I feel that there are few opportunities for songwriters unless they are also fully equipped with a mainstream-friendly and marketable image and specific genre. That’s a shame though, because radio listeners miss out on so much music. Maybe image has always been important, but I feel that the music business promotes performers with great images as superior talent, or only promote powerhouse vocals, and that leaves very little room for the songwriter to get any real support or exposure, let alone make a living, unless they’re selling their songs off to the popular performing artists. – Prin @prinsielski
Listen to the Interview
Episode #332 : A.V.A Live Radio Behind The Music with Jacqueline Jax : http://www.blogtalkradio.com/avaliveradio/2016/06/15/episode-332-ava-live-radio-behind-the-music-with-jacqueline-jax
GETTING TO KNOW PRIN
by Jacqueline Jax host of A.V.A Live Radio
I watched the Broadway musical about Carole King’s early career – Beautiful. I wish the business side of the music industry was still like that. I feel that there are few opportunities for songwriters unless they are also fully equipped with a mainstream-friendly and marketable image and specific genre. That’s a shame though, because radio listeners miss out on so much music. Maybe image has always been important, but I feel that the music business promotes performers with great images as superior talent, or only promote powerhouse vocals, and that leaves very little room for the songwriter to get any real support or exposure, let alone make a living, unless they’re selling their songs off to the popular performing artists. Unless you fit exactly what’s going to make somebody who doesn’t even play an instrument money, no one wants to support your ability to create music, and I’ve never really wanted to compromise my lack of genre or my ability to create music without caving to a niche. In a way, I think the music business became a bit of a black hole for me, because I started to see that unless I conformed to the mainstream expectations, I was never going to go find my place in that universe and just get lost in it. Right now, I feel that I’m confident in my experience as a music lover and music fan to know that other people appreciate listening to original music written by a regular person. It would be nice to see more of that basic musicianship again in popular music.
When I was younger…
I was constantly told that I needed to create remixes for my song, because I wrote piano melodies and had a very classical sound at the time. No one wants to listen to an actual instrument anymore, which is weird. That’s a definite con in my experience, because I love organic sounds, and even when I go to open mics, I see a lot of people with portable sound effects and technology, which sounds amazing, but I wonder what things would sound like with just one instrument, one voice and one mic, you know. I like mistakes. I like musical rawness, but we live in a world where that authenticity is misconstrued for a lack of experience. At the same time, technology and digital production amplify sounds and explore ideas that were once impossible, and that’s a definite pro. I’ve come to view the digital age of music as a pro when it coexists in balance with real instruments playing on an album. I struggled with this balance for most of my life, but I feel more at peace with the decisions I’ve made to use technology in this album while still using real instruments as the overriding sound of my music.
Hurdles and pitfalls…
The album is a great example of what I’m trying to say about balancing organic sounds and production. All of the sounds you hear in Dim the Lights are instruments played live. Throughout the production, I was able to lightly pepper the album with vocal effects and digital sound effects to brighten the sound and make it current. To me, that was a huge hurdle – figuring out how to marry the organic sound of a girl playing at the piano with the modern sound of digital production. I’m very proud of how I pushed myself outside of some comfort zones though.
I’ve been on the internet since the 1990s, and I love social media. I have met people online and learned so much from strangers. It’s such a Borg concept – to be so connected to the human hive like we are today with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other sites, but I think that’s a beautiful thing. Sharing information at that speed…that was unheard of growing up.
Keeping up with all social media is a bit difficult. I can only maintain so much by myself as an independent artist, but I’ve also had some family and friends help me with social media and I appreciate the support. You’re never sure what kind of attention you’re attracting, and who is a real fan, friend or freak. Sadly, I’ve had other artists steal my ideas for their own projects and public image, or just use my connection to further their fan base or get my input, and that’s hurtful, because you want to believe in this fantasy that all musicians have a real passion for life and soul, but a lot of people are only out for themselves online. I’ve had to overcome a variety of unpleasant interactions over the years on social media but…you live, you learn.
Singles vs an album…
I released Dim the Lights as the title track single about 6 months before the album will be out to promote the upcoming album. I did that for a variety of reasons. First of all, most of my online music profiles had rough cuts of songwriting demos, not professional recordings or much production at all. I had to spend some time revamping my online presence, and the single represents a change in my sound. I’ve already released 2 iTunes singles before this album, and they are simple piano and vocal arrangements. This album is a snapshot of my life right now as a person and musician. If I produced these songs 10 years ago or 10 years from now, the album would have a different vibe. That’s just the way making music is for me. So I think singles are a great way to promote a sonic idea, but an album is a sonic photo album. Releasing singles is like seeing the corner of a photograph and wondering what the whole image will be. When you’re ready to reveal the whole picture, that’s when you record an album. I’ll be promoting a few tracks as singles once the album is released, because every album tells a story and each song is a different part of that story.
I am most afraid of…
anything happening to my children, like cancer or sudden death. Before them, my biggest fear was not being loved in return, but that changed when I became a mom.
My personal definition of success is..
waking up each day and making it to bed each night while doing what you love in between the two, and I think Bob Dylan said something like that.
My most successful performance…
was back when I was 20. I did a 2-hour live show of music I was composing on the spot. I played for a military VIP suite at the Marriott hotel on Broadway in NYC. I always look to that night as a success in my playing ability, because less than a year later, I was hospitalized and unable to play like that for years. These were one of a kind songs – created and played for that group of people only that night. They were way more impressed than I had ever really experienced before, but I love that no one has ever heard those tunes again. Those sounds were for them in that moment, and so there’s a sense of pride about the fact that I once had this ability to write on command effectively for hours. It was a beautiful thing, and these people who heard me play during those years will forever have those spontaneous moments given to them, even if they didn’t realize it. So, I am proud of that time in my life when I was able to connect with groups of people who didn’t realize they were the only people hearing these melodies for the first and last time. In part, that’s why when I injured my hand, it was so heartbreaking. I can no longer play like that, but I can still write music all day long, if you let me. And so my success now is more about how I kept moving forward, and I can’t explain how or why, but I’m constantly hearing music in my mind – and that’s happened my whole life, and I don’t foresee that it will ever stop being that way for me. Not giving that up is my success.
My over all goal for my life & career is…
I want to share music and connect with someone. That’s more of a life goal. I think as a songwriter, it’s a career goal to have one of my songs connect with a performing artist who can make an emotional bond with their audience through my music.
3 Ways that I challenge myself…
1) I challenge myself to consider everyone in my life a soulmate at some level, and that forces me to see all positive and negative interactions with them as an opportunity for my soul to learn and grow on my journey. Everyone we meet is meant to be there at that moment.
2) When I do not like a song, I force myself to listen to it repeatedly until I find what’s good about it or until I love it. I learned that from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus actually. It was the best advice I ever got from a movie about staying open-minded to music.
3) I make it a point to catch local live music, not big names or celebrities, once a month or so, at least. I also love open mics because you get to hear raw and gritty performances from people who are simply learning to share their passion for music.
My relationship with music has had nine lives…
I began playing the piano by ear when I was 3 years old, and that evolved into taking lessons as a child, then working as a piano player and vocalist when I was 15. I had to take a hiatus from pursuing my music career when I was 21 due to my health, and so I began teaching music and piano on the side. A couple of years later, I started recording at a studio to work on songwriting, arrangements and production. I have always been very passionate about music, but back then, my efforts didn’t really take me anywhere, and I almost gave up completely on the idea of recording my songs. I got married, had kids, and had pretty much moved on from the idea of working as a musician again, but then, I got hit by a car. I suffered nerve damage in my left hand, and it was a life-changing and traumatizing loss for me. It was a rock bottom, honestly, to lose the dexterity in my left hand, but for some reason, hitting that low place so unexpectedly, ricocheted me into an even greater passion for my music. By the time I recovered after more than a year of hand therapy, I was determined to work on my first album and haven’t looked back. So, music has always been a part of my story, and now it’s the story. There’s nothing that defines me more as a person than music – playing it, listening to it, making it. It is my longest long-term relationship.
Dim the Lights…
is about dimming the lights to get in the mood, but it’s a bit deeper than just that if you pay attention to the lyrics and how the song is arranged. When you dim the lights, you typically can’t see at first until your eyes adjust. I feel love is like that. You have to dim the superficial lights and get a little blind to really see love with your heart and soul. The song lyrics explore some of the doubts, and in that sense, the song is very relatable to the romantic human experience. In the end, we all still love anyway, even when we’re trying not to love. That’s love right there. It’s this great power that can heal. The song ends with me admitting over and over that “I can only stay away so long,” because that’s how real love should be. If you can stay away from it, it’s not love, or it’s not the real kind anyhow.
I wrote it about 3 days before we went into the recording studio last summer…
and I had zero intentions of including it in this album. It was our last day at the studio, and we were eating lunch. The guys in the band and I were relaxing, and my husband insisted on playing the raw voice memo of Dim the Lights from my cellphone. It didn’t even have enough lyrics yet. It just had the piano hooks and the refrain melody. Mark Plati said the song had a natural vibe to it, and Doug Yowell convinced me to record it, replacing another song that never made it on the album. We all huddled by the piano with me trying to pencil charts for the guitar and bass to join the song, and leaving room for me to write lyrics. We finished the song in an hour! There we were trying to Humpty Dumpty this song, and of all the songs on this album, this song – the one we didn’t rehearse, the one without music charts, the one I hadn’t even finished writing – that’s the one that most defined the concept of “dim the lights” as an album. This song happened by letting go of it and not getting caught up in micromanaging the muse. Like with love – you have to feel music with your heart and soul, not orchestrate it into perfection. Who cares if you don’t have the song done, right? Just play it, sing it. I had to name the album after this song after that day. Prior to this track, it was going to be called “The Sound.” So there you go!
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While writing lyrics, I went through many ideas…
At one time, the lyrics got into more sensual imagery, but I pulled it back a bit. I went to a very sad place with this song, too, because I was thinking about different relationships throughout my life. In the end, I had to conclude that love is what you feel beyond your control, and that’s why there are two versions of Dim the Lights on this album. One is more lively and the other is a sad acoustic. Just because you feel love in your heart and soul doesn’t mean it’s going to be happy. Sometimes you have to let love get a little dark before you can see the light.
I’m a songwriter,…
and this album is really a showcase of the different influences in my music. You can expect to find multiple genres represented in some way throughout the album. There’s a balance of upbeat and mellow songs, and a gentle fusion of genres that I feel represent my songwriting style really well. I’m confident that people who like to listen to different genres will enjoy the choices I have made in terms of song production.
I live in NJ and NYC…
is my music scene, which means that anything and everything has a stage. People are open to experimenting with sounds and that’s why I love that I grew up here.
There are tons of Open Mics in NYC, like The Bitter End and Sidewalk Cafe, but you can also find some cool ones in NJ. Dingbatz in Clifton has welcomed me in the past. My favorite hang outs in NYC are Arthur’s Tavern and Smalls – I love live blues and jazz, and I like things gritty, not pretty.
Besides writing songs, I love hiking and being outdoors. I’m allergic to everything, but I don’t care. I’ll sneeze my way through a horse trail in the woods or burn in the sun all day just to enjoy nature. I love being barefoot on Earth. It’s one of my favorite simple joys.
I would love to have 5 minutes alone with….
Sting. He’s been a life-long inspiration as a musician and lyricist. If I could pick his brain and get insight into his work ethic as a songwriter, I feel that would be a remarkable 5 minutes of my life.
I’m no longer too concerned with being trendy at a superficial level, but I cannot imagine success in any industry without staying current. It’s important to evolve, to grow. I think staying current is about listening to everyone around you – on the radio and off the radio. Listen to live local music. I’m a little bit of everything, and that’s who I am. I have no intentions of changing who I am at my core at this point in my life, and that’s my compass when making artistic decisions. At the same time, I have kids, and they keep me inevitably aware, awake, and alive!