegian singer/songwriter who had a lot of success as a kid in a pop duo than fell out the spotlight, went to school and came back into the public light doing music she actually cares about. Her work and success inspires me greatly due to the fact that she isn’t some household name but travels, plays large festivals, televised concerts, and isn’t on some level where she isn’t relatable. In addition to that, I have great friends around me, a great boy at my side and the knowledge that a song can be written for every occasion of joy and sorrow.
For more information about Jimmie, please visit his website: www.jimmieherrod.com
Check out Jimmie’s Facebook page here.