A special conversation on quarantine and songwriting
2020 has brought challenges of its own kind with a virus forcing the world to stop and
reset quite a bit. While this quarantine might be beneficial as comes to taking the time to reflect, self-develop and make changes, it also comes with hurdles, such as feeling isolated, discouraged and anxious. Loneliness and Insecurity takes its toll on people.
As songwriters we are privileged to kind of step away and look at the situation as an observer, while also being in the middle of it! Pouring our experiences into songs makes it easier to digest the chunks of ups and downs of life.
In today´s artist talk we are speaking with Brooklyn based artist Jessica Paige (also known as Jessica DiMari in the film composition world),who has written a song called “The Inside” inspired by quarantine and who offers us a distinct look upon the challenges we are facing!
Listen to her song here: Jessica Paige: https://spoti.fi/3gFL7j6
This is part one of a double series of “Quarantine artist talks” that will hopefully inspire everyone else to turn the situation around as best as we can!
Jessica, congratulations on your song release for “The Inside”, which was released on May 29th and was inspired by the special situation of being isolated and at home during this global pandemic. Tell us, what is the core message of this song and how did the idea come about?
The Inside stemmed from my desire to be with my friends and family whom I am socially distanced from while quarantining. Isolation led me to self-reflection. The experience has made me miss my life before the pandemic, and it’s given me an even greater appreciation for the people and places in my life that I can’t be with, and visit now. The core message is to love those around you, and not take any second for granted.
That’s a beautiful message indeed! So, you decided to release “The Inside” as a single. Tell us, who produced the song? Did you face challenges getting a song out in the midst of this special situation?
In addition to writing, performing and recording the song, I also produced the song myself! So to answer that question, it wasn’t challenging to find a producer to work with. However, as I have come to find, producing your own work when you have an intimate tie to it as both a songwriter, and performer, comes with many challenges of it’s own.
Oh I can imagine! Sometimes being too close complicates things for sure! You did a great job though! The song comes with a rather folky style! But you are very versatile with a background in film composition and concert music. When did you start making music and what was the first instrument you learned to play?
The first instrument I learned to play was the piano. I began taking lessons when I was seven. I was eleven years old when I started writing my own songs, which is also when I began taking violin lessons. While pursuing my undergraduate degree in classical music composition, I discovered how much I loved singing with an acoustic guitar. I think all three of those instruments have really shaped the folksy sound that resonates with me today.
Was it ever a challenge to merge your classical music education with popular genres?
I feel that my success in writing popular music genres, actually stems from my classical music education! Everything from theory, structure, orchestration — it’s all present in songwriting and film scoring. Coming from a multidisciplinary background, has aided in my creativity. I really like to incoporate my training in music production and orchestrating film soundtracks, with my training as a classical pianist, violinist and concert composer, to create authentic music. Because of that, every song I write feels like an audible thumbprint — it identfies my work based on my experiences and influences.
Do you have a proven method to approach songwriting? Like e.g. starting from a lyric/topic based angle or do you start with the music first, then waiting for a theme to reveal itself?
I used to sit at a piano, sometimes with eyes closed, and play chords until my hands found the song for me. The lyrics and melody would follow. But I’ve adopted the hobby of freewriting, and lately find that my unfiltered journal entries set the foundation for most of my songs now. Lyrics and melody come first, followed by the harmonies. Because I also produce my own music, I additionally create templates to demo or test out my sonic ideas for a song. With The Inside, that´s exactly how I came up with the violin part. I was just improvising on the violin, and decided I liked it enough to use in every chorus, making it a sort of identifier for that portion of the song.
That´s interesting! One thing I particularly like about “The Inside” is that in spite of the rather frustrating topic of being isolated and forced to stay home, you manage to mix an uplifting melody in and therby providing hope. How important is it for you to use your songs to promote positivity?
I think that music has the power to change the world. It is a universal language, and one of the few things that unites people emotionally. When I hear a happy song, it immediately makes me happy. When I hear a sad song, it helps me process my own feelings of sadness.
It is incrediby important to me, now more than ever in these unprecedented times, that I use my voice to write songs that inspire hope, make people feel less alone, and ultimately, provide them with a form of comfort/escape in between their headphones, from the noise outside.
That is a beautiful mission! Tell us, Jessica, in general, what makes a song too shallow and boring in your opinion?
I think that music is so subjective to taste. I also think that there are two factors invloved in how songs are received. There is the content– the music, the lyrics, the harmonies. Then there is the production aspect of the song. A lot of people tend to focus on the latter. If the song doesn’t sound like it was produced in a state of the art recording studio, they may lose interest. Whereas I focus on the content more. I have the attention span to sit through something, even if it is recorded in a box—if the story, the melody, the harmonies pull me in. When both the music and the production value compliment one another, that is the perect blend. So in short, if a song relies heavily on production ear-candy to grab my attention, I usually lose interest quickly. Some of my favorite artists have released their original demos, following the release of a fully produced song, and I often fall in love with the demos more than the fully produced versions.
Great answer and hopefully that encourages our readers to not worry too much about creating low budget versions at home, as long as they are heartfelt! A similar question: What is something to avoid when writing songs?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to avoid writing songs for other people. As a songwriter who writes songs for other artists, let me clarify, that I don’t mean it in the literal sense. I mean that sometimes it can be difficult sharing your music with an audience, and that difficulty may impact how you write the song, or produce the song — in which case, you begin to cater to an audience, instead of writing authentic music that organically grows an audience. If you write music that makes you feel good, if you are willing to be vulnerable, I think the rest will follow.
Love it! Thanks so much for the interview and best of success with all your future projects!
To follow Jessica online, please go to:
Spotify: Jessica Paige: https://spoti.fi/3gFL7j6
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