It was from parents who lived according to “The Sound of Music” that Reno native Jamie Whitton — who today just goes by her last name — began her life as a musician 28 years ago.
“My mom has the Julie Andrews haircut and everything,” Whitton said in a phone interview last week.
Having found her niche as a jazzy, 1940s-style female vocalist, Whitton will perform at Cantina Los Tres Hombres in Sparks on Saturday to promote her new album, “Rare Bird.”
A former student of Our Lady of Snows and McQueen High School, Whitton began performing at age 6 with the Sunshine Generation Kids group.
“We would go dazzle all the old-age homes,” she said.
Working her way through cheerleading, gymnastics and various types of dance in her youth, she started her first band at age 17, called Jamie and the Bluesuits. After that effort expired, she joined a reggae band, singing her own style to Jamaican-infused beats. Later she moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and worked with her sister in a “legends” group, impersonating Marilyn Monroe and Shania Twain.
But her first musical love was jazz music. In middle school, she listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. After working the legends show, life eventually led her to Southern California where she was hired for a 1940s revue on a cruise ship about two years ago. But just before departure, she was playing an open mic night in Pasadena when producer and musician Ian Coyne heard her sing. They began collaborating and she decided to stay, resulting in the song “Apple Tree,” which was picked up for the movie “The Fifth Quarter,” starring Andie MacDowell and Aidan Quinn. The song was then released on her self-titled EP and the ball on her music career began rolling.
This newest effort, “Rare Bird,” reflects a concerted effort by Whitton and her marketing team to find her voice and her strongest niche. They analyzed the album’s 10 tracks to come up with a list of words that best described the color and mood of the music: complex, alluring, secretive, wishful and curious. Upon testing the songs on a variety of ages, Whitton said there isn’t just one range that likes her music.
“I’m so amazed because it’s such a universal album,” she said. “My 13-year-old knows all my songs.”
With help from Coyne and various others, Whitton revamped a lot of her old lyrics for songs on “Rare Bird.” For example, she said she wrote “Pity Party” eight or nine years ago while living in Long Beach, Calif. The album’s most catchy tune, she said, is “Bee Sting,” which describes every woman’s dream of a Friday night in a red dress out under the stars.
Whitton already is working on another album to be released next year. This time it will be a stripped-down effort with a four-piece band produced by former Oingo Boingo bassist John Avila. She also hopes to tour in Europe soon, but not before hitting her native soil.
“My publicist says I have to start in my hometown,” she said.
Whitton performs Saturday at Cantina Los Tres Hombres, located at 926 Victorian Ave. in Sparks. Jellybread opens at 7 p.m. with Whitton performing second. There is no cover charge. For more information, call 356-6262.
For more about Whitton, visit www.whittonmusic.com.