Hiya Jasmine! It’s such a delight to interview you and find out more about your recent solo album Beneath The Noise, as well as your involvement with the indie-rock band Oh Darling. I’ve read that you’re from Portland, but that you create all your albums in LA. Do you split your time between these two cities, and if so, does that duality work for you?
Hello! Thank you so much for wanting to interview me! I’m really flattered. I’ve been splitting my time pretty much all of 2012 so far and it actually has been working out okay. I mean, there are definitely moments of – what on earth am I doing – it’s a LOT and sometimes it feels like I’m living out of a suitcase and am not anywhere for very long. But even after all that, it’s kind of like I have the best of both worlds.
It seems quite fitting that you released Beneath The Noise on February 14th because the album comes across as a love letter to various styles of music while remaining pop-centered at its heart. Since Oh Darling swings in the rock direction, did you look upon your solo album as a means to go your own way and explore different genres that the band doesn’t cover?
Well, first of all, thank you so much! What a compliment to Beneath The Noise. Oh Darling definitely does swing in the rock direction, but lyrically much of our content is really about love. Ha. I don’t stray too far away from my own experiences in that department, and unfortunately (or fortunately) there have been a lot of those.
I noticed that your exuberantly shouty vocal delivery that kicks many an Oh Darling tune up a notch or two is mostly absent on Beneath The Noise. You sound calmer, but still vibrant on your solo work and I was wondering if this was a deliberate move (to give your voice a chance to relax) or if the nature of your solo songs dictated the style of your vocals.
Not really a deliberate move, I suppose. Jacques Brautbar and Sam Farrar (my co-writers and producers) had a lot to do with my performance style and that’s what we thought fit with the style of the songs on the album.
Oh Darling is currently active and released its 3rd studio album, Brave the Sound in April. I’ve already asked about your divided locale, but now I’m wondering how you split your time between the band and your solo effort. Is this a scheduling nightmare or does everything somehow fall in line?
Somehow, so far, everything seems to be falling in line. I try to split my time as much as I can, but it is definitely a lot! I put myself on a schedule so I’m productive with both projects, so that’s always a nice feeling.
You’re the main songwriter for Oh Darling, but, as you mentioned, on Beneath The Noise you collaborated with Jacques and Sam (ex-Phantom Planet). How did you hook up with them?
Well, the four of us are pretty collaborative in Oh Darling actually, which is awesome. I met Jacques through my old manager (they knew each other) and it was like instant musical chemistry. This was a few years ago and we still joke about it today like we kind of can’t believe it! And then of course, Sam and Jacques have played music together for years, so when Jacques shared what we were doing with Sam, he was excited to be a part of it.
As a solo artist and as part of Oh Darling you’ve had great success in getting your songs included in entertainment media like the hit TV shows Bones, The Good Wife, Royal Pains, and lots more, as well as in adverts for Macy’s, Apple, and Ferrero Rocher (Yum!). It’s a savvy and, I hope, lucrative move, especially in these tough times for the music industry. How does this kind of song placement happen? Do you approach companies you want to deal with or do interested parties contact you?
Both. Oh Darling and I have amazing teams who pitch our songs daily, getting them out there, making sure the right songs are pitched for the right spots. We’ve had an incredible amount of luck in that department and hopefully that will continue!
Moving on to your new album, I’m enjoying the stylistic diversity of your highly melodic and catchy album, as well as the contrast between the mainly upbeat arrangements, your softly sweet, wistfully buoyant vocals, and the astute, bittersweet to joyful lyrics. I wanted to go a bit in depth with the types of tunes you’ve created. “Move On” seems to hew the closest to the guitar-based pop-rock sound of Oh Darling, but “Waterfalls” radiates a 60s Girl Group vibe, “Killer” has a soulful touch, “Too Calm” goes the light electronic route, and album-ender “Not All That I Am” (Cool title!) starts off with alt-folk strummed guitar, but then segues into orchestral strings. How challenging was it to pull together all these different musical styles and make each song sing?
Well, interestingly enough, Jacques and I started writing those songs without the intention to make a record. Actually, we weren’t sure what was going to happen with them, we just knew we wanted to write songs together. When we finally shared a few with management, etc…, people really got excited about them, so we sort of knew we were on to something. I kind of think some of the charm of the album is that the songs are so different musically, but with a definite underlying theme.
Several of your songs feature piano in an unobtrusive way. Is this the main instrument you compose on?
I actually compose mainly on guitar, but piano was my first instrument. If you can say that, I guess! I had lessons when I was 6 for a bit before I quit to play softball. Didn’t pick up an instrument again until YEARS later.
I like your matter-of-fact take on said relationships and self-reflection where you declare on “Lulls” that “We’re so in love with what we’ve lost.” and question on “Move On” if we’re trying to achieve ‘happiness’ for the right reasons. You alternately yearn for love (“It’s too calm on my own.” on “Too Calm”), fall in love (“Waterfalls”), acknowledge a disintegrating relationship (“Someday somewhere you’ll see stars” – with someone else on “Give a Little Less”), and, on the Bjork-like “Echoes”, proclaim “Let’s be bold / Let’s be brave and hold on to love”. My most fave track, however, is “Killer” due to its lyrical, and emotional, complexity. At first it sounds like you’re saying goodbye to someone who is too much of the opposite nature, but in the end you stay together and survive. From what I take, your relationship-centered lyrics are based on your own experiences, but is there some extrapolation or exploration too? Just wondering, because if so, it sounds like you’ve been through some not fun breakups, but also lots of good times too.
I’m so glad you like “Killer!” I love that one too. Yeah, a lot of the songs are loosely based on personal experience, both good and bad. I’ve definitely been through a lot in the love department. I also wanted the songs to be songs that people could relate to, and I think the ups and downs of love is something most people have experienced.
Okay, that last question has to be the longest one I’ve ever written in an interview! LOL Sorry for my descriptive wordiness. I just want to capture in words what you’re music is like. Let me ask you a simpler question – Have you been on tour (yet) in support of Beneath The Noise? You also played an Oh Darling set on August 22nd. How did that go?
We haven’t been on tour yet to support Beneath The Noise! Maybe someday. The show at Doug Fir on the 22nd was great! We always have a fun time playing at that venue – always terrific sound and people really like to go there. We’ve (Oh Darling) played a ton of shows up and down between Seattle and LA and that’s always so much fun. We’ll probably keep that up as much as we can, especially since we’re working on a new album to release!
What the scoop on your EP Lion Heart from 2010? Is the EP title an homage to Kate Bush?
We released the Lion Heart EP because a song I wrote called “I Wished For You” was placed during an episode of Ugly Betty and we wanted to get the song out there for people! That and the other two songs on the EP were produced and co-written by Chase Duddy, so we thought the three would make a good little trio. No homage to Kate Bush, though I LOVE her. The title comes from the beginning lyrics of “I Wished For You.”… “You with your lion heart I see…”
You have a quirkily appealing fashion sense that you’ve spotlighted on your Tumblr blog at: http://darlingjasmineash.tumblr.com/ I’m into vintage and thrift store couture (Mainly because the price is right! LOL), but I could never get away with the eye-catching ensembles that you assemble at my work. The most daring stuff I’ve worn to work is black, ‘club kid’ button-down shorts with ice blue tights in the summer and a close-fitting Medieval dress for Halloween. What garment or accessory is next on your To Buy list?
Gosh, I’ve wanted these Rag and Bone ankle booties for MONTHS. I just might have to treat myself for the fall. Other than that, I am always searching for that one of a kind vintage piece that I know no one else will have.
Cyndi Lauper had Screaming Mimi’s. Winona Ryder had Lily et Cie. Is there a particular store that you frequent for vintage clothes?
There’s a vintage store in Portland that I love called Bombshell Vintage- a friend of mine runs it. It is the best and I would buy everything if I could.
Sorry to get even more personal, but on your blog you write that you’re a vegan. In the past I’ve attempted the vegan diet, but with no success. After a while I just crave animal protein… How do you do it where you get enough protein in your diet without eating meat?
A lot of beans, lady! Haha, seriously. I eat a pretty balanced diet… obviously a ton of veggies and fruits. Avocados and black beans and rice make a delicious meal!
You also state that you’re an animal lover. Does your musician lifestyle allow for pets? If so, what animals co-exist with you currently? All I have are goldfish at the moment because I live in an apartment with a strict pet policy.
If I could have one million dogs, I would. Bunnies, too. But with my crazy travel schedule, there is just no way. I would be such a bad mom! Someday, when I’m a bit more settled, I hope to have at least a dog or two.
Lastly, and on a more musical note, could you please list your official site(s) where readers can find out more about you? Thanks a bunch!