Up close and personal with music maven Jordannah Elizabeth
So lately I've been feeling particularly nostalgic about my days in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and have been missing the crisp NYC nights, late-night indie band shows, and sharing hazy memories of the night before over bagels and coffee. It's city that haunts you just as much as it inspires you.
Speaking of inspiration, I had the fortune of meeting Jordannah Elizabeth, a musician, singer, and writer, during my time in Williamsburg. She has since moved to San Franscisco and I'm in L.A., but she continues to be a source of inspiration from coast-to-coast.
She has a new book coming out that is being published by Zero Books, it's entitled, Don't Lose Track Vol. 1: Essays, Articles, and Q&A's by Jordannah Elizabeth, you can check out more details on the press release, here. Zero books is also publishing a series of her articles as she is a music journalist who has written for VICE Magazine, SF Weekly and MTV.
Listen here for a sneak peak to the folk soul inspired album, Borders, that was recently featured in Impose Magazine.
Interview with music maven and journalist, Jordannah Elizabeth:
Candy Washington: How did you get your start in the music industry?
Jordannah Elizabeth: I got started in the music industry by managing a band when I was 17 years old and was attending college. I booked an independent regional tour and helped my friends promote their music. I had no idea what I was doing. It was all instinct. My mother and father were social people though. My mom hosted events and social hours with her female friends and colleagues and my father had us going to a lot of social church events because he was a preacher. My parents also had a little radio show when we were very young, so I think watching them do those things gave me a natural understand of organizing events and tours.
It was really fun. Later I became a flier girl for AEG Live Rocky Mountain and interned at art galleries and eventually became a curator at 19 years old.
CW: What have been some of your most memorable highs and lows?
JE: High: Was playing to a great crowd at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco.
High: Talking/meeting musicians and artists I used to save my lunch money to buy their records
High: Writing Best Albums of the Year for Nerve.com
Low: Being very very very poor at the beginning of my career
Low: Losing opportunities because people judged me by my ages, the way I looked, gender and social media.
Low: Getting kidney stones before my first West Coast string of show.
CW: How would you describe personal style and musical sound?
JE: My sound is heavy - rootsy. There are a lot of low tones and the energy of my music has a seperate personality than I do as a human being. My style is improvised roots folk. I always play barefoot. I talk to the crowd, I don't talk at them. I just played a show and people tell me my music and performance is unique, that it can't really be compared to other artists. I try not to play often because I want to be very present, emotional and full when I play. I try to record often because I have a lot of feelings. I also like to experiment.
CW: What was the inspiration behind the album?
JE: Borders on a map, limitations, boundaries - isolation, martyrdom. I know that sounds a bit depressing, but it's just an observation. I write about things I don't really understand. My albums are usually me working through things. When I start an album I'm usually in the middle of a conundrum or personal phase - my issues usually work themselves out soon after an album is complete. Maybe I can see the ending coming and my albums are just prepartion for me to analyze, realize and let go...not really sure.
I explore gospel music again in Borders, as I did with my last album, A Rush and its opening song, A Prayer for Black America. I explore Black spirituals, roots and blues music, soul music and gospel with "Charleston (Settled in the Lord)". The other tracks, "Borders", "Run Away" and "How Hard Can it Be?" exhibit more of my personal minimalist style.
CW: Congrats on your new book coming out, can you tell us about the meaning behind the book and what we will learn?
JE: The book is 40 selected essays, articles and interviews I've written over the past few years. I am a professional arts and culture journalist. I wouldn't call that my day job. It is just something I love to do. You'll learn about my writing voice. You'll learn about raw journalistic instinct. I don't have a degree in journalism or creative writing, so it's all from the heart and from my gut. The articles vary and include some high profile stars in it.
CW: What advice do you have for aspiring musicians?
JE: Be mature and have a bit of business sense. I know I'll get in trouble for saying this, but NOTHING happens without, goals, education, strategy and being able to listen to mentors and people who understand the industry. Eventually, you will need a publicist, agent and assistant. It's ok. It's not evil, especially if you want to make a living with your art.
Stay humble - you poop just like a homeless person, a stay at home mom, a garbage man or cocktail waitress. Be cool. Help people out just to be nice.. It's good for the soul...it's not all about your band. We all need real friends around us to tell us the truth sometimes. We can't surround ourselves with everyone who is reaching for a golden ring - we need grounded people who have different interests and perspective to help us grow and stay in touch with reality.
CW: If you could collaborate with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
JE: Patti Smith - when I lived in NYC, I was poor. I got a crap paying job in the financial district and had to surf cheap hotels on the lower west side to make it to work every day. I stayed in spots she stayed Patti stayed in when she was broke. I wanted to be like her. I stayed in the Chelsea Hotel before they turned it into a residential apartment building. I wanted to be like Basquiat- I tasted that world...but honestly, I'd just want to take a couple of acoustic guitars and jam with her.
CW: Anything else you want to share with my readers?
JE: You're heart will stay in a perpetual state of brokenness for the rest of your life. Something will always be heavy on your heart, but don't let that stop you from doing anything or loving anyone. Don't wait for things to be "perfect" to do something beautiful for someone.
Connect with Jordannah Elizabeth:
Official Website: http://jordannahelizabeth.tumblr.com