Proving, day after diaper filled day, that music and motherhood can mix.
Musical Mama Blog
Jessi Mason is a treasure of a gal. She blew me away when I first saw her perform a couple of years ago - poised and genuine on stage (and only 15 years old!). And then off-stage, just the same. Her songs are a real treat, delicately crafted tunes that feel so very nice. I interviewed her about her songwriting process and what inspires her.
You started out younger than a lot of musicians - can you describe your experiences with music writing and performing?
I’ve been singing my whole life and I started playing guitar when I was 9. I started writing about a year after that, when I was 10. This came pretty naturally because I had always loved to write, too. For a while in elementary school I thought I was going to be a novelist. At this time, Taylor Swift was becoming famous and she was known, and praised, for writing all of her songs. I thought it was the coolest thing that someone could be successful for writing and performing their songs. That’s exactly what I wanted to do, so all through middle school I wrote a lot of angsty, formulaic songs about my middle school unrequited love. I don’t regret writing any of that though; all of those songs helped me develop as a writer.
As for the performing, I would just play whenever I could. I performed at end of the year recitals, school concerts, and family parties. I didn’t really start gigging until high school, when I first went to 12 Grapes. Rich and Jeannie, the owners of 12 Grapes, gave me my first gig.
What is the toughest part of your musical writing process? And the easiest?
I think the toughest part of the writing process is enduring the time and space between songs when I have writers block. There’s nothing more frustrating then being paralyzed and unsatisfied by your own ideas. I don’t know if I’d say it’s the easiest, but I think the most fun part of songwriting is when I’m in the midst of writing a song that flows very naturally. Most of the time, a lot of ideas (musical and lyrical) come to me very quickly and it’s almost like I’m frantically working to solve a puzzle. I really enjoy sifting through these ideas and picking the ones that I think would best convey the story I’m trying to tell.
Where do you get your inspiration for writing songs - the lyrics particularly?
I try to find lyrical inspiration in articles I read, conversations I have or pretty much anywhere. There are really interesting things happening in our everyday lives that seem mundane but can be really artistic and beautiful if you shine a certain light and twist them the right way. I also try to get lyrics ideas from concepts I find interesting. For example, I recently wrote something with a friend that played with the concept of “lucid dreaming.” I read an article about it and noticed the lyrical opportunities. I try to tie in all the metaphorical stuff with the stories and events that are personal to me. Once I have a phrase or idea that strikes me as unique, I try and develop it so it sounds like something that hasn’t been said before.
I try to find ideas and inspiration in all music I listen to but some of my main musical inspirations are Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Carole King, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, and Emily King. I respect them all for different reasons, but what they share in common is that they all got a lot of soul.
Any fears or concerns about you and music?
Definitely have some fears about music! I think they’re the general ones that a lot of artists/musicians share. In times of writers block I wonder if all the songs that came before were just mistakes, and if I’m not actually a songwriter. I wonder if the songs I feel very connected to will be well received. I wonder if any of my songs at all will be well received. I wonder where I’ll be with my music in 10 years from now. All of that stuff is a little anxiety inducing but it’s so worth it.
Hopes and dreams about it?
I want to make a living as a performing songwriter, so that’s the dream I guess. I dream about touring and recording album after album. All that fun stuff.
Funniest fan encounter or gig experience?
Hmm it’s hard to remember! Once I was playing outside and it was next to a pretty busy road, so I got a lot of honks from passing cars. That was a fun time.
Interview with a Honey-Voiced Singer/Songwriter
February 18, 2016