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INTERVIEW: Jamie Lono From The Voice

By Michelle Meywes Kopeny in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 2, 2012 6:00PM

2012_4_2_Lono cover_Mike Danenberg.jpg
Photo by Mike Danenberg.
Potbelly sandwich maker by day, musician by night (and sometimes even on the job), Jamie Lono of Vernon Hills recently represented Chicago on the TV singing competition, The Voice. The hit show has a unique approach to the American-Idol-style reality concept with four judges (Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton) who decide who they want for their “team” based solely on what they hear, with their backs turned to the contestants.

Turning two chairs at his blind audition, both Cee Lo and Adam fought for the now 23 year old to choose their team, but Jamie ultimately sided with Team CeeLo. Although he was eliminated in the battle round (where two contestants from each team sing one-on-one), it may be just the beginning for Lono. He’s got a slew of appearances coming up in the area that you can find on his website, including a date at Subterranean (April 28) with his band, the Feel Good Nation.

We got a chance to talk with the up-and-coming singer/songwriter about his experience on The Voice and what he’s up to now.

Chicagoist: So, are you still making sandwiches?

Jamie Lono: Ha, currently yes, for a little bit at least.

C: Do people come into the store to see you or recognize you from the show?

JL: They have, yeah. It was crazy, right after the blind auditions it was insane. I think our business might have like doubled. I wasn’t even able to make sandwiches because so many people were asking me for autographs and wanted to take pictures, it was something I’d never dealt with before, so it was unreal. It was crazy. It still happens now.

C: I could see people showing up for your in-stores.

JL: Well it used to be, we had little events, and we posted one thing on facebook and forty people had come to the event at Potbelly’s, so it’s really crazy. Usually nobody would ever come to Potbelly to see me play.

C: What made you pick Cee Lo over Adam at your blind audition?

JL: It was definitely in the moment, because when you’re up there, it’s almost like an out-of-body experience, like you can barely even remember what’s happening. In that moment, I just felt like Cee Lo was the right way to go. And the sandwich comment was pretty awesome.

C: I was going to ask if it was the sandwich comment!

JL: Yeah, it might have been, it might have been what put me over the edge.

C: What did you think of the song selection for your battle round with Jamar? (“I Want To Know What Love Is” - Foreigner)

JL: It’s definitely, it’s not the first song I would have chosen. I had never heard it before we sang it. With that said, the whole experience was incredibly awesome, and I’m thankful for the time I had on the show, of course I wish I would have had more, but it was awesome.

C: Do you ever find yourself wishing you had gone with Adam instead?

JL: No, I mean, I think I went with what was right at that moment and what was supposed to happen.

C: What was it like working with your advisor, Babyface?

JL: Cool. It was really cool, because I grew up listening to old R&B artists like K-Ci & JoJo, and Boyz II Men and stuff, and so when I saw Babyface, I was like is that THE Babyface?! It was just crazy, it was totally weird to walk in and it was very unexpected and he was very down to earth and is a very humble man.

C: We loved your interpretation of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” What other styles or artists influence you?

JL: Thank you. Oh man, there’s a lot, I try not to take specific things from other artists, because I feel like that would be almost like ripping them off, but I try to draw my influences from things that stick out to me. Artists that are really true and very honest, artists like Ray LaMontagne, Brett Dennen, Allen Stone, James Taylor, just some really great artists. Everything that’s really pure and genuine and true I think is what I try to take and influence my music.

C: So you’ve got your own original material that you play?

JL: Yeah, we just started recording, right after the show, or right after I got kicked off, I released this thing called a Kickstarter. Yes. You know what it is, artists can ask for donations from fans, and then in order to fund an EP or something. So, we had a goal of 3,500, and we had 40 days to get it, and we actually met the goal in three hours. So it was really, really cool. And it’s still going right now, but the reason we did that was so we could start recording an EP with all of my original material. So we went in the studio last week, and we’re going back in on Saturday. So, it should be really fun.

C: You played at Beat Kitchen a couple weeks ago. Were you playing gigs around the city before The Voice?

JL: Yeah, I did. Not as much, I had only played pretty much at the Elbo Room. That was the extent of my stay in Chicago, as far as playing around there goes. And then we played at the Beat Kitchen and we just about sold it out, and it was a Sunday night. It was great. So now, it opened up more doors, I’m opening for Tim Reynolds, from Dave Matthews Band, on the 17th and all that.

C: Were you able to connect at all with any of the Chicago contestants (Erin Martin and Jesse Campbell) when you were on the Voice, or since you’ve been back in Chicago?

JL: Yeah, I mean, all of us got to be with each other for a long amount, a period of time, and we all got to know each other. I mean, as far as the Chicago contestants, we didn’t become like best friends, but we’re all acquaintances, we all know each other, and they’re great, great people.

C: So what are your future plans for music, like right now, you said recording, do you play with a band?

JL: Yeah, it’s like Jamie Lono and the Feel Good Nation, which is the band. My plans right now are just to strike while the iron is hot, you know, just to keep moving forward. Yeah, just strike while the iron is hot, find management companies, find all this stuff, because I think if anything, America saw that I’m a talented person, and I can definitely see myself having a career in music. And so that’s what I plan to do.

C: Did you get to meet Cee Lo’s cat?

JL: Oh! I didn’t get to meet the cat! I was very upset! The people in the live round got to meet the cat, so maybe they’ll fly me out for the finale and I’ll be able to meet the cat. I hope so, because that would be really awesome.