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Interview: Derek Jameson Headlines San Jose Pride

In Culture, Music
promoting the Sassy Fall Ball 2011 (on Dec. 18th)

San Jose native Derek Jameson is known for songs that fuse hard beats with naked emotion. One of the biggest weaknesses of club music is its tendency toward dehumanized, assembly-line blandness, but Jameson turns this blueprint for mechanization on its head with the passionate sincerity of his lyrics. He has an unusual talent for channeling emotion and even a message in the chaos of the dance-floor grind.

Yet surprisingly, that wasn’t always the case. Instead, the singer, dancer and actor, who headlines San Jose Pride this weekend at Discovery Meadow in San Jose says he was actually “the most shut off person when I was younger.” And his journey from that icy teenager to a man with “rule by heart” tattooed on his chest began in the most unexpected of places.

“At 15, I was asked if I wanted a job in entertainment at Paramount’s Great America. I took it not knowing that it would set me up as a performer for the rest of my life,” he says. “I was acting, dancing, and singing in stage shows for years at that park.”

The rigor of doing show after show after show every day for the crowds boosted his confidence immensely, so much so that he counts it among the most important formative steps in launching his musical career—along with a little soul-searching.

“Performing at Great America, being in bands, traveling the world, and learning to love myself were the most important steps in becoming who I am today,” he says.

Once he realized what an outlet it could be, music became his passion. “I knew that the only way I could express emotion was to write it down. I started playing the piano at the same time as I got the Paramount gig,” he says. “I just took to it naturally, like the the sound was part of my mental makeup. It was the way to marry the feeling of music with the depth of words that I had kept internal.”

He made his first real impact on the music industry with his single “Ribcage” off his 2010 debut album, The Invention of Love. The video probably had even more of an impact, both metaphorically and practically, with its sly equation of boxing with affairs of the heart—both delivering their blows to the body part of the title.

His latest single, however, shows how he’s evolved both musically and lyrically on his second release, the EP A History of Heroes. Heavily infused with dubstep, “Mr. Soldier Man” expands on his effort to bring meaning to dance music, digging into the definition of masculinity.

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