Hysteria: Jamie McCormick
Friday. 16th April 2021
Photos: Justin Laidlaw &
Hysteria, In Conversation: On Coming Out & The Transformative Power of Art and Community (with Jamie McCormick
Jamie McCormick is a singer, songwriter and published poet living in the North-East of Scotland. His songs range from serious & soul searching to self-deprecating & satirical, but with a constant underlying theme of great hair. Jamie joined Hysteria’s Hanna Louise to chat about all things queer and creative, from his rich tapestry of musical influences to the impact of coming out on his music and creative practice.
H : So, I have to start with this: what have you been up to over lockdown? Other than prancing about in fabulous outfits, obviously…
J : For the first few months of lockdown, I had both my bairns at home, so I was in full on family mode making big pots of home cooking and just loving having them with me. I was in major denial though: I refused to acknowledge that live gigging wouldn't spring back overnight in the same sudden way it had disappeared. But then I got invited to be the musical interlude at a new online spoken word event called "Blot from the Blue" organised by Fin Hall, who knew me from my regular daytime gigs at Café 1909 in Strichen. I became a bit of a fixture on the show and from there got invited to perform at other events in the UK, US, Canada & Australia.
H : Ah, the beauty of virtual gigs – you can be in all those places on the same weekend! For our readers who are just meeting you for the first time, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your music, and who influences you?
J : I was born in Fraserburgh in 1973. I was always singing and dancing, and my parents were both musical (my Dad especially) so I was sent to piano lessons pretty much as soon as I started school. At 9 I took up cello and at 12 I won a scholarship to receive vocal tuition at the North-East of Scotland Music School in Aberdeen, where I trained for 5 years as a mezzo soprano.
I started gigging occasionally in a covers band with my Dad when I was 19. It got more regular until music eventually became my main income. I had been in bands, both covers and originals, almost non-stop for nearly 27 years until lockdown hit.
In terms of my musical influences, they are very varied. I learned classical music but growing up in Fraserburgh I inevitably heard hymns, country music and traditional Scottish tunes. As my Dad played in bands, there was always lots of music around the house. In my teens I "discovered" 60's & 70's rock, funk and psychedelia, and older blues and jazz records. Right now, I’m mostly listening to Kate Bush, Divine Comedy, Sly & Family Stone, Tori Amos & Suicide Sports Club.
H : There’s so much in there, such a rich musical history! And all those varied influences and experiences converge in your musical performances. I remember when Mae and I first saw you at an open mic at Cult of Coffee, way back in 2018. We both simultaneously fell in love with your voice! And we were absolutely delighted when you agreed to headline the first ever Hysteria (and then became a permanent fixture!)
'Being a creative artist has helped me with both coming out and with my transition. Being able to vent my more negative experiences while also sharing the more joyful moments is enormously therapeutic.'
J : Hysteria opened up my life in ways I could never have foreseen. The wonderfully warm, inclusive and supportive atmosphere let me relax and be myself. The more I began to be myself, the more I realised that I was not, in fact, a straight cis woman (hindsight... wow...)
H : Thank you for saying that. I think I can speak for both myself and Mae when I say we’re honoured to have been part of your journey. You made Hysteria sparkle, and I’m so glad that we got to be there to watch you grow into yourself! I’m thinking about the legendary drag night in Jan 2019, when you headlined for the second time (as a drag king) and you were going through some pretty significant life changes at that time. Can you tell me about the process of coming out (to yourself and to the world)?
J : My subconscious was working in overdrive when I mentioned that I enjoyed singing in a male range at home, and that led to you and Mae suggesting the drag night… I instantly contacted Eli Buck [Edinburgh based drag king] and booked in a further two gigs at Katie's Bar and The Rabbit Hole. The very first drag gig I did, I knew. As soon as I walked out into the street as a man, I felt more at ease than I had thought possible. I came out to myself that night and then immediately came out to both my bairns. That was at the tail end of January 2019, and less than two months later I had come out publicly and was living as... [gestures at himself] ...me! Coming out was helped immensely by my knowing that I was not alone. The friends I made and the acceptance I felt at Hysteria, and later at drag gigs, gave me the confidence that I needed.
H : I love that story. Drag helped you figure out who you were! Your story is a huge testament to the power of both community and creative practice.
J : Being a creative artist has helped me with both coming out and with my transition. Being able to vent my more negative experiences while also sharing the more joyful moments is enormously therapeutic. Drag has also been like a form of therapy, a means to explore and express gender in a way that is (hopefully!?) entertaining, even for those audience members who do not relate directly to my story or reality. Also – sequins!
H : I’ve noticed some pretty big changes in your music since you came out. The first time I heard Bring the Curtain Down felt like a huge moment. Prior to you coming out you were this powerhouse on stage that would have an entire bar on their feet - and of course you still are - but there’s this new vulnerability there that literally makes people weep. Can you tell me a bit about how your journey has influenced your music?
J : I think I find it easier to show my vulnerability more now that I am out as a man. Before, I always felt like I was trying to hide from everyone whilst standing on a stage belting out numbers. Now, I feel happy to be seen and to lay my soul bare for all to see. It's not a conscious thing - it's just happened organically.
And I have been moved to tears myself in return by the love and acceptance that has been shown towards me and my music by audiences. If you had told teenage me that someday someone, anyone, would hear my truth and not instantly shout "Burn the creature!" I wouldn't have believed you!
H : We hear your truth and fall in love with you even more! With the person behind the voice. What’s life been like for you off-stage since you came out?
J : It has been an almost entirely positive experience for me. I suffered from anxiety attacks and bouts of depression because it felt like there was something in between me and the rest of the world, an invisible forcefield or something. I felt overwhelmed by life, emotionally and psychologically exhausted. I only realise now how much of my energy was going into "coping" with not being myself and interacting with the world through a filter. I am so much more relaxed and at one with myself... and the Universe! I don't fear folk like I used to and actively embrace meeting new people now, like the happy, sociable bairn I used to be, but all grown up (well, I’m 5'3", so I didn't grow that much!) I finally feel like me!
H : It must have been exhausting to live that way, and a huge weight off your shoulders to be able to be yourself.
J : I have felt such support and acceptance, and learned that it's okay for me to be who I am. The queer creative community has given me the confidence to speak in my own voice and trust that people will hear and understand.
'It is crucial. Art gives a louder voice to those that society doesn't normally pay attention to. It’s essential to the cultural health of a community'
H : How important do you think art and performance are in building community, especially queer community?
J : I think it is crucial! As a professional performer and full time creative, you can be completely sure my opinion is objective [both laugh]. Seriously though - it is crucial. Art gives a louder voice to those that society doesn't normally pay attention to. It’s essential to the cultural health of a community.
H : Hell yes! I absolutely agree (also a full time creative taking a completely objective stance). Thank you so much for talking with me today and for sharing your heart. You’re an absolute joy to speak to. I just have one last question - what’s next? Is there an album on the horizon?
J : I've been asked a lot about albums (by at least 3 people, Hanna!) [both laugh] so there will be some downloadable music coming soon. I have virtual Midsummer Eve show called "Come Into The Forest" on Sunday June 20th in association with Eye Publish Ewe. It will feature myself and some very special guests performing music, spoken word and burlesque, with all the acts themed around faeries, myth and magic.
My overall plan is flexible, but I hope to combine the online shows with live gigs and allow myself enough time to write (an upside of lockdown). That’s the balance I would like to achieve in the short term. It's difficult to make any definite long-term plans since my career may have to adapt again as we learn to live in a world with Covid-19 still present. Ooh, don't want to end on that note, so... [does a little tap dance] ...it has been a dream of mine since I was just 3 years old to be able to dance whilst wearing a sailor costume à la Gene Kelly in "On The Town"(or like Channing Tatum in "Hail! Caesar!" for folk under 50). Wow, how the f*** did I not know I was queer 'til my 40's!?
You can find him on the following social media:
YouTube - Jamie McCormick
Facebook - Jamie McCormick
Instagram - @guntotinhippies