Jamie-Lee Dimes Sings a Song of Protest in “Virginia”

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

There’s an underlying country blues vein running through the song “Virginia,” swelling with unbridled energy that Australia’s Jamie-Lee Dimes taps into. Instead of constricting it and making it puff up, she injects with a sleepy shoegaziness that muffles the haziness into a dizzying high. It’s a song that brims with musical angst but is tempered by her velvety vocals. “I had a clear idea of how I wanted it to all sound, and I got some of my friends to help me bring it to life – we all grew up listening to the blues, so I think it worked well,” she explains appropriately, giving credence to the texture.

Sometimes sounding like Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval and other times like a Cowboy Junkies’ Margo Timmins, Dimes’ hypnotic vocals merges with the mixture of blues and shoegaze well, giving it an dusty and grimy atmosphere… the slide guitar adding a ringing boost. “I recorded the drums and a scratch guitar at Mick Turner’s (Dirty Threes) studio and the rest at Restless Noise studios in Melbourne, Australia. By the end of the recording session, we had the lighter out to record slide guitar as we didn’t have a slide at the time.”

A protest song of sorts, the origins of “Virginia” started in 2017 in the wake of the infamous “Unite the Right” march for White Supremacy. “I woke up to the Charlottesville, Virginia riots and was watching footage of white supremacists chanting Hitler rhetoric in 2017, waving torches and flags, saluting like the Nazis, singing ‘blood and toil’ and many other ‘red flag alert’ acts of violence, hatred, and racism,” she explains.  “I needed to channel my anger, sadness, and disbelief into a song.”

Little did she know, the hateful rhetoric of this hateful event only grew louder, stronger, darker. What might have looked like an ugly capsule in time was, in fact, a precursor to the rise in unhidden racism and xenophobia. She sings in “Virginia,” “You can wave your torches/ You can wave your flags/ The wind will drop sails/ We are coming home” – a show and act of defiance and reclamation against that oppression and hate.

“Now, three years later, we are in the midst of a large Civil Rights movement,” she reflects, referring to the news cycle that includes the Black Live Matter movement, the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the growing political unrest that’s dividing this country. “A lot of hatred and deep, systematic racism is coming to light in society right now. It’s an issue I wanted to write about. It is a tribute song to those who go unheard in society.”

Promoting peace to counter the violence in her art, Dimes wants, “people to be kind to everyone else, no matter who they are. It doesn’t matter what a person’s religion, culture, ethnicity, border, country, accent, language, or sexuality is – no one is better than anyone else. Everyone has their own stories and struggles.”

Her advocacy stands not on party lines but on human lines.  Rather than focusing on the conflicts, she focuses on solutions, which is the theme of “Virginia.” “It doesn’t matter what party you represent, what state you were born in, what school you went to, or what neighborhood you grew up in,” she explains. “What matters is being kind. What matter is treating people with respect, rather than just demanding it for yourself. We live in colonized countries, founded on genocide – empathy should be expected rather than ignorance.”

With the world desperately trying to right itself in the midst of riots, protests and the pandemic, Dimes hopes it will find the balance soon. She’s hopeful and optimistic. “If I could live a life of recording albums, writing songs for myself and other people, and touring while applying my sociology studies to the world,” she envisions. “That would be my equivalent to living the dream.”

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