Jamie Walters Biography
Last updated: 07/01/2000 10:24:40 PM
Talk about a ride. From a #1 Billboard smash with 1992's 'How Do You Talk To An Angel,' on The Heights soundtrack, to a worldwide million-seller with his 1994 self-titled debut Atlantic album, Jamie Walters is in high gear. After 18 months of touring from late '94 to early '96, the singer/guitarist is set to make his mark on '97 with his second solo album, 'RIDE.'
With a fresh, live-sounding set of acoustic-driven songs, Walters applies his songwriting talent to explorations of an entangled web of long-distance relationships and romantic frustration. To record 'RIDE,' Walters again joined with producer Steve Tyrell and a studio cast that includes such 'JAMIE WALTERS' players as bassist Leland Sklar, guitarist Michael Landau, and drummers Gary Mallaber (also a touring band member) and Russ Kunkel. Reflecting Jamie's arrival as an accomplished performer, much of the album was recorded live in the studio.
'This album sounds much more like a group of guys who got together to play,' says Walters. 'I remember when Mike, Lee, Gary, and I first started getting into the new stuff how we just gave each other that look, like 'Okay, we've got something happening here.' What I learned on the road with the first album is how cool a band can sound when it's really together. That's what I wanted to try to capture.'
Another familiar face in the studio was keyboardist Kevin Savigar (Rod Stewart), who co-wrote such tracks on the first album as 'Hold On' and again teamed with Jamie during the writing process. New to the fold are such participants as drummer Abe Laborial, Jr. (Seal) and renowned strings arranger Paul Buckmaster.
Written primarily on the tour bus and in a thousand anonymous hotel rooms, each track took shape with Walters alone on his acoustic guitar. 'I wasn't willing to put a song on the record unless it sounded great as just guitar and vocal,' he says. 'A song needs to succeed in that way or else it's not a great song. A lot of the touring I did was with just me and a guitar and it really made an impression on me that way.'
With songs such as 'I'd Do Anything,' 'The Other Side,' and 'Reckless' ' the album's first single ' Jamie brings a tasteful and stirring rock core together with a rural, rootsy American twang, providing the perfect platform for smooth melodies and Walter's distinctly expressive vocals. With lyrics that read like late-night confessionals, he honestly and directly sheds light on the hope, disappointment, joy, and collapse that accompany the world of '90s-era relationships.
'I tend to write about things that are real personal,' says Jamie. 'I'll focus on an experience in my life and open it up. 'In Between' is like that. It's about a girl that I was really crazy about and who I thought about all the time but couldn't ever make it work. By just telling your own story, it's amazing how a song will connect with people on different levels.'
As was the case on 'JAMIE WALTERS,' 'RIDE' finds Walters writing a number of tracks with Steve Tyrell and his partner Stephanie. 'We've been working with each other for the last five years,' says Jamie. 'Not only are they my creative partners but they're close friends; we live right around the corner from one another. I think they know me as well as my mother knows me... better in some ways.'
Walter's decision to add Matthew Sweet's 'Winona' to the album is a carry-over from the song's inclusion on numerous set lists while on the road. 'There's a lot of magic in that song,' says Jamie, who cites Sweet's 'GIRLFRIEND' album as an all-time favorite.
Touring in support of the first album, Jamie's itinerary included dates across the whole of Europe and North America. Live settings ranged from solo acoustic sets in radio station control rooms to the festival concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he played before a crowd of over 100,000. 'I couldn't believe that the sound of what I was singing and playing was reaching all those people,' says Jamie. 'Frankly, my favorite part of the whole process is getting out there and playing for an audience. Nothing compares to that. Hearing a few thousand people sing along to a song that you wrote sitting on your couch at home is such an incredible feeling.' * * * * * *
A native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, Jamie Walters was playing guitar under the eager instruction of his father by the time he was 12-years-old. In the process, dad also saw fit to introduce his young son to the sounds of artists such as Neil Young and Van Morrison.
By the time he was in high school in Northfield, Mass., Jamie was playing constantly with classmates as part of a rock band that frequently managed to talk the powers-that-be into letting them perform at various school events. Along with his passion for the guitar, he was frequently drawn towards Boston's thriving late-80s music scene, with its all-ages hardcore matinees and the endless rows of record bins found throughout Kenmore Square.
As a seventeen-year-old freshman at New York University's Tisch film school, Jamie quickly fell in with a fluid cast of like-minded players and performed with a variety of punk and hardcore bands at numerous downtown venues, including CBGB. Meanwhile, Jamie's interests in acting increasingly brought him out to Los Angeles. In the wake of a number of interruptions in his academic schedule and the raised ire of skeptical NYU profs, he decided in 1991 to leave school and move to the West Coast full-time. 'The choice, to me, was pretty clear,' says Jamie. 'I was learning as much about the technical side of filmmaking by actually working as I was in the classroom.'
After initial commercial forays, he landed a lead part as a '50s rock 'n' roller in '91's Shout, opposite John Travolta, followed by his starring role in the short-lived FOX-TV series, The Heights. The audition consisted simply of Jamie sitting down with a guitar and singing a few of his songs.
In addition to acting, Jamie's arrival in Los Angeles ushered in a whole new invigorated approach to music. In the solitude that came with moving to a new town, Jamie turned to his acoustic guitar and the kinds of songs he'd grown up hearing. His dad's old record collection crept into his subconscious as he attached emerging musical ideas to expressive lyrics of male/female dramas ' past, present, and sometimes imagined.
The chart success of 'How Do You Talk To An Angel' (which, notably, ended the record-breaking #1 reign of Boyz II Men's 'End Of The Road') pushed life into fast-forward. He recorded 'JAMIE
WALTERS' and, in 1994, began his role as Ray Pruit on Beverly Hills 90210. 'I was originally supposed to do something like seven episodes and play a couple of songs off the album,' says Jamie, 'but it somehow turned into a two year-plus stay.' But as happy as Jamie was to become one of the show's most-popular characters, the association did come with its own baggage.
'Some people seem to have this taboo about being a musician and an actor,' says Jamie. 'But, you know, if the music can't stand up on its own, whether you're on TV or not isn't going to make a difference. That's been proven by a lot of other actors who've put out records.'
The static proved especially obtrusive when Ray Pruit was transformed from a grounded, working class musician into an abusive boyfriend. 'My character was a real dick for a while,' says Jamie. 'I must admit, it did take a toll on the music. People started to see me as if I was the mean guy who was hurting Donna. I remember looking into the crowd at some shows and seeing signs saying 'Don't Push Donna Around,'' he laughs. 'It got to be pretty funny.' When the studio called to invite Jamie to do a third season on the show, he made his feelings about Ray's destructive behavior well known. 'I really didn't want to play that character anymore,' says Jamie. 'I made sure that if I was going to return to the show, my character was going to straighten himself out and I was going to get to play some more of my music.' Accordingly, Walters ends his run on the series this season, with a limited number of appearances ' all of which revolve around musical segments.
'Music is definitely my first love and I want to put my all into it this time without any distractions,' says Jamie. 'I've done enough television acting for now. If the right thing comes along, I'll definitely consider it because I enjoy acting... but I express myself through music better than I do anything else.' For Jamie, the release of 'RIDE' marks the end of a cycle that was set into motion when he walked into to audition for The Heights with his guitar.
'As I've gotten older, I've gained more focus on what I want to do in life,' he says. 'That's what anybody hopes for ' getting your priorities straight and realizing what it is you want to pursue. When I started acting, I was eighteen-years-old. When you're that age, you're so eager that you want to try everything. And for the last seven years, that approach has brought me to a lot of terrific places. But now, I'm focusing all my energy on my music. That's what I'm about.'