Multi award winning singer-songwriter Jessica Rhaye is feeling comfortable in her own skin these days and it shows; her latest release, Song In Me, embodies that ease with a collection of natural tunes that reflect the seasoned singer-songwriter’s maturing sense of herself and the world. Recently we spoke with her about her career and her new recording.
What is your background?
I was born in Saint John, New Brunswick and raised in Hampton, NB, where I still reside. My grandparents are of English and Scottish decent.
When and why did you start performing music?
I feel like I have been singing and writing music ever since I can remember. When I was a little girl, 5 years old, my Dad would set up a microphone to his stereo and I would spend hours recording myself on cassette tapes, singing every song I knew, and making up my own song lyrics and melodies. I enrolled in ukulele and violin in elementary school and then joined choirs and theatre arts in junior high and high school as well as voice and guitar lessons. Music opened me up and let me share myself in a way that nothing else could. Communicating my experience is what drives me to write and sing and perform music - when I read, hear or see something that inspires a personal experience I want to inspire others to feel or know that experience.
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
I think I enjoy singing and performing more now than I ever have. I feel more confident on stage both singing and talking to my audiences. I make music today because it moves me. I love being around and talking with and making music with other musicians. Music feeds my soul. The more I perform and the more I hear people connecting with my songs, the more satisfied I am as a songwriter.
How have you evolved as an artist over that time?
Just like with anything, the more you do something the better you get at it. It comes with time, age and maturity and life experience. I feel I am a better songwriter because of the life experiences I have encountered and just from watching and learning through other inspiring music artists over the years.
How would you describe your sound and style today?
I would say my musical style has always been in the folk/country singer/songwriter category.
What are the challenges of the vocation?
There is a lot of competition in the singer songwriter world these days and being able to find suitable venues and audiences can be a challenge.
What were the rewards?
To me, it’s not about the paper accomplishments, but more about the experience, the things I have learned and how I can open up and share my stories through my music.
Who have been some influences, and what are you currently listening to that is inspiring?
Most of my musical influences have been folk singer songwriters from the 60s-70s – Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Young, John Denver, Anne Murray. Today I listen to and love a lot of Canadian artists, Ron Sexsmith, Jann Arden, as well as American artist Ryan Adams.
What have been some career highlights?
A few highlights include singing and performing a couple of my own songs arranged with Symphony New Brunswick, co-writing with some wonderful songwriters in the past including Ron Sexsmith, Royal Wood, Steve Poltz, Ken Tobias, Matt Andersen, and Brent Mason, and releasing 5 solo albums
What makes a good song?
For me, a good song must have a strong melody, lyrics that anyone can relate too, and a singer that can deliver with real emotion.
Is your creative process more 'inspirational' or 'perspirational'?
I write songs when the inspiration hits me. As soon as a melody comes into my head that I think might make for a good song, I immediately record myself on my iPhone, either humming the idea or singing temporary lyrics. I usually sit with a new melody idea for a while before figuring out the lyrics. Most of my songs are born this way. I have found co-writing to be very inspirational as well. I like to bring melody and lyric ideas to the table with a co-writer and then come up with a story for the song and write the lyrics together. It is a real satisfying feeling when a song is complete.
What inspired Song in Me?
After releasing my album “Far Gone Lullabies” a few years ago, I didn’t write as much or as often. I was busy being a mother to my two small children, and my husband and I were in the process of building a new home and selling our old home we had bought and renovated. Once we settled into our new home in the country, I started feeling rejuvenated by my new environment and the fresh air and surroundings. I started rehearsing music Sunday mornings with my trio, which consists of long time guitar player and friend, Chris Braydon, and added a new element to the mix with upright bass player, Sandy Mackay. A combination of the move back to my roots in the country and the musical chemistry was inspiring and that’s when song ideas sparked and started to come back to me again.
How did you go about choosing the songs for the recording?
I don’t write a huge amount of songs when I go into a recording session for an album. I write and record what I bring to the table.
How did you feel when it was complete?
I am super happy with the outcome of Song In Me. It’s a huge satisfying feeling when a whole collection of songs has been brought to life with production. I am really excited to let the world hear these new songs and to get out and play them for my audiences.
What has the response been like so far from people who have listened to it?
So far the response has been very positive. People enjoy the rootsy sound.
What is next on your creative agenda?
I am graphic design artist as well as a singer songwriter so I am constantly creating whether it is singing, writing or performing music or designing artistic collateral.