February 2006 Feature
Monthly Partnership with Block Magazine
Feature Article by Dave Cuomo
Photos by Judith Levitt
The song is about herself. She sings about relationships, colors, the city and the sky, all told through a simple honest vision of the world reflected inwardly. A comparison to Woody Guthrie might seem out of line for a poppy, melodic songwriter far removed from the politics Guthrie was known for, but she shares his most striking characteristic - the innocent nature that allows someone to look at the world and sing it back simply. It's the ability to look at the sky or a strolling couple and instantly find a line and a melody to describe it, turning it into a song for anyone to relate to.
"I feel so helpless now/my guitar is not around/ and I'm struggling with this xylophone/to make these feelings sound... It's raining out the window," she sings on Gray or Blue. The lyrics are a fluid snapshot, a personal moment captured vividly, but one that rings true universally for its nakedness. The ability to poeticize everyday moments helps to explain her prolific songwriting. "I only write things that are honest," she explains "It's how I learned to express myself." This natural ease carries over beyond her lyrics into the music itself. Her songs sound familiar with an old time feel, while at the same time fresh and all together new. The melodies are usually bittersweet and catchy, floating breezily over easy progressions. She sounds personable, and backed up by arrangements that borrow as much from jazz as they do from traditional folk, her four chord songs become as complex and intriguing as they are accessible.
Perhaps this attitude explains the patience and maturity she has brought to her career so far. Despite a large amount of attention from, indy labels, major labels, publishers, and other suit types, she is biding her time. She's not nearly as interested in leaping at illusions of stars and empty promises as she is in steadily building her fan base through her own efforts, and continuing to retain control over her future. "I'm building leverage with the labels," she explains, "I wouldn't take anything unless it was exactly what I wanted." She is confident enough that she doesn't feel the need to leap at the first thing to come along. That kind of confidence can be a self fulfilling prophecy, but her music and hard work have already shown she can afford the patience.
A shy girl growing up, she has been writing songs as long as she can remember. For most of her life they were something personal that she was reluctant to share. Finally at 22, she decided to put herself on the line and played her first open mic at the Sidewalk Café. She found a supportive community of likeminded musicians who took to her instantly. Their encouragement spurred her on as she used gigs at the Sidewalk to build a draw and open the door to playing other Lower East Side venues like the Living Room where last summer she did a month long residency that was a smash success, packing the venue every week, and drawing out well deserved attention from the press and other industry types. Shortly after she found herself able to quit her day job and devote herself full time to music. Now she is building her notoriety patiently while keeping her goals in sight. When I ask her how far she sees herself going she answers "Huge!" without a moment's hesitation.
This year she will be releasing a series of short concept EP's, beginning with the soon to be released Sea Green, See Blue, including the track "Gray or Blue". It will be four songs, each one focused on a color. As to the idea of a full length, she seems as patient and unhurried about the idea as she is in regards to major labels. "An album is a big statement, and I don't think I'm ready to make that kind of statement. I won't release a full length album until I've written the songs to be one." The EP's are written to stand on their own. They showcase her as an artist always moving forward, more willing to take risks and try new things. The production is more flushed out than on previous recordings, and the songs sound mature, almost plotted, but with an experienced guiding hand.
In many ways Jaymay embodies the modern New York singer/songwriter. With an organic accessible sound that is as familiar as it is refreshing, she exudes independence and confidence that shows what we all learned from the punk and grunge years of the nineties. The unforced organic quality to her performance and songwriting make it look natural enough to inspire anyone to want to pick up a guitar and try for themselves. Taking a listen though will make anyone glad that it was her who did.
Visit Jaymay's Official Website at http://www.jaymayymusic.com
This article presented by Jezebel Music and can be found in Block
Magazine's upcomming monthly section of Uproar.