I just wanted to take a moment to share my big feelings on some big changes (for my small following of big hearts)
Cleaned the basement Sunday night, including reorganizing journals. Into categories, which roughly fell into places lived.
HS/college (Wisconsin, +London/Europe)
Newly in Chicago
It was wild to see myself through so many different lenses, including mid-college Jess coming to terms with ‘talking to myself so much’ (as my sister put it).
I knew this was different than writing papers for English class.
Back then I didn’t know that ‘talking to myself’ would help my songwriting, so I made fun of it.
Anyway, the change I’m here to document is…
I have been far too external lately.
Releasing dozens of raw or unfinished things, as a way to pass and document time, is not like my pre-2016 self.
If you go on my Bandcamp, the first disc ‘Catalysts’ is labored over for 4-5 years…from songwriting to production in Minneapolis then production in Kalamazoo with Ian Gorman then mixing mastering fundraising slow development of album art promotion booking a venue finally show and hard copies and new T-shirt’s to sell. I went ALL out.
Because 4-5 years earlier I did the first half of that process with ‘Du Bist Einen Fogle!’ (jessicafogle.bandcamp.com) and failed to secure a venue to release, as an unknown songwriter, not willing to go back to my old haunts (Gallery Cabaret, The Orphanage) and not established enough to follow through at The Hideout, even though I’d played there. 9 months later I finally had a DIY album release at a church I used for piano recitals, and it was lovely. Honestly.
Back then it was hard to believe DIY had value, because back then I was looking to get famous.
That was some tough skin to shed.
Hadn’t looked into press releases, radio play etc…but still felt sad that I couldn’t figure out the successful singer/songwriter trajectory. Probably needed a manager. I also had huge feelings and active trauma at the time, so it was all too much.
When I moved to Michigan, a year after that release show ‘failure’ (failure to do it on time, failure to find a ‘real’ or big venue interested in me – mainly because of big priority problems my ex was going thru at the time) I had already shifted gears for 9 months, into writing and working on a kids album instead. I even ghostwrote an entire album for an up-and-coming Chicago-to-LA vocalist…wasn’t proud of those songs, but she unknowingly enticed me with money and fame and I never saw either of the two from that project, and yet I started it *right* as I should have been most focused on securing a venue other than the Hideout (rather than feeling stuck). After the failure of that with her, and many wasted months, I started a kids album with my ex – honestly as a way to cheer him up and add value to his life. I’d been doing that for years for him, trying to include him in my ‘success trajectory’…rather than letting him be himself (or leaving him, because he was often self-destructive and wanted to bring me down with him).
So Michigan. the kids album could have been a success, I’m sure, seemed on the right track – but the flaw was involvement with my ex. And that in Michigan I got an all-consuming job right away. The whole path got derailed. Truly. My adult singer-songwriter path, my kids’ album path (which I tried doing for nieces/nephews before, and the only flaw was including my ex knowing that relationship was highly unstable and deeply flawed from the start).
When we divorced, I rebuilt myself. Here in Michigan.
Eventually compiling favorite songs and starting again, the big huge album process. Catalysts, new name, Jessica in The Rainbow. Super weird I guess, but me 🙂 Included high school students on the album. From where I worked (choir kids). Tried to learn to work with others, booked a venue, met people at a Grand Rapids indie music fest and volunteer organization or two (Lamp Light Music Festival, Girls Rock Grand Rapids, and DAAC – Division Avenue Arts Collective) and the whole thing had a more obvious path and manageable flow than Chicago did for me.
But it still wasn’t right and I was struggling with some key details…trying to figure out work flow, and how to climb the invisible ladder, to somewhere? Away from somewhere? (not knowing then what I know now, that trying to do this in a small more unknown market, with paying gigs being more rare, except for folk or uplifting or mainstream things, or cover bands…that there wasn’t much of a ladder to climb here, I climbed about as far as there is to climb, and realized it was more of a hobby here than a career path)
Anyway that was 2014-15. Newly in love too, a huge reason to be here rather than move by family (in another small music market, Minneapolis area) or some other area. Stayed.
Had a new album in the works…
Then late 2016 upended my life.
Suddenly it felt cruel to not just suddenly release half of an album I was working on…
Everyone was scared and raging on Facebook, self included.
Terrified. No one knew what a reality star who insults women and disabled people would look like as a president. Just shock.
So I leaked my album. Then, Jan 2017 I announced that I’d be sharing 365 songs in 365 days.
Now that I’m writing this out, I see that that was the moment of strangeness.
It’s like I didn’t know how to be in my head, when all the introverts were going extrovert. When it was considered ‘worse than the Nazis’ by some liberals I knew, to not speak out. Sharing songs became a way of speaking out.
Didn’t know what I was doing, all that wildness. Just felt right, at the time.
Or rather, two days ago, while cleaning out the basement.
Something in me realized – clearly – that I needed to take my power back.
That the whole thing was a wild unformed reaction to Trump.
He spewed hate and garbage and control and judgement on Twitter, and by existing, and conversely I felt compelled to share love and peace and hope and trauma-sharing and no shame no shame no shame…
Been doing this for 3 years so people around here think that’s who I am.
But it’s not. It’s a healing journey.
And now my soul is red-flagging, saying ‘you missed a spot!’
The spot I’ve been missing all these 3 years, pretty since the more public display of Jessica in The Rainbow (post Catalysts, leaking my own unfinished work, releasing lofi songs, etc) is the part that needed SLOW LIVING.
Time to go inside, to excavate without reporting on findings, to be a person and acknowledge my truest fans are probably my two bffs, my parents, and my nieces/nephews/family (not fans of my music necessarily haha, but of me as a person 🙂 And some college friends, spread out…maybe some cool friends we’ve met over the years, playing music too!
Not a ‘success story’ in the traditional sense. I think I held a belief that ‘putting myself out there’ would lead to fans – sort of ‘naturally’ – but that hasn’t been true for me. My music is artsy weird obscure, but without that Joanna Newsom / Sufjan Stevens obsessive quality (where you hear them and get obsessed with them 🙂
Truth be told, I heard their POLISHED, REFINED work…when I fell in love with it. So many other artsy weirdos too. Intellectuals. Strange people with weird vibes. Sooo what made me turn my back on that? I don’t know. I became an everyday cake baker of songs, instead of someone who works on a giant sugar village of thousands of tiny people made out of candy, something wild and imaginative that you see on a destination vacation…and the latter is me, not the former. Writing an epic musical in college, curating for years. Writing an epic 20 song 20 character kids album, curating for years. Writing two super high quality polished albums, with layers and parts, curating for years.Maybe it’s just a tough time in history to be someone who wants to ‘curate for years.’ Life and time is changing and we don’t know how much we have…I’ve had a few health scares that probably added to my new Speedy Gonzales approach to music releasing.
Anyway. To those who listen. I’ve been writing ‘hundreds of songs a year’ since 2008 (thx to FAWM and 50/90 initially, look em up 🙂 But they were for me. Similar sounding, charting a life. Like my 10,000 journals. (Jk but probably 500 or more?) It’s NEEDED for me…to find my core, in a wild world after so much trauma and CHANGE to my story (changed places, partners, trajectories and focuses)…
But the basement excavation Sunday night taught me that I TRULY DEEPLY MADLY want a return to slower living…and curating again.
I may never return to 4-5 year long projects, it feels too solitary.
But maybe with previews along the way?
Or maybe 1-2 year projects?
I don’t know. Too many dreams, with time dwindling down down down…
Also too much heart for all the change in the world.
This life is altering my dreams, as it should.
Our country is not the same as it was when I dreamed up who and what to be and do with my life, in my 20s.
Being a piano teacher was the temporary means, but being a performing singer/songwriter was the goal.
I’ve even learned I don’t love playing shows!
My voice is unreliable, my nerves are WILD and unpredictable.
I love my tiny home (well, 4BR/1BA – lots of little work spaces for me and Bry) and our small life here in Grand Haven, Michigan.
Even in quarantine, the simplicity is much to be grateful for. We both work virtually and I have time to excavate. Something I’ve been avoiding.
I’m not doing it as a ‘should’ either…just a curiosity, since I could feel a chapter coming to an end in my life, between Feb/Mar 2020 anyway (separate from this new quarantine reality).
So if it seems like I am doing less, sharing less, when I should or could be sharing more (if that’s even how this goes…not trying to predict my own future impulses, maybe I’ll share as much as ever!!!) just wanted you to know this little backstory. And the shifts going on in me.
I love curating and I love slow. And I love being alone or mostly alone (one or two trusted beings at a time). And I hadn’t realized til lately, how much social energy social media takes out of me, which is hilarious cuz it’s called ‘social media.’ It’s been like being plugged into a hamster wheel…trying to help some sadness, saying something that helps, only to witness the new social sadnesses, saying more to that, respond respond respond, quite the cycle. Trying to take more time for me now, not to talk about myself (the problem with trying to help, it can appear narcissistic, because we can only speak from the vehicle that is ourselves…like right now) but to actually BE with myself, without explaining or sharing the process with you. Something in that daily sharing, kills the curating. Or rather, like a science experiment, CHANGES the curated thing. Changes the pace or mood of it. Being solitary helps me know the thing I want to say or do, being a ‘helper with feelings’ online is so about others that I lose the thread of what it is I even want or need to share here.
Thanks for reading.