Monday, January 25, 2021

INTERVIEW: Courtney Jacobs discusses new music and imposter syndrome

Courtney Jacobs is a 21-year old indie pop musician based in Charlottesville, VA. She makes hazy, synth-heavy pop with jazz and funk influences, and her vocal style can be compared to Lana Del Rey, Lorde, and Halsey.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Courtney over zoom to talk about her upcoming projects, musical journey, imposter syndrome and guitar challenges. Read what she had to say below: 

Q: So you’ve released the bulk of your solo music during a national pandemic, how have you found that process? 

A: It’s actually been a kind of a blessing for me. I was making music with a rock band called Silver Retriever and we released an EP in May, it was supposed to come out in March and we were going to have this huge release party that just didn’t work out. Everyone else was leaving the area so it was just me and I thought “you know I think I can do this by myself” so I tried out making a couple songs and I just fell in love with the process of working with a producer. My band was me and five guys so I didn’t have to wrangle five guys to go and do anything, it was just me and maybe one other person so it’s really been a rewarding process.

Q: You’re a self taught musician, I’ve read that you’ve taught yourself guitar, piano, and ukulele. Which instrument was your favourite to learn? 

A: This has been a super interesting time for learning because I always made excuses thinking I just needed to be able to play the absolute minimum amount of any instrument I need and I never need to go above and beyond, but actually right now I’m now I’m doing the one riff-a-day challenge from She Shreds where you basically make a riff on a guitar, or any instrument you play, and you practice for 5 minutes each day and you upload a video of anything you played in those 5 minutes and do this every day in January. So that has been challenging for me and it’s only day 6, there have already been slip ups like I accidentally deleted my story for the 2nd and I’m technically disqualified from the whole thing but I’m trying to remember that not everything has to be perfect. I’ve already seen a massive improvement just by forcing myself to pick up the guitar and try something new. I had this list of guitar concepts I wanted to try and I always felt like I was to much of an inexperienced beginner to actually attempt any of them but I’ve been trying just to do it and even if it sucks to just post it and now I have a lot more confidence about what I can do with the guitar. I guess my guitar is my favourite right now because it’s here with me in Texas and all my other instruments are back in Virginia so I don’t have a choice. 

Q: You’ve mentioned in interviews that you used to be quite shy, what is your advice for other people like you that want to get started with music but might lack the confidence to go for it? 

A: It sounds reductive for me to be like “just snap your fingers and be like I’m not going to be shy anymore”. That’s what I did but that’s not how it usually works. When I broke into the music scene in my area I had to reconcile with the fact that I have imposter syndrome, I think that I’m worse than I am and I’m scared that everyone is going to find out I actually suck but so far it hasn’t happened yet. I would say don’t act like you’re better than you are but act like the amount that you are is okay. Your talent is okay the way it is. Also just asking for things, the answer is always going to be no if you don’t ask. There are a lot of collaborations that I’ve recently put into the pipeline that are releasing over the next couple of months and they just came from me really admiring some artist and just asking. I’ve gotten on some really interesting projects with people I really look up to just because I’ve told them that I like their music and I want to make a song with you, what can we come up with? That took a lot of guts but I’m glad I just sent the message. 

Q: You’ve teased some collaborations just now, are those anything you’re allowed to share? 

A: Yes! One is actually coming out in a week and has been announced. It’s called “Truth Never Lies” with this fantastic artist Armstrong Worldwide. He’s actually from Houston where I was born and it’s been so nice to connect with someone from the same city. I haven’t met a lot of Houston artists who do the same stuff as me. I’m featured on his song and that’s coming on the 15th January. I’m also working on a lot of different songs where I am the primary artist but I’m featuring artists from a bunch of different genres. 

Q: I had the opportunity to listen to your new single, how would you say ‘Miracle’ balances a departure from your usual sound whilst also being a continuation of your musical journey? 

A: I was hesitant to pull the trigger on ‘Miracle’. The name I was creating for myself was this airy, hazy chill girl and I didn’t want to be that pop girl that was screaming in your face. I was afraid that by doing this I would be coming too close but I got some feedback saying that maybe it would be good to show the more powerful, strong side of your voice for a bit and then you can always retreat back into your comfortable little cove again if that’s what you want. It’s a vulnerable song, it’s emotional and I think people will like it if they like my other music. 

Q: How would you describe ‘Miracle’ in 5 words or less? 

A: Don’t want to sound needy. That is the main idea of the song, it’s about trying to find the balance between when you want to spend time with someone you care about and want to talk to them but some people just aren’t built like that. Everyone has a different threshold of what they consider to be loving versus clingy. I’m such an open book and I love talking to people for hours and I always get this fear that I’m being too annoying, too clingy or talking too much and I feel like I’ve silenced myself way too many times over this and ‘Miracle’ is an acknowledgement of that. 

Q: What is your favourite song you’ve written? Either with Silver Retriever or as a solo musician? 

A: ‘Canary’ which was my first song will always hold a special place in my heart. It was probably the ‘realest’ song I’ve written. It was directly and metaphorically about the situation I was currently in so it was the closest to my heart there. My upcoming song “The Cave” which is on my soundcloud and will eventually be on my EP I feel is the best technically and I’ve felt the best about the songwriting on it.

Q: I have to ask the obligatory question, who would you say are your musical influences? 

A: It’s so hard because for me I don’t have this one group or person that I want to be like. Through playing with my band and through exploring all these different genres I’ve picked up token bands from each genre that I want to emulate. I’m trying to expand by range by listening to other people but I’ve found way more inspiration in small indie artists than the big guys. My favourite artist right now is Stela Cole, she has the most incredible voice. She makes pop music fun and I just really enjoy her stuff. I also have a playlist called “new indie gold” which is boys with vintage guitars, I don’t know how to say it any other way, that’s the vibe I’m going for. I just fell in love with bands like Coin and Ra Ra Riot. It sucks because that genre is very male-dominated and so I would really love to get into that just to represent women a little bit more in that space. I do have that playlist to be inclusive of all types of bands and groups so it’s not just the same four white guys singing the same things with lots of guitars and drums. I wanted to expand that definition of indie rock to be what it actually is instead of a token of what most people see. I’d say everyone I have on that playlist is an inspiration. 

Q: What is a parting thought you’d want someone to take away from this interview? 

A: I think when it comes to music the one thing people should know is that it’s easier to get started than you think. My advice is to just go for it. Do your research first though, a lot of people just say go for it but definitely do your research first.


Miracle Music Video

Dilara Ball

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