In the wake of events that sadden or frighten us, the option is to move forward or fall back. Raleigh’s Jeanne Jolly chose the former.
“I was searching, and I think that, when I went through a tough transition in my life, losing my mom, and came back home to NC to do that and be around her and be with my family and focus on that, I think that was the probably the moment in my life that I decided to do what… do everything I wanted to do musically even if I was afraid of it, and I think writing songs is scary and really vulnerable.”
Jeanne has apparently gotten past the fear, now with a third CD release of original material. And moving even further past that fear, the new CD A Place to Run finds her starting a transition away from the country and Americana sounds featured in her first two releases.
“This record really brought out more soul and more grit which I definitely feel is more natural these days rather than … I think a variety is good. I’m not going to be able to help putting something with some twang on a record. That’s part of who I am too. But I feel like, I’m really enjoying digging deeper into the soulful nature of my voice and with the band live I’ve just really enjoyed those numbers. I enjoy all of them but I’m starting to feel a pull, and this record helped bring that out.”
Feeling the pull of other styles can’t be truly surprising with a musical background not quite A-to-Z but fairly extensive… her current popular music style preceded by classical studies at the New England Conservatory of Music as well as a year touring back in 2007 as the featured vocalist with the Grammy Award winning jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.
“I think being bound by genre is annoying, especially as a vocalist. I just wanted to sing everything and for a while I found that challenging as far as what to do with my career path. But now, the older I got I decided to sing what’s in my heart… sometimes that’s a folk song, sometimes it’s honky-tonk, sometimes it’s a jazz ballad or soul balladry or whatever it is.”
And sometimes that’s a deeply personal song of her own composition. Among the highlights on A Place to Run is Without You, which is about as good a “trust me, I’m over you, what was I thinking” song as ever written… and a song as far away from her current personal status as one can be.
“But I think that when you share something autobiographical and you really share a piece of your own personal history you feel really vulnerable, but I think that’s where a good song should start and you take it even further than that and that song in particular, even though when I made this record I had just gotten engaged and I was very happy and am with my love life, I think that song had been resonating for a while and just one I needed to get up of my system and finish. Yeah, and that’s true, me going through life, stumbling and figuring it out.”
“Without You” to some degree is an anomaly on A Place to Run. Listening to the CD you can hear hints of many genres… a little “twang” seeps in as alluded to earlier, a fullness of voice that one could easily hear performing standards on a jazz stage, control likely calibrated from her classical training… all working its way into this soulful turn. But “Without You” strays from the CD’s lyrical focus… whether that focus was intended or not.
“There’s songs on there about a place to run to get away from the grief or to deal with grief or face whatever your problems are, your darkness. Then there’s songs about a place to run to be with the one you love or your refuge, a person being your refuge. In Boundless Love I talk about a lot of… (lyric from Boundless Love) that’s the South, that’s the brackish water, that’s my happy place. I think… I find it impossible to make a record without a piece of my home in it because this is music that’s coming from me and my heart and everything. It’s definitely not a concept album but every song on the record speaks to the title in some way.”
After a lifetime of performance, the move into songwriting is relatively new. The writing is not, but it took that personal tragedy that brought her back to Raleigh and then encouragement from musical compatriots to make her writing an integral part of her performance.
“I’ve always written in my journal or written on the back of receipts while I’m at a stop light. My whole life there have been little scraps of paper with one liners or a poem here or whatever. Until I moved back to Raleigh, didn’t really have the courage to record a song that I wrote entirely on my own. I owe that to Chris Boerner who has been with me from the beginning in all of this, producing, co-producing, playing guitar, just encouraging me to record those songs. I think letting go of perfectionism and letting it out. Sometimes you just have to write a bad song. You have to write a bad song to let the good songs out. I try not to share the bad ones.”
Not to fear, record buying public… there’s nothing but good ones on Jeanne Jolly’s new self-released CD “A Place to Run.” I’m George Olsen.