RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW AMERICAN ARTIST JODI HEIGHTS
Hiya Jodi, thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
What made you decide to become a soloist?
I started writing music in middle school, but I laid it aside for a while once I became a full-time musician. When song ideas started showing up again, I decided to see where they would take me.
Introduce us you and your musical history?
Music has been part of my history from pretty early on. I was 3 years old when my parents signed me up for piano lessons. I started voice lessons at 10 and started writing songs at 11. I loved being on stage and wielding the power that music has to move people. I enjoyed school, so I studied music in college and pursued my Masters at New England Conservatory. Since I finished my degrees, I’ve worn a lot of different hats, which is pretty typical for full time artists. I’ve found a lot of meaning in my work, whether it’s teaching, coaching, or gigging, but I feel the most joyful when I’m performing my own music.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
I haven’t been interviewed enough to be sick of any questions, so ask away!
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Nope. But I find people and what they believe to be pretty fascinating, even if I don’t agree with their viewpoints.
What useless party trick do you have?
I can play the piano upside down. I haven’t tried it in a long time, so maybe I should practice before I tell people I can still do it!
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
That’s a tough question! I was part of a world music group for a while, and when we toured Japan, the cellist got so enthusiastic during his solo that he threw his bow across the stage. I was on percussion, and on the recording, you can hear me laughing. But I held the beat, and we all kept going until he could pick up the bow and finish the song. That’s the beauty of live music. It can be unpredictable, and you learn to roll with it and find the humor.
What was the worst experience on stage?
As a pianist, I never know if a venue will have an instrument that hasn’t been taken care of. I once played a show where most of the black keys weren’t working. There was no time to sound check, so I didn’t realize there was a problem until I changed key mid song. Suddenly most of the notes disappeared. The other singers kept looking over at me and seeing my hands were moving but hardly any sound was coming out. It was embarrassing even though there was nothing I could do but finish the concert the best I could.
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about?
I grew up pretty sheltered, so I missed out on a lot of pop culture that most Americans of my generation would know. I’ve caught up on a lot of it as an adult, but there are still moments when I don’t understand a reference that everyone else seems to get. I’ve learned to either look it up later, or if it’s a friend, I’ll just ask them to explain so I can be in the loop.
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
I make a wide range of sounds from a hole in my face while pushing buttons on a piece of furniture.
What makes you stand out as a band/Artist?
I think my classical training and the creative use of metaphors in my lyrics are where I shine.
Right now, what’s pissing you off the most? (Can’t say the virus )
Glitchy technology is the bane of my existence. I can completely lose my head when an app or piece of equipment doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, and I often don’t have the knowledge to problem solve. I strongly relate to the scene from the move “Office Space” where the characters beat up printer. I could get behind that.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I have a few favorites, but I’ll say “Lone Wolf” because it gives me a good emotional release, and I get to howl.
I hear you have a new single/album/ep, what can you tell us about it?
Yes! “White Knight” is dropping on February 11th, and it was actually inspired by fan art. An 11-year-old came to one of my live shows, drew a picture of a dragon, and asked me to write a song about it. It took me a while, but the result is this rallying cry to lost courage.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album/ep?
Sometimes, life can feel like a battle, whether it’s an unexpected illness or the sudden loss of a person we love. There may be friends who walk alongside to support us, but no one can go through it in our place.
The first verse of “White Knight” sets the dark scene: the enemy is coming, and you’re sharpening your sword and mustering up your courage. The second verse is where the dragon appears. I avoided the narrative of slaying the dragon since I didn’t think that would go over too well with my young fan. Instead, the dragon represents strength, hidden wisdom, and instinctual power. The beast within gives you the bravery to face the impossible.
I decided to leave the story open-ended. We never see the fight. We don’t know if the warrior wins or not, just as the outcome of our own battles is unknown. We have to give it our all for the chance to save our lives.
What was the recording process like?
It had been a few years since I recorded my first EP, and then COVID hit, so I hadn’t been in a studio with other musicians in a long time. I really love working with an engineer and hearing a song take shape. “White Knight” is layer upon layer of vocals, which is one of my favorite things to create. I also got to do a sound effect similar to when American football payers hike the ball, which was entertaining to record. I worked with some new people this time around, and every one of them was professional and efficient while still keeping a sense of humor. That last part is really important when you’re in the studio for hours and hours.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album/ep?
Honestly, the hardest part for me was waiting for the initial idea. Creativity feels like it has a mind of its own, and I can’t control the timing. I tried to write this song for years, but I wasn’t excited about any of the attempts. I kept thinking about this young fan waiting for me to write him a song. Then in 2020, I woke up in the middle of the night with the tune and some of the lyrics for the chorus of “White Knight”. The rest of the song came pretty quickly after that. Sometimes, you have to be patient.
Would you change anything now its finished?
I think artists will always find things they think they could have done better, but I feel pretty satisfied with the end result of this track. I think it paints the aural scene effectively, and I hope listeners will feel empowered by the message.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
I’ll be releasing a new EP entitled Triptych which focuses on urgent concerns in our modern world: climate change, the pandemic, and the growing wealth gap. I’m also performing monthly concerts on Patreon, all live-streamed from an amazing studio here in the Boston area. The sound engineer and videographer make it sound and look so beautiful for my supporters. The link is https://www.patreon.com/jodiheights for anyone who’s interested.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
I think the biggest thing is to thank people for listening and to remind them to support local artists that they love. My fans have encouraged me and helped me to continue making music even in the midst of these strange times we’re living in. Artists need people to believe in them, so be that fan who helps them to keep going because their work matters to you.