Tamela D’Amico is an award winning American recording artist, actress and filmmaker (writer/producer/director), as well as a Telly Award winning social influencer, who started her own production company to create vehicles for the many facets of her career, in addition to making others dreams come true. Tamela has starred in Walt Before Mickey, One Little Finger, Rob the Mob, to name a few. Additionally, Tamela launched onto the jazz scene having recorded her debut album Got a Little Story, executive-produced by actor/producer Peter Krause and was named Clear Channel’s Best New Jazz Vocalist. Recently, Tamela released an electro swing single titled Boring 20s. You can learn more at tameladamico.com and follow Tamela on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to name a few.
Can you briefly tell us about your background in including how you got into the entertainment industry?
All I can tell you is I’m the youngest of five kids in an Italian family with a large age gap between our ages. I have a very huge Italian family, like 400 people. Our third cousins feel like first cousins, we’re very close. Growing up in that sort of lifestyle enables you to relate to many different people on many level, like many levels. Also, it makes you be whether you want to be or not, outgoing. I always had an interest in the arts, and because I was the youngest of five and there was a age gap between my siblings and I, I didn’t go to preschool. I was home with my mom and I watched, not Sesame Street, not Mr. Rogers or anything like that. I watched a New York nostalgia network, which would be the equivalent of AMC or Turner Classics.
I thought those things were current, like the Judy Garland Show. Judy Garland, of course people know from Wizard of Oz and all those things, a lot of black and white things. I Love Lucy, I thought that’s what was on TV, so thusly because that old studio system existed back then, where you had to be good at everything. You had to sing, you had to dance, you had to act, you had to do everything in one. I thought, “Oh, that’s what Hollywood is,” and that was sort of my early training and I wanted to be a part of that world. Also, I’ve always felt like I’m an old soul and that’s why I got into jazz and American standards and all that stuff. But I think it really came from there. I do enough of these interviews and we’ve sort of backtracked it to, that had to be it where I just thought, “This is what I’m watching. It’s on TV. It’s all very possible.”
My mother and dad were very good at coddling each of us in what we wanted to do, but not like a showbiz parent or a helicopter parent. They just were very gentle and like, “Oh, well she’s interested in this, so you should get in this class or whatnot.” It sort of stemmed from there. Then I was very active in high school. I had moved from New York to Florida and New York schools are very progressive in relation, so I was kind of ahead of my schooling. I got involved in the radio program, and the TV program, and the theater and all these things, not just in school, but in the community. I was doing radio shows, and writing for the local paper and all these things just to be a part of entertainment.
Then from there, I went to film school at Florida State University, graduated early there and came out to LA, and have been in LA New York bi-coastal for years, in all my different arms of talent. Now, you have to be, I call it a predator, which is a producer, writer, director, actor, it’s everything in one. It used to be not cool to be what is now called a content creator or an influencer. It used to be not cool.
People wanted you to take one lane, but I was like, “Well, I know how to do all these things and I’m getting put in those positions. Today I’m acting and tomorrow I’m directing,” so it’s sort of just happened organically. But it has been a trek to get people to accept that. Now like I said, of course, you have to be good at a lot of things to sort of make traction, especially in the influencer space because when you’re working with a brand, you are the talent, you are editing it, you’re doing… Unless you have a whole team of people, which is, it’s rare. I’m fortunate to have had all of those things in my lifetime to have an education and to be able to utilize them all now.
I can relate to the sentiment about being an old soul, and I kind of pinpointed it as you were saying it because I grew up without cable. I’d go to my grandparents’ house and they’d put on Rear Window and I’m like, “This is living, this is my favorite movie of all time.” Then they’d have Oscar Peterson playing in the background. I can relate on those levels, for sure. It’s an understatement by far to say that you’re multi-talented, whether you consider your TV film credits, albums, singles, and even the short film, Fever, that you put out during the pandemic you made on an iPhone. You’re also very active on social media. What’s your favorite type of social media content to produce?
I love working with brands that are like, “Hey, we love what you’re doing. We love your vibe. Make us something, be free.” I’m like, “Really? Are you sure?” I’ll pitch them. They’re like, “That sounds awesome. Go for it.” They just trust. I love that trust balance, because in today’s world, I just was on the phone with somebody explaining to them, advertising does not exist the way we know growing up. Now, you zoom through commercials, you don’t even watch them. You can pay to not have to watch them. Brands are really considering influencers in that space to be the go-to, because that is how you’re reaching people. We’re on TikTok all day, we’re on Instagram all day, and even Facebook and people are tuning into you like you are the Truman Show. People are tuning into you. They’re like, “You already have the fan base, you have the traction.”
My audience are buyers. That’s why people hire me to do stuff. My people do buy. If I’m working with a brand and I will only work with people that I actually believe in, and I would actually use that brand. Believe me, there’s a lot of branding work that gets done where people are getting paid and it’s like, “I can’t do that.” That’s why I have trust with my audience. But in the influencer space and working in social media, I love when people are like, “We love what you do. Let’s collaborate,” or “Pitch us and we’ll make tweaks or whatnot,” because I have such freedom. That is rare when you’re just an actor in a commercial and they’re like, “Do this, and turn your head really strangely and okay, that’s it. That’s the shot.” You’re like, “What’s happening?” You don’t even know what their plan is until you see that final Super Bowl commercial or something. But I love having the freedom and I love being able to do all those things.
Checking out your social media, Goli and Hoover were at the top of the list. I love what you did with those campaigns, especially the Hoover was fantastic.
Thank you so much. Hoover was so fun for me, I actually did three things with them, but two of them really popped. I won a Telly award for that, which to me was fantastic because the people who win Telly awards are advertising people. They’re not regular people. This was their first year in honoring content creators and influencers. I got one, and I was like, “This is so fantastic, because I really shot it like it was a commercial.” That’s where I come from, from my filmmaker background. I’m like, “I want to actually give you something that’s worthwhile that it could be on air, on regular airwaves.”
Then reading your bio as well, you breaking into the jazz scene recording your initial album. I was surprised to see the name of the producer, Peter Krause
Yeah, Peter Krause is one of my producers. What had ended up happening is, like you said, jazz is a niche market. When I first came to Los Angeles, I was put in a pop space, and an R&B space, and all these things doing different things with my voice. I was like, “Jazz is my heart.” Because at the end of the day, jazz stands the test of time. With my debut album, which now was so many moons ago, it feels, I was like, “I want to do it, Frank Sinatra. I want to do it like Ella Fitzgerald at Capital Records with the big band live in the room.” People do not record that way now. Now, it’s like they’re literally, everything’s done, they’re recording their vocals and they’re taking it syllable by syllable, and it’s all manipulated and it’s not organic. I’m like, “I need the freight train essence of what a big band is, and you have to be in tune, and in step with them, otherwise you get run over.”
When you’re vibing, you’re vibing. I wanted to do it that way, and that cost a lot of money. We had lost financing, and then I ended up raising money, and then Peter Krause did step in and said he had seen me perform a number of times. He was like, “Yeah, this is something, this is something very real, and who’s doing this?” We did that. That was great. I’ve produced many other big band albums, and other singles, and movie song tracks and all that stuff. It’s been fantastic. Then last year, I ended up being very cagey over pandemic when we were really in quarantine. That’s how Fever, which you mentioned, came along because I had a very strange dream about being ill and all this stuff. I was like, “Hey,” my husband, we just got married. He was my fiancé at the time.
I was like, “Let’s shoot this.” We didn’t have our whole black magic camera package yet, so I was like, “Let’s shoot on our iPhone,” I think it was an iPhone 11 pro or something. I was like, “Let’s shoot on this and just see,” and it was very experimental and weird, and it won awards. I was like, “Who cares?” But in that time, I was like, “Let me go through my files of what I want to do that I haven’t done.” That was when I first got into the music business, I was hired… People didn’t even know this because I just went under Tamela and it was in Europe, I was hired to do some dance tracks, which would be like electronica dance or whatnot. I did that just as a work for hire. I didn’t want to do that for a career.
They ended up taking off there, and I made some money from that. And I always had wanted to meld electronica with dance, with jazz, and this being the new twenties, I was like, “Oh, this is going to be a resurgence of jazz and all these things.” Of course, nothing happened. I had this idea to do a song called Boring 20s about everything that was going on and what everybody was feeling, and inadvertently, you talk and the phone, listens as people say. Things started popping up in my feed on Twitter about electro swing music. I had seen… I don’t even remember the track at this point, but I had heard a track by these two producers, and I was… All I can tell you is I was jealous of it. I had that feeling as an artist, and I was like, “Dammit. Oh my god, I wish that was me. I want to do that.”
I contacted them. I had no idea how huge they were in their own genre. I contacted them and I said, “I really want to do this, blah, blah, blah,” everything I just said. They were like, “Let’s go.” We only communicated just… Like we didn’t even Zoom until everything was done and released. We only communicated through email. We had never met, we had never spoken on the phone, and we just started doing skeleton tracks, and I was in the shower one day and I was like with the skeleton track singing, and I was like, “I think this is something, I think this might be good.”
Then my husband was inadvertently humming it, and I’m like, “Right, that’s a hook?” I was like, “Oh my god, it’s working.” That went forward and then came out like gangbusters, and it will probably re-release again this year with an edit mix of it. It just kind of took off and I just felt like, “Wow.” Even though Fever was this small thing and shot on an iPhone and Boring 20s was a crapshoot, I just was like, “Oh my god, I love that I did these two things over the pandemic because I, so… I have to, as an artist have my hands in something.” I was so crazy to do something and now of course we’re out of that area.
But yeah, that’s how those two things came about was from my frustration as an artist and as a content creator, as just a being of somebody who’s in the arts and needing to create all the time, I had to put that out into the world.
I was bumping to Boring 20s putting this interview together. I have a trail race coming up, so that’ll probably be on my playlist to keep me going. It was the perfect beat. Yeah, with everything that you have going on, what’s the average day like for you? How do you structure your average day to get everything completed that you need to and then have some time for yourself to relax?
I’ve got lists everywhere, on the phone, on sticky notes, on the computer. I have a bunch of different things and really every day is different, and that’s how I prefer it. I think the beauty of being your own business is that you set your schedule. Your schedule’s your own, and I have ritualistic things that I do in the morning, and then after that it’s like, “Okay, what’s on the docket for the day that’s very pressing?” The great thing about being a content creator is you do have deadlines and just like you would be working for a company that has a board and it’s got… I have that on my computer. I’m like, “Okay, this is done at this date. This is what I have to do by then,” and whatnot, and it’s all fun. I can’t believe I get to play for a living, basically. It’s a lot of hard work, don’t get me wrong, but just being able to play in all these different areas. I just feel very, very blessed for lack of a trite term, but I do.
Last but not least, what do you have planned for this year? Anything on tap?
I have a number of things that were pushed from pandemic that we’re still waiting on dates for, that’s movies and different things. As a writer, I’ve got a number of things in the docket that are floating around, and just more of the same, I’m not just a pusher of Goli, everyone always wants to talk to me about Goli. Goli happened for me because I cannot swallow pills. I’m such an infant. I think I choked on something as a kid and then choked on cheese eating pizza, and then I got this fear, so it’s completely psychosomatic. I will try to take an aspirin and I’m holding onto the cabinet like “Okay,” prepping myself. I was like, “This is a real issue. I cannot take vitamins.” It started from there, with they had these ACV gummies, apple cider vinegar gummies, and then they went into other spaces of multivitamins, and all these different things. I was like, “Oh my god, this company is essentially saving my life.”
When I initially had posted for them, I had posted just on the basis of, “I love this stuff, you guys should check this out.” Then they contacted me and they said, “Hey, we would love to work with you.” I’m doing a lot of work with them this year continuing, and they’re just about to launch something in March. I love being a part of those campaigns, because it actually… They are changing the game in the gummy world. Their stuff is organic, it’s healthy for you, everything is reasonably sourced. They also give back with donations and things, and I love being a part of companies like that. That’s basically the goal for the year in the social media genre arm of my career.
I want to only really work with… I have this on my website, I want to work with brands that are sustainable or cruelty-free or have fair trade or they really have a concern for the world. Because in being an influencer, like I said, you get offered all of these things and it’s so easy. I ripped up a huge check because I was working with this health company and then when I got the product, it said Prop 65, and made in China, when they said they were in Miami and it was spirulina. I was like, “I can’t believe I have to rip up your check, but I cannot put out something that is a health product, and then it says Prop 65.”
As an influencer, you carry insurance now. I recommend everybody to, because you have a liability and somebody can be like, “I got this because of you.” I’m very careful about who I work with. For that arm that’s going on acting right now, it’s pilot season, so doing a lot of auditions in every realm. Like I said, in the filmmaking world, it’s just things take a while to get off the ground, but I’ve got a lot of things in the fire.
Note: Influencer Spotlight interviews are edited for time and clarity.
Andrew is the Head of Client Services for Intellifluence and has a background in communications. He is committed to helping brands get the most out of their campaigns and is the co-host of the Influencer Spotlight series.