A conversation with the delightful Jessi James, voice of Bethan, in anticipation of her full length:
Dingus: What should we expect from the full length release in November?
James: November is slightly tentative at this point. I will say that the body of work is diverse… I’m a huge believer in using cinematic themes in music. I think music should evoke strong visuals, stories. I’ve described the album as more of a soundtrack than an exploration of one sound or idea. I like to create different characters from song to song as an excuse to use different parts of my voice.
Do these characters relate to your life? Or is it a way to live out a dream?
In some ways I think writing in that way allows for both. I think I’m inspired by characters because they evoke something true in me, although they might not be who I am from day to day. I think of music and performance as a means of escape from the mundane, a way to explore something else.
What is your recording process?
I worked with Roger Greenawalt in Brooklyn, NY for this project. I live in Texas, so it was really nice to get out of my every day life to write this body of work. This was very much a collaboration and a very fun one at that. Every song was written and recorded in the same day for the most part. I really enjoyed working so quickly because it allows you to completely give yourself over to an idea… and beyond that, there’s no time for second guessing or over thinking things. Roger is very open minded and works at an incredible speed so just about any idea can become a song. ‘Vague’ was the first song that we wrote together. Most songs began with a lyrical idea… a name, word, phrase… a few songs on the album began with a progression and tons of vocal improvisation, those were a ton of fun. No rules.
How do you know Roger? What we’re both of your parts in the colab?
Roger did some work with a good friend of mine, Jazz Mills (Cowboy and Indian from Austin, TX). She introduced us at SXSW 2010 where Roger does this thing called Beatles Complete on Ukulele. He plays the Beatles songbook in a 24 hour period with a bunch of different artists both in Brooklyn and at SXSW. I sat in on a few songs then.
Roger’s the producer, editor, mad scientist. I’m the singer and lyricist primarily aside from a few melodic lines here and there. I’m a singer and performer first and foremost. I plan on growing as a musician moving forward.
What are your plans going forward?
Right now the plan is just work, work, work. Playing shows, making videos, continue writing, hopefully start hitting festivals next Spring… it’s a hard business. I think it’s important to do it because you love it, work hard and if people catch on that’s a bonus.