Today, Prestonsburg, Kentucky, native Nicholas Jamerson announces the forthcoming release of Peace Mountain, his sixth studio album, due for release on May 19. The new single “Billy Graham Parkway,” written by Allun Cormier, is available today on all digital streaming platforms.
The subtle strums of “Billy Graham Parkway” are rooted in hymnlike sobriety, though a certain skepticism builds in this brokenhearted ballad of a hardworking father and ever-faithful mother. Striking homegrown harmonies allow Jamerson to ruminate on the fleeting aspects of life in this tune written by raw talent Allun Cormier (Folk Soul Revival), who passed away just over twelve years ago. Jamerson first met Cormier 18 years ago in Johnson City, TN, at the Blue Plum Festival, and after spending three days together, he returned to Prestonsburg knowing songwriting was what he was meant to do. Meeting Allun made it seem real and possible for him to pursue the dream he’d swept aside to play college football. Jamerson says “Billy Graham Parkway” represents “…those early stages of my career and trying to get back in touch with that time, and also to speak Allun’s name and honor him. His music means a lot to me and many other people from this area. I want to shine a light on him."
His 6th studio album, Peace Mountain, is considered the second part of Jamerson’s most recent LP release, The Wild Frontier, which was shared in April 2020 during the initial onset of COVID-19. “That really broke me in a lot of ways,” says Jamerson, “as far as thinking you know what’s going to happen. So much of my career has been spent building up momentum, creating pressure to maintain that momentum, and dealing with all the different variables that choke the life out of the joy that ultimately led me to make music and records in the first place.” Peace Mountain is Jamerson’s attempt to be as present in the creation process as possible and for that presence to be reflected in the music.
Deeply involved in the Baptist church and choir growing up, Nicholas’ parents divorced when he was 16, sending everything into a spin and driving him from a sports-centric lifestyle into a more reflective and music-focused mindset to process all his questions about his shattered reality. His mom, who pushed him to pursue piano, was a stay-at-home parent, and his dad was a high school track coach and teacher for 30 years. “My dad was very much a coach and still is,” says Nick. “That’s his parenting style, hard-nosed but never overbearing as far as expectations of achievement. Like with track, an individual sport, it’s just you against the clock - you against yourself. That mindset has been useful in life as a musician. It’s you against your vices. What’s keeping you from doing what you want to do? You need discipline because there’s nobody over your shoulder saying you need to do this.”
Jamerson is used to working alone, but Peace Mountain sees the artist extending olive branches, inviting old friends and new collaborators into his creative world, which orbits around his home studio in Prestonsburg, KY, The Mountain Arts Center. Except for “Holler Child,” which was recorded in Nick’s living room around 2018, engineer Brennen Meek captured all the songs from Peace Mountain at the Mountain Arts Center. The songs, which were pulled from old demos stretching as far back as 2010, feature the country, bluegrass, and folk stylings Jamerson grew up hearing in his grandparents’ living room, with explorations into new territory such as the R&B feel of “I Love Blue,” a tune written during the 2020 quarantine and featuring Magnolia Boulevard.
A friend who works at a publishing company in Nashville and leans toward the commercial side was looking for a song for Dierks Bentley and asked Nick to write one. “Hang On” is what he came up with – a bluegrass but distinctly commercial song. He’s trying to be open to all sides of the spectrum and knows there are no rules. It’s easy to get into one way of doing things and not permit yourself to access more range.
Nick took a songwriting class in 2020 built around production done by pop singer Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic. Nick’s never considered himself a pop or commercial guy, but it gave him insight into that world. He created demos using sample packs to get more accurate representations of rhythm before he got into the studio. He’d never done pre-production work like that before, but he let some samplings hang on, like in “Watching the Fire Burn.” The sample pack for that tune was called Chipmunk Soul, made famous by Kanye West in his early days. Jamerson is not a Kanye fan, per se, but that’s what art is all about, taking things, sometimes out of context, and bending them your way.
Jamerson wrote the album’s title track through text messages with Don Rogers. The tune was inspired by a road sign he saw in West Virginia, compelling him to invite friend and West Virginian Charles Wesley Godwin to sing on the recording. “Bad Imagination,” another quarantune as Jamerson puts it, has a pop-country tint and was co-written with Adam Landry over Zoom during the pandemic, a huge year of reflection for Nick, while he wrote sauntering sing-a-long “Strangers” with fellow Kentuckian Brit Taylor.
“Wild One” was pulled from his other band, Sundy Best’s catalog, and is the eldest composition on the record at over ten years old, while “This Ain’t Supposed to Happen In Our Town” is the most recently written tune and the first one recorded for the Peace Mountain sessions.
He wrote “This Ain’t Supposed to Happen In Our Town” right after a shooting in Prestonsburg occurred, killing three police officers. He started the first session on the same day and in the same building where the funerals were held. “That certainly created a somber atmosphere to start the recording process. There were police from all over the country at the Mountain Arts Center that day,” says Jamerson. Understandably, he felt conflicted about creating art in the face of tragedy. However, he remembered that art could serve as solace for those struggling to cope.
Nick doesn’t claim to have the answers and will keep digging. Still, he is focusing on his relatively inexpensive life in rural Kentucky and slowed-down tour schedule, balancing his responsibilities with his personal interests and hobbies. Overall, he’s fine-tuning a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
These days, he's very dedicated to being a parent and creating a safe and nurturing environment for his daughter. He wants to create an environment to raise his daughter and feel safe, something that’s real that he can pour himself into and come home to and reap the direct benefits of that hard work. “I’m trying to get into gardening and growing food, working the land around my house and clearing off hillsides, taking wood and sticks from one pile to another. I like grunt work, being outside and moving,” says Jamerson.
His hope for what listeners and fans take away from Peace Mountain is that they can find something in it that they can resonate with and not feel so alone in their journey. It would be awesome if everyone listening to it experienced peace, at least for those 59-odd minutes. He hopes folks can feel the peace that he sowed into it.
Peace Mountain from Nicholas Jamerson will be released digitally and physically on Friday, May 19. To pre-save the record, click here. For more information on Nicholas Jamerson, visit nicholasjamerson.com.