Jamie Oppenheimer is a songwriter. For most of his artistic life he toiled in relative obscurity, but over the past ten years, in the nurturing and passionate Huntsville creative climate, his songs have come to life with local and national music acts. Paul Lagendyk, local country favourite, had a hit with “Deeper I Go Into Blue”; Paul Noonan had success with “Halfway”, and Bobby Cameron, legendary guitarist and singer from Edmonton, Alberta, had some national airplay with “Where You Live, Where You Die”.
Finding voice and an audience for your songs is always the hope of every emerging and veteran songwriter. Jamie Oppenheimer has worked diligently on his craft throughout his life, accumulating and completing 150 songs to date. After years of rejection and unfulfilled promise, Oppenheimer is delighted that his work has found some resonance with local listeners.
Like a short story writer, a painter, or a scriptwriter, Oppenheimer’s great gifts of observation and creative imagination allow him to develop pieces with a wide array of themes, interesting characters, and plots. Some are based on his personal recollections, but for the most part his songs are woven from imagined events in fictional settings. In doing so, he tends to write pieces that are fascinating and uniquely his own—both for their sly wit and intricate melodies and lyrics—and are filled with gentle compassion.
Growing up in Buffalo, New York, Oppenheimer fell in love with guitar at a very young age. In his view, it seems to have become the perfect instrument to accompany his journey into the craft. He began writing lyrics and little tunes early in his life, supported by his father, an amateur journalist who helped him recognize the communal power and immeasurable beauty that a skilled wordsmith can accomplish.
During his university years, Oppenheimer discovered alternative tunings, allowing him to use his guitar in a singularly personal approach. Celtic and other open-tunings give a guitarist access to tonality that standard tunings do not. For an imaginative thinker, such changes in the guitar’s open sound can shape new and exciting formats to explore, rich with possibility.
Throughout his professional life and personal travels, Oppenheimer connected with people he met and befriended to extend his understanding of song and how to be more effective in his deep passion for the artform. But after years of open stages and songwriting contests, he became somewhat jaded with the competitive hustle of the music business. He treasures the work on his compositions; they are more about creative pursuit than commercial acclaim.
With a resurgence of greater interest in local music in Huntsville around 2012, Oppenheimer found himself swept up in the enthusiasm and demand for presenting original music. He joined Tree Ring Records, a group of entertainers seeking an outlet for their own recording projects and self-penned material. Founded by Sean Cotton, Tree Ring was comprised of several established artists including Gina Horswood, Michael Phillips, James Jones, and Karen May. Involvement in this local collective introduced him to much of the thriving scene that sprung up during that period. With recognition from publications like Doppler, local radio stations, and the Algonquin Theatre, acts began to perform frequently and audiences came to know and hear a striking display of inventive original talents.
It is rare for Oppenheimer to perform full live shows but he does occasionally come out to support fundraising and such. He is not entirely comfortable with the demands on a working musician—to learn, know, and play massive catalogues of popular hits that an audience instantly recognizes. He prefers to play, when possible, his own pieces.
Despite his reluctance to perform, when he does so his talents—especially as guitarist—are notable. He is capable of brilliant phrasing and nuance. His right-hand technique is superb which gives his sound breadth and depth. His singing is still accented by his New York roots and delivered in a kind of simple, raspy worldliness. Sardonic and somewhat self-deprecating, Oppenheimer will often share stories concerning the inspiration behind a particular song, always pointing out the comedic twists and turns the journey took.
While his dream is for more established artists to record his material, Jamie Oppenhiemer released one local album, Imposters Game, in 2016, produced by Juan Barbosa. The album is an incredible showcase of the skill and scope of Oppenheimer’s songwriting talent. He has continued to work on recording over the past five years, releasing several successful singles, most notably “Watch for Wolves” featuring Christina Hutt and Gina Horswood in a tour de force presentation of ominous and obvious metaphoric intent.
He has worked with many local producers including Andre Wahl, Sean Cotton, James Gray, and legendary guitarist, producer, and sound arranger Bill Stewart. A collection of earlier songs known as The Hindsight Sessions is in the works and may come out in the near future.
A new release of his more obscure catalogue has been recorded by Bobby Cameron under the working title Songs From Room 421, which promises to be an exciting collection.
Jamie Oppenheimer is a devout outdoorsman who enjoys all that Huntsville has to offer, especially on his beloved Little Doe Lake. He is an avid photographer and his blog, The Oppenheimer Report, has been published every Monday since the early 1990s.
He continues to be an advocate for the local music scene and is involved in several fundraising activities. Along with his wife, Shauna Leigh Taylor, he is active in community radio as a host of his weekly show Lyrical Workers on The Bay CKAR 88.7 FM on Thursdays at 8 p.m., as well as helping with their community efforts and as a mentor for many of the volunteer hosts at the station. He is highly respected in the local music scene as a resource in the art of making original music.
Every person burns inside—some embers smolder, others break into flame. Every person dreams of adding some small treasure to the human experience. Jamie Oppenheimer is a songwriter. Among his many fine qualities, it is there that you will find his deepest love.
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