“My mother did absolutely the best she could – there’s no doubt about that. She was the best. I was just really angry. I was the troubled child; any gray hair probably has to do with me. Very suicidal.”
“Did you try?”
“Oh yeah. They put me in hospitals, psychiatric wards … “
“When was the first time?”
“I was 13 or 14, something like that. Every time I tried to kill myself, I was totally unsuccessful. It was like, wow, I’m so lame that I can’t even kill myself. But I know without a shad – it was God’s mercy.” Jamie speaks so fast, he cuts his own words off. “He wouldn’t allow that to happen. Even to the point of – I was in the middle of nowhere, out in the woods. I cut myself, and I just sat there and waited. And here come my friends, going camping. Every time it would be stopped. I overdosed, got my stomach pumped.”
“How many times did you try to kill yourself?”
“Probably 6. It wasn’t good. They kept trying to diagnose me as bipolar, or whatever – it was never any of those things. My mother was racking her brain, trying to research, trying to figure out what’s wrong with her boy. She kept saying, it’s not a mental disorder, he’s really disturbed. ‘Cause there was no real pattern to it. If I pull a disorder, you’ve got highs and lows. But it just was never like that. I was just a very deep thinker; I would see a tragedy and I would think, this is horrible. And next thing you know, I’m like, life isn’t worth it. And it wasn’t selfish at that point, when you’re a child. So my mother spent years wondering if I would come home alive or not. It sucked. I hate that I did that to her.”
Jamie is telling me this over drinks at Tenn16, a Southern/Cajun restaurant/bar in East Nashville. Jamie works all over the Nashville area and lives outside the city.
“I was one of those people – the black sheep – and it was probably a lot of my doing, but at the same time, you want to at least put yourself out there and if people don’t accept you for it – it hurts, you know?”
Jamie grew up in Connecticut, the middle child and oldest son of a real estate executive/politician father and nurse mother, going to private Christian school, one of the best in the country. He dropped out at sixteen. “I’d gone all the way from first to tenth grade. I was already doing college work and everything. I have a very artistic mind – very frustrating. Very depressing when you’re surrounded by intellectuals when … it’s not that I don’t like intellectual things. It’s ….
“How it’s taught.”
He nods. “It doesn’t work for me.” The school had him undergo special testing to determine why he wasn’t doing well in school. He was above average in everything, excelling in music and art. “They couldn’t figure out what the problem was. And it really just boiled down to how you asked me. My parents explained that to the teachers. They asked me a different way, and bam bam bam [he gets everything right]. But at that point I was way too depressed.” He chuckles. “What was it that Einstein said? ‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’s gonna believe it’s stupid it’s whole life.’ I was very depressed. Like to the point where it wasn’t good. So my mother wanted that to end.”
He looks down at the table, swirling his half-drunk gin and tonic. A lighted arrow, like something from a Vegas neon sign, hangs on the jungle green-colored wall at the back of the restaurant, curving to point to Jamie’s head.
He sounds like an unusual little boy. As a child, Jamie would sit on the floor listening to Liberace and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, over and over. “It was my favorite thing to do. I was obsessed with it. Wore the record out.” On his own volition, he would keep just one of his many Christmas presents and donate the rest to Salvation Army. (His mother: “Are you sure?” He was.) She would respond to his repeated intellectual questions and challenges in complete exasperation: “Why do you think about these things? It’s too deep! You’re a child!”
“My first drug was at 9. Weed. I was the old soul, so everybody that was older was okay with me hanging out with them. I want to say it was influence, but it was more curiosity than anything. ‘Course I loved it.”
“New perspective? I was a disturbed kid. I really was. My father wasn’t beating my mother – none of that was going on. They didn’t have a good relationship; my father was never there. That had a lot to do with it – no father figure around. So I think that was a lot of the ‘disturbing’ factor for me. I was just born angry.”
“Would you say you’re angry now?”
“Sometimes it comes out. I’m a lover. I really am that way. I’m Irish, so sometimes things sounds like I’m angry. It’s not. It’s just I’m passionate.”