About a month before the Internet radio station I was working at began to fall apart, I finally got around to inviting one of the most exciting singer songwriters I've ever come across to perform live on the air. Around that same time, a long-overdue record deal was coming to fruition behind the scenes. My station shut down, and Jaymay was whisked away from New York to London (where her new label is). As much as anything else in my post-radio life, I'm regretful that the timing never worked out to bring her into the studio. But she has graciously agreed to the next best thing, and so without further ado I present to you an interview with Jaymay.
Mike McClenathan: Can you give me some details about your deal? It seems like when it all went down, you had to pack up and leave pretty quickly. How long had it been in the works, and how did they manage to lure you so far away from home? How many other deals did you turn down?
Jaymay: the deal took a long time to happen. it took over a year to happen actually. basically heavenly got hold of my ep n came to see me sing at SXSW march 2006. we kept in touch and eventually, after much negotiatin n me flyin over to londone to meet with other labels, i decided to sign. there are so many details of the deal, so many ways in which heavenly outshone other labels. nothin im gonna talk about tho.
MM: You had some pretty measurable success on your own with Sea Green, See Blue. What impact has this deal had on your day-to-day? Are there things you miss about doing it yourself?
J: still doin exactly what i was doin in nyc. only difference is how much im missin new york n really good cofeee. still sleepin on couches n in hotels n takin trains n movin my stuff aroun all the time. still sittin in windows writin n recordin in my bedroom n performin on different stages. these things dont change.
MM: What city has better clubs to play in, London or New York? (room-wise? audience-wise?)
J: i recommend both cities n other ones as well. the luminaire is my favorite venue in london. audience always depends on so much more than which city yre in. ive been openin for bands recently n the crowds have been so varied, i cant make sense of it. nyc <--- how can i talk about it without usin superlatives-- it's my fav place on earth... rockwood music hall, the livin room . . . havent played bowery yet, but always been such a fan.
MM: When will our next chance be to see you on this side of the pond?
MM: I'm not sure of how to say this, but on stage you have the musician's equivalent of a great comic's timing. The best example I can think of is in the live version of "You Are The Only One I Love" that's streaming on myspace. That night at The Living Room was the first time I saw you (pure luck, I showed up early to see Josh Pyke play next) so I know that the "ahh" towards the end came after a long sip from a Poland Spring bottle, during which a packed house seemed to hold its breath. You command a room's attention. I guess this isn't really a question. [Note: it's not actually streaming there right now...these things rotate. -ed.]
J: funny. thank u.
MM: How similar is Jaymay on stage to Jaymay in her living room?
J: my livin room was my very first stage. it has a piano in it is why.
MM: I bet I know the answer to this, but do you just sit down with the intention to write a song, or do lines and melodies pop into your head at random times and send you scrambling for a pen and an instrument?
J: when i first started to write, like many years ago, i would usually write lyrics n then put em to a melody later. but ever since i started performin, the melody n words happen simultaneously . usually i sit down with a guitar (or xylophone) or at the piano and sorta improv n a song starts to take shape n i figure out what the lyrics are about n take it from there. i mean i dont sit down with the intention of writin a song about anythin particular. and often i make up a song when im walkin down the street or somethin. 'color confused' n 'corduroy' from my ep and 'hard to say' from my new record were all written without music. n i write a lot in general (but dont keep a journal or blog or anythin) n am always wrtin on napkins or textin myself ideas, but rarely do these things find their way into my songs. it's just a habit. n i carry around a tape recorder or call myself n leave a message with a song.
MM: For every song that you're happy with and that makes it onto a record, how many hit the cutting room floor?
J: i was thinkin about this yesterday. how my songs are a timeline-- stories from experience. im gonna definitely end up singin whatever songs i finish. i dont scrap songs, but i have lots of unfinished songs. so many. i record when im in the mood to record n i keep the better recordins. no fancy formulas. my ep is songs about colors, but a couple of color songs didnt make the ep cause i couldnt quite figure out how to record em. theyre such specific things-- my songs. basically just a way of copin with whatevers goin on.
MM: I can think of at least one song that you've said in concert is about a real person from your life. Are real-life songs the exception, or the rule?
J: the rule. i dont think i can write somethin that isnt true. the whole point is gettin at the truth. it's like if u could take yr dreams apart n look at them and study n arrange them on paper they might make sense. n then u could make em into a song.
MM: "Sea Green, See Blue" was in the season finale of How I Met Your Mother a few weeks ago. How did that come about?
J: somehow josh radnor (an actor in the show) heard my music n liked it n played it for the supervisors of the show n they liked it too. he came to see me sing in LA and he was tellin me how he was on a tv show n tryin to get my music on the show n i didnt know what he was talkin about. then i got an email from him sometime later about how they wanted to use 'sea green, see blue' in the final episode. in other words, josh is so very awesome.
MM: Did you get to watch it?
MM: I see on your myspace page that you've had some festival slots lined up, including Glastonbury(!). What kind of adjustments do you have to make to your performance to pull that off? It's gotta be a lot different than a small club.
J: i played my same ol' nylon string guitar on a stage solo. it was funny cause they were sound checkin the bigger stages durin my show n u know, i couldnt hear all that well obviously. n there were all sorts of technical difficulties n the sound cut out right in the middle of some band's set. but people were singin along n someone walked away with my nike headband. glastonbury is huuuuuge. it looks beautiful at night n like a city of rollin hills n lights. there were tents everywhere n mud of course! n i didnt bring a tent or anythin n i just walked around all night with my manager in the rain n at one point watched pulp fiction in some giant tent theatre n the audience was really into bruce willis n so am i, but then they kicked everybody out n eventually it was mornin n i left.
MM: If Pepsi called you tomorrow and wanted to pay you a ton of money to use your song in a new ad campaign, what would you say?
J: im more of a coke girl as u can tell from my pic.
MM: When can we expect new stuff from you?
J: u can expect another ep in the states this fall. n my record Autumn Fallin' (which doesnt come out in the states at first) comes out in the fall as well (october or november).
MM: What do the tracklists look like?
J: for the ep, i have no idea-- im still workin on it... the record
looks like this (n repeats some tunes off my first ep): gray or blue. sycamore down. blue skies. sea green, see blue. autumn fallin'. you'd rather run. hard to say. big ben. ill-willed person. you are the only one i love.
MM: Can we hear a song?
J: nope, but u can hear some music here:
Going through this now to format it for posting, I realize I got a little carried away with so many questions. Thanks Jaymay, for taking the time.
A few more links that might be useful:
[Buy Sea Green, See Blue on iTunes, Insound.]