At the American Indian Film Festival award show in San Francisco tonight, all eyes and ears are focused on singer Jamie Coon. The audience is captivated by her voice—which is both soulful and angelic—and her original soul-pop tunes. However, it is much more than that which draws everyone in. An extremely gifted singer and a pure natural on stage, she is completely connected with the audience, ad-libbing between tunes and interacting with the crowd. Everyone in the filled-to-capacity, 1,000-seat Palace of Fine Arts Theater hangs on her every word—which spurs her on to dig in, take risks, and reach new musical heights. Most in the crowd have that rare feeling that they are both listening to a singular voice, and witnessing a true natural performer. It is no surprise, then, that today Ms. Coon is regarded by many as one of the freshest-sounding singers to come along in awhile and is continually reaching a larger audience via films, TV and regional awards.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Ms. Coon was exposed to music at an early age. Her parents were huge music fans and listened to everything from Ronnie Milsap, Elton John, Percy Sledge, Fats Domino, and Aretha Franklin. In high school, while her friends got into alternative rock, her hero was Elvis. Still a teen, Ms. Coon dedicated herself to music, writing songs and singing and also learning piano and guitar. Older rock, country and soul influenced her and she wrote constantly. Soon, it was obvious that she had found her calling: she relocated to Los Angeles to attend the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California, where she received the Outstanding Student of the Year award and graduated from the Vocal (VIT) program.
The first time you hear Ms. Coon’s music, you immediately know that you’re listening to something different. Imagine a touch of Natalie Merchant’s upbeat pop and some Nora Jones’ vibe—mixed in with a nod to all the soul greats—and you get an idea of what she’s about. However, there are also other currents running deeper throughout her music: a Native American born in Okemah, Oklahoma, her songs have a spiritual, wide-open feel that flows naturally in everything she sings. With so many influences, Ms. Coon’s songs incorporate a wide variety of instrumentation and styles. She seamlessly fuses stripped-down acoustics, standard pop/rock instrumentation, electronic elements and drum loops, and more. It all works so well because of her musical vision, passionate voice and solid soul underpinning.