Catch up with singer-songwriter Jody Quine and listen to the title track off her latest album, Stand Up, out now.
What first got you interested in music and in songwriting?
Jody Quine: Well, I believe I was always built to do it, without actually understanding that's what was up. I used to write songs when I was younger and I didn't even realize that's necessarily what I was doing. But, I ended up doing improv comedy - I got into it pretty heavily in my teen years, actually, when I was about 16 - and I had a friend that was doing a children's play and she would just sing songs and I would harmonize with her and she said, 'I think we should do an open mic together,' and I said, 'that would be great! But I feel kind of silly just standing here while you play guitar and sing and I just sing the oohs and ahhs,' and she very generously offered for me to sing lead. So, when we went to the open mic, I hadn't really sang publicly before - well, I think I did some karaoke when I was a little younger [laughs] but by now I was maybe 18/19 - and I shut my eyes and started to sing and, within the first minute, the room went just silent. It was very intimidating. So, when the song ended, I kept my eyes closed, I was waiting for some sort of a response, and when I opened my eyes, the room just erupted in massive cheers and people standing up and applauding and I was blown away. I was like, 'oh, this is what I'm meant for'. So, that was really what first got me stuck [laughs] as it were.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
I was just telling this to my daughters and a friend last night! I was 13 when a song kind of just came out of me and I still remember it. It's basically about kids going outside to play in the rain and their mother getting upset because they're outside [laughs]. It's very like, [singing] "when the rain comes falling down and covers all of the ground" and really dramatic [laughs]. So funny. But lyric writing, I just used to write poems and the way I'd come back and repeat stuff, I looked back at it later and I was like, oh, that's a verse and that's a chorus! So I had no idea. I started harmonizing when I was 3 with the vacuum cleaner. It was, like, my favorite thing to do, just feeling the music vibrating through my body, harmonizing with the vacuum cleaner [laughs] because, back then, vacuum cleaners were really loud and multi-tonal. I don't know. It was much older before I looked back and realized all the clues were there.
Which musicians would you say that you've been influenced by?
I always find this an interesting question because I try to figure out what my influences were, but I think, what comes out of me musically, rarely matches what I listen to. I first fell in love with music with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam in the '90s and, I guess before then, with chick-singing ballads and stuff, but it didn't really land... But still, what comes out of me is very ballad-y but, when I first fell for music, it was really hard and had message and passion. Nowadays, I recognize that what I do like to listen to is anything that's got a great melody that's fun to sing to. It can be from musicals like Phantom Of The Opera or [laughs] The Little Mermaid to Sam Smith, Mumford & Sons and Adele. Things that have great melodies and that are awesome to sing, I imagine are what really influence me, because that's what I love to feel, the music coming through me in all these ways.
Some artists definitely know, like, 'I love these three artists and I want to sound like them,' or 'these people really speak to me and they influence my music, greatly,' but I didn't listen to music for a lot of years because I - specifically, when I discovered in my early late 20s that this was definitely the way that I was going to go with my life - I stopped listening to stuff because I just wanted to know what was coming out of me. So, my life was more of an influence than an audio sound. And I was getting compared to Joni Mitchell a lot, so I definitely didn't listen to her until I was like 30 and then I listened to Blue which, of course, is just such a beautiful record. There's definitely artists and songwriters that I admire; Ryan Adams is my favorite. I think maybe my music does lean in that direction, but I think I'm more influenced by my daily life, what goes on around me affects what I'm thinking and that's what comes out of me when I'm writing. The music that comes out of me is an emotional response to my life, more than an audio or sonic impression - if that makes sense [laughs].
Which words would you use to describe your sound to someone who had never heard you before?
I'm a singer-songwriter and my most recent record is with piano, but my earlier work would be with my acoustic guitar. I started out, breaking through, singing ambient electronic pop and toplines for DJs in EDM music. So my first solo record in a long time, I did my singer-songwriter stuff and it was produced by Rhys Fulber of Conjure One and Delerium and we did an electronic production over top of my singer-songwriter to help transition my sounds to what it is I create at home. I get compared to Sarah McLachlan a lot; and Tori Amos I'm getting on this record, which is really nice; Aimee Mann. So it's definitely the singer-songwriter style.
What were your inspirations behind your single "Stand Up"?
A very close friend of mine was going through a hard time in her marriage and I think, so often as women - and men also, just as people - we are so busy trying to make those around us happy, that we put ourselves bottom of the totem pole. The best way for us to find our path to being happy so that we can be all these things for those that we love, is to be true to ourselves and speak with our own minds. If you are always being put bottom of the totem pole, it's time to stand up and say, 'this is my truth, this is what I'm worth, and this is what matters to me and everyone needs to adjust to include my wishes in the mix'. The lyrics are "stand up to be counted, stand up for your rights, stand up and face your truth, 'cause your freedom waits on the other side". It could be saying to a husband, 'I'm not just here to take care of the kids and clean all the time and work while you just get to come and go as you please' - not that that was her situation - or to so many of my friends in the '90s who were struggling with coming out to say, 'I'm gay,' so that they could literally step forward into the next phase of their lives, being true to themselves and having happiness based on who they really are. Or, anyone who's being oppressed in any situation, they just need to stand up to be counted. I'm right here, I'm important, I'm valued, I'm worthy, and I know I'm important, valued, and worthy, because I value myself that much. That's kind of the idea behind that song.
Could you tell us more about your latest album Stand Up?
I used to use relationships for songwriting fodder - before Taylor Swift was probably even born [laughs] maybe not quite that long ago, but definitely a long time ago. Then, I met my husband and I stopped writing music because I was happy; I was no longer throwing myself into these unrequited or messy love situations. Then I started writing again after I had kids and I started having a bigger perspective on the world and being more aware of the larger theme at hand, from the struggles of a stay-at-home mom who's trying to follow her dreams in time to seeing some of the horrific oppression and racism that's been happening in the world. I have a song called "Love You To Lead" which is a song that was inspired by the image of the black police chief walking the Ku Klux Klan member in from out of the heat because he was getting heat stroke and just how incredibly moving it was that he had to be the bigger person, full of love, to guide this man's hate to, hopefully, a place of healing; it was such a powerful image to me, so that's one of the songs. I do have a long song or two on there for my husband, because I know now you can write songs about love being good, as opposed to being unrequited. There's also songs about growing and changing: as all artists and humans do, I went through a depression a couple of years ago and I wrote a song during. For me, that depression was really, when it comes down to it, it's such an emptiness and a stillness: if you quiet yourself down, there's nothing. When I just sat still, this song came out, it's called "Go On" and so I think it's an important song and it's also important to recognize that we all struggle at times in our lives. It's [Stand Up] a real cross section of everything. My best friends and I grew apart and there's a song about that; a girl friend of mine was dating a guy off and on for years and there's a song inspired by that; it's a cross section of just being human in today's day and age.
Could you tell our readers more about the Live Your Dream Tour that you'll be going on in 2017?
Yes! Super Exciting! We did a big gala benefit event in July in L.A. at a beautiful, large theater called the Wilshire Ebell, which is just a stunning theater, and it was so fun. We had The Emotions play and Nikkole, who's a top ten recording Billboard charting artist, and Jon Mullane who's also a Billboard charting artist; we had Ron Deuce; I emceed the whole show and played a couple songs. Just a wonderful collection of incredible artists, and we're all basically there to raise money and help inspire the next generation of creative musicians, more so than anything. What the plan is, we'll go into two cities that are close to each other, within 5 or 6 hours apart, and during the week, we'll go into the schools and the community and help teach the children our different strengths. Ron, the rapper, he might talk about rapping or poetry and I have the improv comedy background, so I'll talk about improv and freeing yourself up on stage. We all have these different strengths that will help teach the local community when it comes to the arts and expressing yourself through music or just creatively. Then, at the end of the week, we do a show in each of those cities and tickets are extremely reasonable - like, $20 or so - and you get the red carpet experience, you get to meet the artists after the show, you get photos and stuff, and then all that money turns back into the local community. As well as, we're working with Vh1 Save The Music, Little Kids Rock, NAfME (National Association for Music Education) and all the money we raise will go back in to supporting those communities. It's pretty exciting to help inspire the next generation while I also get to live my dream at the same time.
Is there a favorite song you have to perform live?
You know, with this new record, I haven't really had a chance to perform it very much yet. I guess it's still varying, based on how I feel in each moment. I do really enjoy the song "Everything" and "Down By" and "End Of Time" and "Stand Up" [laughs]. There's a lot. I just love to sing!
What do you hope your listeners are able to take away from your music?
I think about this all the time, why me? Why am I so lucky that I get to make music and perform for people and what a gift that is, not only that I have this ability that I love to do so much, but that people will listen and participate? Just yesterday, it was so clear to me and I know this already and I say it and I see it, but yesterday, just clear as a bell, I was like, I want to make people feel good. I love to make people feel good. If that means that they listen to "Go On" and they know they're not alone or if they listen to "Love You To Lead" and they feel supported in the fact that, even though their life might be hard and they are facing horrible things, that they have a hand out there saying, 'yes, you can take the higher path and you aren't alone'. If there's a love song that makes you want to cozy up to your lover or partner or special person, just to make people feel good so they don't feel alone. Also, on stage, I just love to make people laugh. So if I can help people through their days and help them feel good, then I am doing what I'm meant to do for sure.
Is there anything you want to add?
I'm a Grammy voting member and, right now, the ballots have just come out and it is Grammy voting season for the first ballot and there are so many talented independent musicians out there that people don't know about or aren't aware of, so I think it would be really great if people would check at The Music Rag more often and if they listen to independent artists as much as they can and start supporting your local musicians, as well as people that just aren't a part of the big machine. Because they're out there, just giving their hearts and there's literally so much great music out there that doesn't get heard. I think it would be great if people made that effort, try listening to something new once a month even, or more!