Almost five years ago, Jamie Alimorad shook hands with Gino Vannelli to seal a verbal agreement. Revered for soft rock staples like “I Just Wanna Stop” and “Living Inside Myself”, the Canadian singer-songwriter is also a prolific producer and mentor. While touring to promote his previous release, Words Left Unsaid, Alimorad was chosen for Vannelli’s Art of Voice Master Class, and the rest is history.
In the form of Alimorad’s upcoming album, This is Tomorrow Calling, the product of that handshake is finally taking shape. Coming on September 27 via Knothole and Ditto, This is Tomorrow Calling is the grand culmination of Alimorad’s journey from that decisive handshake, to a big move from NYC to LA, and several great turns of fate in-between.
An album centered firmly on the concept of time, This is Tomorrow Calling often feels timeless. A blend of “Right Here Waiting”-era AC rock and punchy contemporary pop, Alimorad comes alive like never before with weighty lyricism and a redefined sophistication in his musicality. Better yet, he’s lending his art to a cause greater than himself with his summery single, “Brighter Days”—a song release that coincides with an ongoing t-shirt campaign wherein all proceeds benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Alimorad and Vannelli’s collaboration hits its crescendo on October 12, when the rising pop-rock artist joins his childhood hero and mentor on stage live at the Saban in Beverly Hills. Tickets are available now.
Let’s talk about your new single, “Brighter Days”. What’s the new song about? What was your aim with its development, as well as teaming up with AFSP Los Angeles for its release?
I had just wrapped up a big January session—basically the first half of the album—and came back to New York. During that time, I was hanging out with a friend of mine who I’ve known since sixth grade. We used to hang out pretty much every week—typically on Mondays—before I moved westward and we just had great get-togethers. She’s one of the best people to talk to. We always challenged each other’s perspectives and we’d get into really deep conversations sometimes—usually over Chinese food.
She’s not an open book, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, that day, she decided to open up to me about a lot of things. Every time I thought my jaw couldn’t drop any lower, it did. I was shocked and I fault awful about it. My heart broke listening to her stories. I knew certain things, but I didn’t know the depth of it.
Here’s someone I’ve known for a long time, and someone who’s always been there for me and been a really positive influence for me, and I had no idea that she was going through such a struggle. The message stayed with me. Everything that she expressed to me just floated around my head constantly. I thought, “There’s gotta be something that I can do!”
Even though she told me that it was more than enough that I was listening, I got to thinking that if I’ve known someone this long and didn’t really know the depths of what she was going to, what about people who you just pass up on the street? What about distant family members? Anybody else? People go through stuff and we have no idea.
I was writing for the album, and I had a few notes. I had the song title “Brighter Days” in my notes as well as the lyric “this is tomorrow calling,” which would become the name of the album. I put them together to say, “This is tomorrow calling; there are brighter days ahead.” As I was messing around with creating the song and some progressions on guitar, something clicked regarding the conversation with my friend and the music.
I wrote this song and demoed it quickly before sending it to Gino, and he loved it. We put it together and did the production with his brother, Ross Vannelli. We created this really fun, uplifting, summer-sounding track—I always imagine being at the beach while listening to it or driving down the PCH with the windows down and the top down. The lyrics are very optimistic, too.
I was shopping the album in Los Angeles and a promoter heard it. He said that he did some work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They heard it and loved it and we formed this partnership. I’m selling “Brighter Days” t-shirts in nine colors, each of which represents who you are honoring or who you’re remembering. The goal is to buy it, take a picture with it on, post it on Instagram with the hashtag #BrighterDays, with all proceeds going to the AFSP.
I’m doing work with the Los Angeles Central Coast chapter, but we’re looking to take it national. We’re even talking with other organizations from around the globe to take this campaign international, which is really cool! We can make this a worldwide movement, but we want to start at home.
If you buy the shirt and you can get yourself to LA, you can become a part of our music video. If you can’t make it, all of those posts and other pictures that you wanna share, we’ll eventually make an extended cut to feature everyone in the video. The whole purpose of this project is to share anyone who is struggling that they are not alone. Everyone is affected by suicide and depression in some way, shape, or form.
Not everyone knows what those colors mean—I didn’t know what they meant before being involved with the AFSP—and I want them to see this rainbow of color and be made curious by it. When they do research, they’ll see that there’s a message behind it and everyone is coming together in a communal sense and being here for each other.
To cast a wide net, that’s my aim, to spread the message that we can lend an ear to anyone who needs it and be open about our struggles.
That’s phenomenal. I could be wrong, but I think that for most of us artistically-minded people, we set forth into creating for ourselves—to fulfill our own need to satiate our artistry. It can be such an insular thing, and it’s great when people can empathize with you for a message you’ve really just set out to craft for yourself. Although, I think you’ve reached another level where you’re writing with the intent of relating yourself to others and reaching your hand out to other people.
Well, thank you.
We changed the lyric around a lot. The first draft that I had, it was me singing to her. After playing around a little bit, it would be a stronger thing to be doing it from the first-person. It’s the first published song that I’ve really written about someone, for someone that’s not a romantic love song. It’s a different feeling, and I love it, and I don’t really know how to describe it.
It took a lot of time to write this song from that perspective because I wanted to make sure that I was sensitive towards everyone and their struggles, but I eventually told her that it was about her. She was really moved by it. When the AFSP opportunity came up, I asked her first if it would be okay to do this, and she was totally cool with it. She said, “Are you kidding? If you can help people, you need to do everything you possibly can,” which I think was really freaking cool.
I hope “Brighter Days” becomes something that people really latch onto. I don’t want to go so far as saying I want it to make a cultural impact. I just want it to have made a personal impact for somebody.
Right. It’s really moving even when you can just reach out to one person and make a difference, which you have. It’s already a success and we’ll see how far we can take it.
That’s the goal.
It’s the first song you’ve published that isn’t a straight-shooting love song. “Brighter Days” is more about an all-embracing, unifying love that takes into account everyone you can reach out to.
That’s something that, to me, that’s taken this new album to another level. That’s speaking as a writer, performer, and musician. Gino really emphasized the spiritual journey for me while creating this album. I wrote about three dozen songs that got cut down to about ten. It was really challenging at times, but in his words, he said, “You’ve been a boy. It’s time to become a man.”
With the lyrical journey, I tried to center myself on those words. With my songs released independently a few years ago, you can say, “Hey, that’s pretty alright,” but now you can say that my songs have a much broader perspective. I’m now outside of school walls; I’ve traveled and been around other cultures. I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished, staying true to my roots but taking it to a whole other level.
Not to compare, but I do listen to your new songs and say, “Hey, Jamie’s really out here aiming to become the next Richard Marx.”
And believe me, I love Richard! [laughs]
I’m actually going to see him at the Troubadour in a couple of weeks.
Ross is good friends with Richard and has worked with him, and he knows that Richard is a big influence on me. There definitely is some of that coming out there. Even with some of the artists that Gino wanted me to lean towards, I mentioned that I wanted to bring some of him into this record and he said, “Not a bad guy to shoot for.”
There’s Vannelli DNA all over these songs because we’ve been working on it together so intently, but Peter Gabriel, Sting, David Foster, Richard, and those sorts of guys and their writing—it’s there.
Wait until you hear the rest of it! “Brighter Days” and “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” are very pop, and it remains pop, but it shifts into adult contemporary. There’s some cuts where you’ll say, “Whoa, that’s intense!”
You’re touching on a part of production that a lot of people outside of our bubble recognize. When you’re in a studio with a producer as accomplished as Gino, they’ll guide their artists as mentors and ask them who they’re aiming for—not to emulate famous artists, but to encompass a certain vibe.
You’re right, and he’s done a great job with that. It really does sound unique.
Yeah, it comes down to where you can play a sunny pop song like “Brighter Days” on a mixtape and have it shift right into “In Your Eyes” afterwards and feel seamless.
I’m really happy you made that comparison, since there’s a staccato, palm-muting electric guitar part and my goal with that was to tap into some Peter Gabriel. So, very astute there Jonathan. Very nice! [laughs]
Gino was a big hero of yours growing up. They say to never meet your heroes, but it seems like it was a positive and productive thing to get to know him and work with him.
It was! I mean this with a dash of humor, but also sincerity—he is the Dos Equis man in reality. He is the most interesting man in the world.
I’ve had my family and a friend or two meet him and I’d tried to track him down because it wasn’t normal that all this time had past and I hadn’t yet. When I finally did get to meet him, I told my friend, Dave, to be prepared because it would be the most intense conversation he’d ever have in his entire life.
We went to my favorite spot in town for lunch and Gino asked Dave all of these different questions, ranging from where he grew up and where he lived now to all sorts of other stuff. So, we went from this conversation that began as something about New Jersey and mechanical engineering into something about the inner cellular workings of a leaf, to the gaseous composition of a blue star, to religion and humanity and everything in-between.
Even while going on all of these separate tangents and out-there things, it all came back to the main subject. After a while of being there, someone came up to Gino who knew him. When he stepped away to chat with them, I laughed and I said to Dave, “Wow. That was the most intense conversation of my life, and I feel like I’ve been given some sort of secret to a better life and I need to figure out how to use it immediately or I’ve blown my path.”
He’s a very spiritual person, but very scientific, very mathematic. Faith is very important to him, but he doesn’t shove it down your throat. So, it’s like meeting with a monk who’s also a physicist. It’s really wild—really wild.
I’m glad to know Gino. It’s so cool. Whenever I need a glass of cold water in my face, I say, “Hey, things might be a little rough right now, but if you were able to travel back in time and tell the fourteen-year-old version of yourself that you could just shoot the breeze with Gino over the phone, he would never, ever believe it.”
I hope that performing together with him at the Saban that it turns into being able to work some traveling shows with him. We’re starting in my own backyard right now. That’s gonna be great.
It’s been nearly five years since the handshake agreement that you were going to do this with Gino.
It was two years of recording, and almost two years of raising money. He refused to do anything until we had all that we needed to finish it, because he said, “If you can’t find people to invest in you, then what are you going to do afterwards? The challenge was not just the creative end, but this other creative end of figuring out how I was going to get the money to make the album.
I put some of my own skin in the game. I walked around door-to-door, I made a Kickstarter and had it successfully funded, and I sought out private investors. It was a full-time job and I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was.
I’ve learned a lot about quote-friends-unquote during that process. Very few people throughout the years who said that they were there to help with my career really stepped up, but the ones that did I am incredibly grateful towards. Someone went way above and beyond what I had expected, and I said, “I can’t take this.” So, he said, “No, man, I told you I’d help you out with this since high school, so here’s what I can do to help.”
It leaves you speechless. A lot of people left me speechless. Even the smallest donations helped. Some have said, “Don’t worry about any of the Kickstarter perks. Just get me a ticket when you play Madison Square Gardens.”
And that is entirely feasible. Don’t think that won’t happen for a minute.
I’m shooting for it. I don’t settle. I do not settle.
I know this album’s gonna be something. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it just needs to get to people.
In what ways has this project metamorphosed? Imagine that you could’ve cracked this out straight away, right after you and Gino made that handshake.
I went into a studio in Philadelphia about a month and a half after that agreement. I wrote five songs right off the bat and demoed them immediately. I thought, “Damn, these are goods! These would make the cut on Cornerstone or Words Left Unsaid.”
I sent them over to Gino and he said, “Okay, these are pretty good, but it’s not what I’m looking for for you.”
It was a complete shock to me! He started really guiding me from there.
There was a song that I’d written in one of his Master Classes the year before. He told me that if I listened to that music and those lyrics, that there was something magical about it that transcended the pop songs that I’d just sent him. He wanted it to be pop, but he wanted it to be a little more sophisticated.
It was around that same time that everything that I considered normal about my life began to change. There was a death in the family. There was a girl I was dating who, at the time, I thought we were going to get married, and that tanked. That went off a cliff. I had a bunch of friends who became married and became parents and others who succumbed to addiction. I tried to help them, but it came to the point where the relationship became so toxic that it wasn’t healthy for me to be there anymore.
I started looking at getting out of New York, and eventually I did. All of those life events are what make up the album. It’s in the lyrics, and that’s why it’s so good. It’s my autobiography for those past few years. “This is tomorrow calling” became my battle cry. I’d never heard anything like that before and it was something that drove me to do the hard stuff today. If you push yourself a little bit further, you’re setting yourself up for a better future. It’s the hope that it will happen, not that it could happen.
Time, in the album, is very much a theme, “this is tomorrow calling” at its center.
I grew up in suburbia in New York, about two miles out of Manhattan, and it’s beautiful. It’s quaint and picturesque and as beautiful as it could be.
New York City is New York City, so nothing shocks me anymore, but when you’re not traveling the world and you’re not around all sorts of different people consistently, you look at everything kind-of flat.
As I began to tour and meet people from all over the world and learning for real how different things are, going back to suburbia was and is really unfulfilling. Then, I hate winter, so six months out of the year, everything I love out there is closed. I go out to California and it’s sixty-two degrees with everyone wearing coats and I just laugh.
As work shifted west, it just made sense to go. With all of those changes, I outgrew New York. It was time for something different, and it’s reflected in the album.
It’s funny, because you don’t think that four or five years makes for a big difference, but, so much can change over the course of just a few days.
Yeah, and it’s so strange because since I’ve moved to California, I’ve started to relax a little bit of more. The pace of New York is not healthy—it isn’t. I’ve learned out here that you can work your ass here but still take care of yourself. My friends in law, finance, medicine—in New York, they work their ass off, but they don’t take care of themselves at all. In California, people don’t only expect you to take a break and take care of yourself, but they want to do it with you.
As I’ve gotten to know the people of Los Angeles more, I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had before, to be honest.
It’s a great place to be for what you’re doing, especially.
Give us a juicy Gino story from the development of This is Tomorrow Calling. Whatever you’ve got, let’s toss it on the canvas.
I’ll tell you the story that I’m most proud of. This defines me and the album, and I designate it as a mile-marker in my life.
It happened twice but the first time held a lot of influence on the second one, so I’ll focus on it.
We were doing pre-production work for the first half of the album. The song that I mentioned that we wrote in his class is called “A Moment is All I Ask”. I wanted it to be a piano-centric song somewhere between “All of Me” and “When I Was Your Man” with piano, vocals, and a somewhat crooner-ish vibe to it. Meanwhile, he wanted it to sound more like an acoustic guitar jam, like James Taylor stuff.
I did not like that at all. He took a shot at it and told me to tell him what I thought, and Gino doesn’t do anything that he isn’t proud of. So, he sent me this version that was kind-of French-sounding, to be honest with you. There was very nice acoustic guitar and an accordion in the background. It had a vibe with nice percussion and all of this stuff, but I said that it sounded good, but like a version of my song. It didn’t sound like the song.
Two months later, we’re in the studio together, and we get to that one. He’s on board and saying we’re going to put this cut on the album, he’s ready to go. I say, “No.”
It was very, very obvious right away that nobody says no to Gino Vannelli. If he has no problem standing up to titans in the business, then who is some punk-ass kid from New York—he’s gone multi-platinum and I’ve gone multi-cardboard, you know? He gave me the death stare while he asked, “Okay, well what do you want to do?”
I told him that it’s a piano song and it has to be that way. I’m trying to explain to him how it goes and it’s not getting around his head, so at one point he became so frustrated that he said, “Alright, if you know how it’s supposed to be, then you go up to the piano and you start playing.”
So I go up there and I start playing it in the way that I hear it. He says, “It’s very sweet, but you can add a little more color to it.”
He made it a little jazzier and a little bluer, adding certain elevenths and thirteenths where I was just focusing on major sevenths and ninths and stuff like that. As we began experimenting with it, we felt like we were getting into something. He did a key change by accident and it was an “aha” moment. We both looked at each other and said, “We have to do that!”
From there, we got really excited about it and he got working on production. I went back to New York for three months and, when I got back, he didn’t say anything about the changes that we made—nothing. When we were done and we were listening back, he was in his chair at the computer and just spun around like some sort of Bond movie villain. In his very, very eloquent way, he says, “I must admit, you were correct.”
That gave me such confidence going forward with the rest of the album. I knew what he wanted now and told him to give me a month. I tracked seven songs and said that the first five were the ones that I thought would make the album. He emailed me back saying congratulations—I had my album.
In that moment, I stood up to him, and he said I was right. That really made me go, “Hot damn! I can face anybody now, because no one is scarier than this guy. It’s like he’s staring into your soul when he looks at you.”
I had to stand up to him one more time when recording “Not Just a Pretty Face”. We rewrote the lyrics and I said that I didn’t like how the melody was now where he said that it was fine as is. I rewrote the melody anyway and when I brought it back to him, he said that he loved it, but he wanted to redo the lyrics again. We gave it a try and I liked it as it was. Ultimately, he said again, “I gotta admit, you were right about this one too.”
That was a real defining moment with me, with “A Moment is All I Ask”. It’s given me confidence that I especially need out here in the biz in Los Angeles. If people working with me don’t line up with my vision, I don’t let it slide. It had given me all of the confidence I needed. I don’t care whatever anyone’s RIAA certification is. I know who I am and what my vision is. It’s the one thing I can’t compromise on.
To work with somebody and build a real mutual respect with them is a beautiful thing.
I forget this sometimes and it makes me really proud, that I’m the first American artist that Gino’s ever done an album with. He’s only done it for fellow Canadians and various European countries. I’m the first American he’s ever worked with—let alone on an album full of originals, without any covers.
Right. It’s not like he turned you around and said, “Okay, let’s cut ten standards. Do ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’”
It’s funny that you mention Frank Sinatra, though. Right before we began working together, we were at a party. As I was going out the door with my family, we were talking about where I should go next with my music. He looked me dead in the eye and he said in his very own Gino way, “There’s no reason why you can’t be your generation’s Frank Sinatra.”
That was the craziest thing that anyone had ever said to me at that point! Now, I’m starting to learn what he means about that. It comes from a technical perspective, a recording angle, and even my personality. It’s not a surface thing. The big difference between Frank and I is that I’m a writer, but we studied him a lot during his Capitol Records years for the development of this album.
Frank got where he was as an influencer because he was uncompromising, because of his attitude. He had a firm grasp of who he was and he sold it with swagger.
Right. You’ve got to stand tall with the core of what your message is.
And that’s not always easy to do when you have record executives telling you to veer one way or another because they know the cookie-cutter pop formula that’s selling in-the-now.
Especially today. Give me one song that’s burning up the chart’s that’s really saying something! I don’t think you can. I’ve heard it all before. People are just singing things without any meaning. Don’t get me on the soapbox because it just goes on and on and on.
I’m a rocker at heart, but I love precision, technicality, musicality, and a great recording. Maybe by today’s standards, I’d be called “yacht rock”.
I want to stand out when I get onto radio, onto streaming services, onto a live show. I know that when the time comes, starting with that show of the Saban, it’s going to be crazy full of momentum. We’ll get there.
Any closing thoughts?
In the end, I think of Shigeru Miyamoto all of the time and his mantra on delayed games. That’s what I think of with This is Tomorrow Calling. There’s been some major, major headaches, but everything’s starting to fall into place. You just need to be ready when they call your number.
This is your first major production. You’ve found your secret sauce. Moving forward, it’ll be an easier process. You’ll just keep on making good records.
Absolutely. Truthfully, no one’s more intimidating than Gino. He’s the nicest man, but he sets you under a microscope. He ripped me up and I had to stitch myself back together. It didn’t feel good at the time, but I’m grateful for it now. I can do anything and work with anyone at this point.