‘Meet Me in Jamaica’ — songwriting in Bob Marley’s town
Well that was one of the best songwriting sessions.
Give me a soapbox and I will stand on it and sell you the truth. Kingston is the most Rock ‘N’ Roll city on planet earth. Probably always has been.
Italee Watson is opening her home to fellow musicians to stay, write, and experience the Kingston music scene from her magic castle in the hills above the bright lights.
We waited till the world got quiet to work on our duet, “Meet Me in Jamaica.” But when I first arrived this afternoon I pulled my guitar out and started singing the song as she began the harmonize, and suddenly the crickets all started singing.
Then I showed Italee and Buddha the song, “High Times,” I remembered and posted from the airport 24 hours ago. They flipped. She covered her mouth when I said that I had a certain Bob Marley song in mind but it has only the spirit and none of the melody.
She said, “You did it, you were thinking of ‘High Tide, Low Tide’ but it’s nothing like it,” she inferred in terms of melody and structure.
It’s a style of Country and Folk that works perfectly with reggae musicians. But not really reggae musicians. It’s Jamaicans.
A reggae aficionado might tell me I know nothing and it’s not reggae. But a Jamaican artist hears a good song we can all work on.
It becomes reggae because it’s material. The hooks, the soul, the stories are there. And the Jamaicans are genius. This is a rich culture that values songwriting like nowhere else.
I showed people certain songs in Seattle and I knew they weren’t really listening.
But when Jamaicans speak I listen.
Italee and I went back and forth with phrases and built a hook that had us both laughing that we made our hit, “Meet Me in Jamaica,” a bigger hit. Now to keep it 3.5 minutes and tease what we will do live with this song.
Italee is great. She’s a natural freestyler, with the discipline to craft songs. But we discussed that the truth is that improv is the essence of writing, if you have the discipline to focus on the craft.
I wrote a song 15 months ago for us to sing knowing I would come back to finish it with her. I became a budtender and worked a lot of hours to get back here.
I haven’t I left Friday, it’s Sunday and I haven’t slept and it’s all sober, positive energy. One half-ass puff of a spiff and a red stripe.
This is all the true power of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
You don’t believe me? If you say you’re a Rocka here it means something. You say it doesn’t mean the same thing. But I argue that Seattle is much softer than it used to be. And Kingston is the Rock Hard Diamond.
Italee brought and aspiring Jamaican rocker to meet me at the airport. He said with some regret that he didn’t think Jamaicans would crowd surf.
I laughed and said that I didn’t think Seattle was crowd surfing and moshing anymore.
The much more Rock ‘N’ Roll thing is dancing anyway. Moshing is what you do when you don’t know how.
I love you Seattle, but Kingston is still Kingston and I feel here as though Seattle is trading on the ’90s and Kingston is living and dying to break hits. Because lives actually depend on it.
As I walked with the Jamaican Rocker into the convenience store, I said Seattle was the last city to have a full on Rock Revolution, but that it was a long long time ago.
Here it is Evolution. The beat hasn’t stopped here since the early 1500s.
— Davin Michael Stedman
ABOUT Davin Michael Stedman
Davin Michael Stedman is a songwriter, author and part time TV host from Seattle. He is best known for his work fronting The Staxx Brothers and for his incredible un-choreographed dance moves. He currently is traveling between New Orleans and Kingston, Jamaica, recording his first solo album, "Creoles," with artists and producers including Sly & Robbie and Anthony Redrose.