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Thursday, September 30 • 9:30pm - 10:00pm
Courtney Jaye

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Ask Ryan - is G-Side Courtney Jaye is an artist on a lifelong musical and spiritual journey. Her first memories? Sitting in her high chair bubbling with pure toddler joy while her parents spun “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” on the record player. When she was just six, she saw Springsteen on the Born in the USA tour and was blown away by the power of his performance. She even read Led Zeppelin bio Hammer of the Gods by the time she was 11. In fact, when I met Courtney in high school in the Atlanta suburbs in the mid-’90s, she was already cutting her teeth on Dylan and Neil Young covers, whipping that gorgeous voice into shape and diving headfirst into life and everything it had to offer. Even as a teenager, Courtney was operating with a quiet drive and heartfelt passion, not just to succeed at her musical dreams but to succeed at life—at being a good person and a genuine, positive force in the lives of the people immediately around her.

Since her high-school days—when she got a firsthand taste of Kerouac-ian road mythology while following the Grateful Dead across America—Courtney has packed what seems like a lifetime of experiences into little more than a decade: moving to the mountain town of Flagstaff, Ariz.; studying acupuncture and Eastern medicine; playing in her first bluegrass and folk bands; finding a whole new part of her soul in Hawaii, and bouncing between some of America’s most notorious music towns (Athens, L.A., Austin and Nashville) while honing her writing chops with the likes of Matthew Sweet, Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), Kristen Hall (Sugarland) and Thad Cockrell.

Along the way, she ended up impressing hard-to-impress musical heavyweight L.A. Reid, landing a spot on the roster of his major label Island/Def Jam, who released Courtney’s folk-pop debut Traveling Light in 2005. When the album dropped, she toured the country in a whirlwind, making scores of radio appearances and even landing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. But she quickly realized that the world of pop & pretend (and airbrushed covers!)—as much as she enjoyed the challenge of writing all those über-catchy hooks—was something her soul could not handle. “I was learning how to draw boundaries,” Courtney says. “It was like, ‘No! I don’t care what you pay me. I don’t care what you’ll make. I have to go to sleep at night, I have to look at myself in the mirror, and it’s this world of illusion. It’s all about money, fame and image—stuff that has no truth or relevance or honesty at all.” So she left it all behind and moved to Northern California for a spell—where she found shelter on an Indian reservation in Mendocino County—so she could decompress and make sense of things. And it’s a good thing she did, because this time of rebuilding and regrouping led her to some valuable realizations—first, what she doesn’t want out of her career, and even more importantly, what she does want: to be immersed in music, writing and performing, living the life of an honest and true artist, making records that move her—and hopefully her listeners—in the process. It wasn’t long before Courtney felt the Nashville underground calling. Realizing that the bohemian East side of town—with its incredibly artistic and open-minded indie scene—was a much better fit for her than Music Row, she eased comfortably into the community of musicians. At this point, she felt like she was emotionally, spiritually and musically back on track, and—with new friends like Hall and Cockrell at her side—she was finally ready to make the record she’d been dreaming of for years, a record that, at first, no one seemed to understand. Years before, while living in Hawaii, the indigenous music and its more popular incarnations had a profound effect on Courtney. As these native sounds fused themselves to her very being, they inspired her, and she began imagining a unique sound of her own. “Hawaiian music is just an extension of country with some jazz and Western swing,” she says. “It’s ukeleles, slack-key guitars, washtub basses and earthy percussion, and I’m fascinated with all of that. And the sound I’d been hearing in my head had this country influence, but also this vintage, exotic quality. I’m inspired by old-school country and the 1960s exotica and Tropicalia movements—everyone from Patsy Cline to Martin Denny to Sergio Mendes, Brasil ’66 and Astrud Gilberto. This tropical element mixed with the rootsy element—it was torture for years because I could hear the sound I wanted to make in my head, I just didn't know how to explain it.”

Eventually, Courtney found sympathetic ears. First, she tried to make the record with her mentor Louris, who encouraged her to explore her idea. While the album was never completely finished, the resulting independent EP ’Til it Bleeds was an important stepping stone on the way to realizing the elusive sound for which she’d been searching. Still determined, Courtney picked up the project again in the fall of 2007, this time with friend/multi-instrumentalist Seth Kauffman, who was excited about making a record with her. They began tracking at his home studio in Black Mountain, N.C., and once they’d finished the bulk of the work, Band of Horses bassist Bill Reynolds offered his engineering/producing skills and—with the help of engineer Danny Kadar (My Morning Jacket, The Avett Brothers)—spent some time at Echo Mountain studios in Asheville, getting the all-important vocals just right. The record was mixed by Guster’s Joe Pisapia, and even caught the attention of Reynolds’ bandmate, BoH frontman Ben Bridwell, who provided guest vocals on the project.

“It was like, ‘OK, let’s try this again—let’s try it from a real place this time, from the place I belong,’” says Courtney, reflecting back on her ups and downs now that she’s in a much more artistically satisfying place. “These days, I feel like I belong as a singer, a writer, an artist and a performer. So it’s a fresh, exciting period. I have no idea what’s going to happen next.” For now, Courtney is self-releasing he Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye, but she’s also shopping it around, this time talking only with labels that support her musical vision as she continues developing the sound she’s dubbed “Tropicalicountry.” That her music has appeared regularly in films and on TV shows like ABC’s Brothers & Sisters (thanks in large part to the avid support of director Ken Olin and Los Angeles based composer Michael Lord) has not only helped Courtney survive during her recent DIY periods, it’s also allowed her the opportunity to finally make a record that deeply reflects who she is, where she’s been and, hopefully, where she’s going.

And a fine record it is: a quietly visionary statement full of lush instrumentation—lap steel, slack-key Hawaiian guitar and subtle percussion textures. With Queen of Sabotage, Courtney Jaye has come into her own as a singer and songwriter, her sweet, gorgeous voice, ingratiating melodies and alternately impressionistic/heart-on-sleeve lyrics proving that—even if she doesn’t know exactly where next—she’s going places.— Steve LaBate, Associate Editor, Paste


Thursday September 30, 2010 9:30pm - 10:00pm
The Basement 1604 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN, 37203

Attendees (24)


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