Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Interview: Jasmine Rae

Melbourne performer Jasmine Rae has released the first single from her forthcoming album – and the single, 'If I Want To', shares its name with the album.

'We chose the title of the album after we knew it was the single,' Jasmine said when I spoke to her recently. '"If I Want To" is one I’m very proud of. I wrote it with Bob DiPiero, who is a hit songwriter and I can’t believe he wanted to write with me, it was just fantastic. So it’s a song that’s quite different to what I’ve done before and this album is something that I’ve always wanted to do, just the sound of it. I’ve always wanted to write most of my material and that’s why I thought [the album] should be called If I Want To, and the track is one that I’m very proud of as well.'

I asked Jasmine about making the video clip for the song and whether or not it was strange to do something to different to writing and performing.

'Videos are the best,' she said. 'Everyone else on the video would totally get a headache from playing the same song over and over again' – and apparently this song was played about 20 times during the shoot – 'whereas I’m, like, "This is my song, I dig this" ... It’s actually photo shoots that are the most awkward: "This is not musical at all, what am I doing?" So the video flows very well. The guy in the video was actually 6’4” so that was a little bit different because I'm 4’6” … Actually, I’m 4’9”,' she said, laughing. 'I was standing on a box for the whole day so that was the awkward part but the music part and the acting part was all good.' 

Jasmine travelled to Nashville to write not only the single but other songs for this album.

'I wrote half of the album in Nashville,' she said. 'Writers over there, they do it like a 9 to 5 job. They’re so efficient and passionate; you can bring an idea that’s a little bit jumbled in your head and they say, "I know what you mean", and they help you sort it out. It’s not like they try to write the song in front of you – it’s very much a collaboration, bouncing ideas off each other. I kind of was scared when I started co-writing over there, thinking that they’d just write the song and say, "There you go", but that’s not how it is – it’s very open, you can talk about ideas.'

When I asked what she thought of the pace of writing in Nashville, Jasmine said that her ideas 'come to me at very much not 9 to 5 times. They come to me in the shower or when I’m driving. When I don’t have a pen and paper – that’s when they come. So finishing off [a song] in a 9 to 5 way is totally fine. Whenever people are able to get together with me and finish them off, that’s great – I just like the idea that it’s finishing off an idea that’s been in my head for a while, so it’s good working like that.'

Not only do the songs come at different times and in different places, but they also come in different ways. When I asked if it's lyrics or melody that usually comes through, Jasmine said, 'Sometimes it’s just lyrical. It’s different every time, which is why this question’s hard! Sometimes I’ll get a pre-chorus or just the first line of a chorus. I wrote most of the lyrics for a song called "Just Don’t Ask Me How I Am" but in a poem form that I’d been chipping away at for months. So it happens differently every time, which I think is why I love it so much, and sometimes ideas that I think, "This is gold, this is it", end up being completely nothing and an idea that I think, "I’ll just scribble that down even though it’s not the best", ends up being the main song.

If I Want To is Jasmine's third album and it sounds as though the experiences for each of those albums have been quite different.

'The first album – I’d won a competition called Telstra Road to Tamworth at the time, now called the Telstra Road to Discovery, and the date that my album was going to be released we already knew by the time I won the competition. So it was nine months of "We have to get this album out". So there were a lot of songs that were picked for me that I didn’t get to write – they were great songs, but I didn’t get to write the whole album … and it was very much taking the advice of people because I was very green and we had a deadline. 

'The second album we got to take a lot more time. I wrote half of the record. And then this third time around I had a little bit of time to spend with my family and then I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this record, and I wanted to write the majority of it, and so I spent a year and a half writing it, and have been across all of it. So it’s been the same team but very much a different way [of doing it] and I worked with a different producer.'

In between albums two and three, however, Jasmine's life changed in a profound way: she took time off to care for her father, who had cancer, and he subsequently died.

'Music was the only way I was able to deal with it,' said Jasmine. 'It was just very natural for me to just write it all out. So making this album and writing and being across this album was something I felt I had to do – it was very much a calling. It was the only thing I knew how to do at the time. Everything else is very blurry at a time like that. So have it finished [feels like] a big achievement.'

The album features a very moving track called 'First Song' and I took the opportunity to ask Jasmine about it, as it suddenly seemed as though it may well be about her father.

'It’s about my dad,' she confirmed. 'My dad and I were very close and great friends and did everything together. I’d never, ever written a song that he hadn’t heard. He’d heard every line that had ever come to me. I’d sing it to him and say, "What do you reckon of this?" To actually think that I would start and finish a song without him ever hearing it, I was devastated – I thought, "I don’t ever want to write because I don't want him to not hear it". That lasted for a whole week and then the week after I thought, "He would have wanted me to write because this is my calling. So I have to write this first song." And so that was the hardest. Then after that the rest of the album just flowed. I knew exactly where it was going after that.'

Jasmine's voice sounds different on this new album – not necessarily more mature, but there is a different tone to it. Given what happened in her life around the time of making the album, it seemed as though those experiences might be reflected in her voice.

'The voice is an amazing thing,' she said. 'It is very much connected to all of your emotions and that’s why I find it so fascinating. So, yes, I’m a different person to who I was before any of that happened. I stopped everything so I could care for him and he wanted to be at home. It just puts everything in perspective. I know what’s important now and I didn’t really know that before – I was stressing about whether my arse looked big in jeans and stuff. None of that stuff matters. When something like this happens you think, "Now I know what’s important". I’ve also used a different producer on this album as well so he would have been looking for different parts of my voice to bring out, so that’s why the album sounds a bit different as well.'

Jasmine also said that as she has written all of tracks bar one, 'they sit in a different place for your voice when you actually write it for your voice.'

When asked whether she had been performing recently – and whether or not that might have acted as some kind of solace for her in the wake of her father's death, Jasmine said, 'It has been really difficult not performing for a little while because I love it and it keeps you kind of in check. You know what you’re doing – "I’m a musician, I perform". Whereas when you’re not performing every week you wonder, "What am I doing? I’m sitting at home writing songs all day." Everyone else goes to work and it doesn't feel right. So I can’t wait to get back into performing, but you definitely need to take time off between albums for the band to learn the new stuff and just step it up a little.'

Jasmine and the band will have their next big outing at the album launch on 3 August at Rooty Hill RSL in Sydney, where she will be supported by Buddy Goode. In the meantime she has been listening to new American singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves – but, by the sounds of it, not to too many other new American acts: when in Nashville, 'you talk to everyone and they’ll tell you who the hot artists [are],' she said, 'then you go on iTunes and you can’t buy it because you have Australian iTunes!' 

One performer whose albums she definitely has is Dolly Parton. The last time I spoke to Jasmine she was about to go to Dolly's concert in Melbourne; it turns out she not only went – to three shows – but met Dolly. 'I got my photo taken with her,' said Jasmine. 'And I went there with my dad, so that was awesome.' 

Jasmine's single 'If I Want To' is out now and the album of the same name will be released on 2 August from ABC Music/Universal. The album launch is on 3 August at Rooty Hill RSL and then Jasmine will appear at the Gympie Muster and other festivals. For full details visit:

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