An Interview With Musician, JESSI TEICH On Her Past and Present Music, Her Biggest Inspirations and More!
Posted On 05 May 2016
Tag: Alanna, All Access, All Access Music Group, Amy Winehouse, Ariana Grande, Bill Withers, Billie Holiday, Blue Festival, Buena Vista Social Club, Chet Baker, Dangerous Woman, DJ tyDi, Ellie Goulding, Elvis Crespo, Fiona Apple, Frank Zappa, Gatemouth, Hozier, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Green, Jessi Teich, Jimi Hendrix, Joffrey Ballet School, JT, Justin Timberlake, Krysta Youngs, Mike Garrity, Miles Davis, Milton Nascimento, MØ, Philadelphia, Phoebe Snow, PledgeMusic, Ponta De Areia, Radio City Music Hall, Rockette, Ronnie Earl, Sammy Davis Jr, Sarah Vaughn, Sia, Stuart Crichton, The Beach Boys, The Broadcasters, The Curtain Call, Tom Waits, Tower Of Power, Twisted Soul, Use Me, Whitney Houston, Wildfire, ZHU
“When I write, it feels like I’m vomiting crazy emotions out of my system,” Singer-songwriter Jessi Teich says laughing. “It’s this cleansing feeling. It’s what keeps me alive.”
Jessi Teich (pronounced TEACH) is an International Award Winning Indie Singer, Songwriter, Musician, and Performer based in Philadelphia, PA. Jessi released her self titled album, Jessi Teich: JT, on April 22nd. She is crossing over from a progressive jazz/blues/soul sound to a more indie pop vibe. This album certainly reflects the evolving musical passion that drives her.
Jessi graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Berklee College of Music. Over the years she has developed a sound that masterfully mixes indie-pop, melodic dance rhythyms and soulful ballads. She has an edgy yet elegant aesthetic that fluidly seeps into her music. It’s this unique combination that’s drawn eclectic comparisons to Adele, Rozes, Sarah Bareilles, Mø and Amy Winehouse among others.
Learn more about Jessi in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So how’s 2016 treating you so far? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you and your music?
Of course! 2016 has been amazing so far. There have been a lot of opportunities presented to me on the East and West Coast. I just recently got two original songs placed with two different major network television shows which was very exciting!
Highlights of 2015 include releasing my jazz/pop album “Twisted Soul” on CD and vinyl, visiting LA for the first time and writing two incredible songs with DJ tyDi, Krysta Youngs (“Wildfire”) and Stuart Crichton (“The Curtain Call”), and developing this new, fresh, crossover sound from jazz pop to indie pop. It’s uncharted territory and I love it.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was your family/household musical at all?
As a child, music was a part of the daily fabric of my life. My Dad had (and still has) this incredible vinyl collection that he would constantly be spinning while we were home. We would listen to everything from Miles Davis to The Beach Boys to Frank Zappa to Janis Joplin to Phoebe Snow to Tom Waits to Jimi Hendirx to Billie Holiday. I mean the list goes on and on and on.
One of my earliest musical memories was my parents singing me to sleep with the song “Ponta De Areia” by Milton Nascimento. Another is when we’d go to the Pocono’s Blue Festival and see artists like Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters or Gatemouth. I can also vividly remember my Dad saying “Don’t jump, you’ll skip the record!” just like it was yesterday. Needless to say my siblings and I had to find creative ways to dance to the music without jumping.
Later this month, you will release your self-titled EP. Can you talk about this collection and the sound change you recently went through? Why have you decided to move to a more indie pop sound now?
“JT” is a bit of a musical rebirth for me. I grew up singing jazz and blues and developed a unique combination sound from the two genres. I used to frequent the Philly jazz clubs a lot and really enjoyed the local jam sessions and music scene there. As I grew into this sound though, the jazz world tried to hurl me over to the blues world, and the blues world tried to spit me back to the jazz world. I ended up in this weird limbo between the two and wasn’t really sure what to do about it. So I started to explore other genres of music that I was less familiar with such as indie pop and EDM. Growing up in the jazz/blues world, these are hardly considered authentic musical genres, but I found that there is so much artistry here to explore and learn from. I started to listen to Zhu and MØ, opening my ears to all of the beauty that these new sonic waves had to offer. I was truly inspired and decided why not try something totally new!
This summer, you will be moving to LA from Philadelphia. Why do you think this is the right move for you to make at this time of your life? What’s the music scene been like for you in Philadelphia?
Yes, I have decided to take the plunge! Philadelphia has given me so much between the jazz clubs and the jam sessions, I have really learned a lot and enjoyed my time there. I do believe a lot of the movers and shakers in the music business are based in LA though. I’m learning that it’s kind of this hub for creativity and that people move here because geographically placing yourself around other songwriters, publishing companies, labels, etc, will provide more opportunity. I don’t feel like “making it” really has the same definition that it used to, but surrounding yourself with other creative people who are doing what you are striving to do is always a smart move.
You’ve won over a dozen international songwriting awards. What do you think are the key elements to writing a hit song and one that all kinds of people to relate to?
As a songwriter, I write from the heart about real life. It may sound cliché but love, loss, and the pursuit of happiness is something that everyone can relate to. Using one’s humanity in the context of a song is invaluable. You also want to keep your songs simple. If the melody is memorable with a chorus that people can sing along to, you’ve got something good!
What was the inspiration for your newest single, “The Curtain Call?”
”The Curtain Call” is 100% autobiographical. The lyrics take you through a story that explores the inevitable ending of an era so that a new one may start. Out of death, comes new life. A lot of times, I will write a song that predicts an event or a choice in my life that I have yet to become aware of. 9 times out of 10 it will reveal itself and I will have one of those “AHA” moments. This song was written in October and I decided that I needed to move to LA in March. Being born and raised in New Jersey, this has been a heavy choice for me to make and I was playing it out in this song before I even explored it consciously.
What was it like filming your video for “The Curtain Call” with the ballet dancer Alanna? How creatively involved were you with the making of it? Why did you decided to have a dancer in the video?
I definitely had a very specific vision for this video; black & white, artistic shots, slow motion mixed with real time dancing shots, me playing the piano and singing. Very raw and organic. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result. It surpassed even my highest expectation! My friend Mike Garrity and my manager Jefferson Green shot it. Mike edited it and even he was moved by the finished product.
Alanna and I went to high school together. She is one of those people that is bursting with talent, but she’s so much fun to be around you forget you are sitting in the presence of such brilliance. I remember sitting in the audience at a rehearsal for one of our high school plays watching her dance. She was so magnetic, you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. She ended up at NYC-based Joffrey Ballet School and dancing for Radio City Music Hall as a Rockette. We’d kept in touch after high school and when I needed a choreographer for my “Wildfire” video, I reached out to her. We had such a great experience shooting that together that I hatched up this idea to feature her in “The Curtain Call” video as well. The second we started filming her dancing, I just welled up with tears; the emotion she puts into her dancing just pulls deep at my heart strings.
You’ve put out several very impressive covers online. Your Whitney Houston, Ariana Grande ones stick out to me. What’s been a favorite that you’ve released? Are you working on any right now?
I used to hate doing modern, non-jazz cover songs, because I felt like if I wasn’t singing my own songs that it didn’t count. A few years back I incorporated a Bill Withers tune “Use Me” into one of my sets. Not only did the song get an incredible response from the audience, but I really enjoyed singing it! I found that even though I didn’t write the words, I could still tell my own story with them. It was the interpretation of the story that already existed that I had control over.
Now I love to take modern pop songs and perform them with my own little twist. It cracks open your ability to reach a new audience too! If they know the song you are singing, they are more likely to give you a listen and then explore your other music. The Ariana Grande song “Dangerous Woman” was a stretch for me but it was a lot of fun! I have a laundry list of songs that my brother and his girlfriend sent me to cover so I am working through that list right now. I don’t know, maybe some Sia or Hozier will be next!
Who are some of your favorite artists? What musicians continue to inspire you throughout the years? Who would you love to work with in the future? Who would be your dream duet partner?
(Laughter)You are funny! If I had two weeks to write a list of my favorite artists, I may get through half of them. So we will have to settle for an abbreviated list. My favorite artists include Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Sia, Amy Winehouse, Bill Withers, Tom Waits, Sammy Davis Jr., Fiona Apple, MØ, Zhu, Tower Of Power, Ellie Goulding, Justin Timberlake, Ronnie Earl, Chet Baker, Elvis Crespo, Buena Vista Social Club… and the list goes on. I would love to work with ZHU- he is an absolutely incredible DJ making really fun guilty pleasure electronic music. Every time I hear his music I have to dance! Also, dream duet partner, hands down, Tom Waits. He is the most unique, heartfelt, creative musician I have ever heard in my life and I would consider it a dream come true to work with him, if I didn’t keel over from the excitement first.
How’s your current campaign going on PledgeMusic? Have you been overwhelmed with all the support on it?
PledgeMusic is a great platform for musicians to crowdfund. It has this “fan club” feel where you pay a small amount to join, but you have access to exclusive content not available anywhere else! I am always overwhelmed when my fans support me, including during this campaign. I am only at 30% of my goal though, so I am hoping to get a little more visibility! Being a musician isn’t easy in today’s world because buying music is an ancient practice. This is a way that fans can directly impact my ability to keep making music, which forges a deeper artist/fan connection. I hope that is what I am able to achieve during this process.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from your songs?
I hope that my music inspires, comforts, heals, stimulates, and enhances peoples lives. But all in all if I can make people happy with it, then I feel like I have done something worthy with my time.