Artwork for podcast Artist Soapbox * Audio fiction + Creative Process
166: Depth of Experience with singer-songwriter, Jess Klein
Episode 1668th August 2022 • Artist Soapbox * Audio fiction + Creative Process • Tamara Kissane
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It's Juliana Finch and Jess Klein! Jess Klein is an incredible songwriter-singer-performer, who has toured the world with her unbelievable music. She's been in the game long enough to know that creative cycles are normal and natural, and she approaches her process with a kind of ease that can inspire us all. Jess just finished producing an album that's coming out in the fall titled In the Arms of a Song.

Do what you can to find Jess Klein and listen and have a good cry. In the meantime, enjoy this episode.

Jess Klein Website

Instagram: @msjessklein

BIO:

Over a career that spans two decades and has won her a devoted worldwide fan base, Jess Klein—who possesses what Mojo magazine calls “one of those voices you want to crawl up close to the speakers to listen to” has pursued a remarkable creative evolution that’s seen her dig ever deeper for resonant emotional insights, while continuing to refine her eloquently melodic, effortlessly accessible songcraft. 

The Rochester, NY native began writing songs as a college student in Kingston, Jamaica. Jess spent eight years soaking up the live music culture of Austin, TX. Bootleg (2015) Jess’s live, full band album captures the dynamism of Jess onstage, backed by some of Austin’s top players. Jess was named a 2015 Finalist in the highly regarded Kerrville New Folk Competition. 

In 2016, Jess and her husband, songwriter Mike June moved to tiny but vibrant Hillsborough, North Carolina where she recorded 2019's Back to My Green. 

Klein has performed to rapt audiences at the Newport Folk Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Fuji Rock Festival in Japanand packed houses in notable listening rooms like Joe’s Pub, NYC, The Borderline in London, Club Passim in Boston and Fogartyville in Sarasota, FL. She has appeared on Good Morning America and NPR’s All Things Consideredand toured across the US, Europe and Japan on her own and with such artists as Arlo Guthrie, John Fullbright and Carlene Carter

Jess's new album is currently in production and due out shortly.

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Transcripts

Tamara Kissane:

This is Artist Soapbox.

Tamara Kissane:

Through interviews and original scripted audio fiction.

Tamara Kissane:

We deliver stories that speak to your hearts and your minds.

Juliana Finch:

Hey soap boxers.

Juliana Finch:

It's your pal, Juliana.

Juliana Finch:

I am so excited that I got to talk to my friend, Jess Klein for today's episode.

Juliana Finch:

Jess is an incredible songwriter singer performer, who has toured the

Juliana Finch:

world with her unbelievable music.

Juliana Finch:

She's been in the game long enough to know that creative

Juliana Finch:

cycles are normal and natural.

Juliana Finch:

And I just really love the way that she approaches that with a kind of

Juliana Finch:

ease that I hope this episode will help you realize in your writing process.

Juliana Finch:

Now Jess just finished producing an album.

Juliana Finch:

That's coming out in the fall called In the Arms of a Song.

Juliana Finch:

So at the time of this recording, it's not out yet, but you'll be able to

Juliana Finch:

get it very soon and she's starting to tour again, like a lot of us are, so I

Juliana Finch:

hope that you'll be able to catch her

Juliana Finch:

live and in person and get to see her unbelievable work.

Juliana Finch:

You can find her@wwwdotjessklein.com on YouTube and Instagram.

Juliana Finch:

She is Ms.

Juliana Finch:

Jess Klein.

Juliana Finch:

That's M S J E S S K L E I N.

Juliana Finch:

You should do whatever you can to find Jess and listen and have a good cry.

Juliana Finch:

And I know you will enjoy this episode.

Juliana Finch:

Hello, Jess Klein, thanks so much for joining me today.

Juliana Finch:

Thank you for having me.

Juliana Finch:

This is one of those fun situations where I get talk to somebody that

Juliana Finch:

I used to see in real life a lot.

Juliana Finch:

but we're talking on, on the internet about 10 miles apart from each other.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah, that's fine.

Juliana Finch:

This is normal now.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

How are you doing?

Jess Klein:

I'm doing pretty good.

Jess Klein:

I feel.

Jess Klein:

Got a lot of, um, exciting sort of creative stuff that I'm doing.

Jess Klein:

And then the world is not making me happy.

Jess Klein:

I played a show Friday night and I sang my songs about the

Jess Klein:

world and it made me feel better.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I always find that those times when I least want to play.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Is the time that I most need to play.

Juliana Finch:

Like once I do that show where I'm like, God, I really don't wanna get

Juliana Finch:

up here and do this thing tonight.

Juliana Finch:

And then after it, I'm like, thank goodness I did that thing.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah,

Juliana Finch:

yeah, yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I know that feeling.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So you're, you're writing again and playing again and working on stuff.

Juliana Finch:

How is it feeling.

Jess Klein:

It's good.

Jess Klein:

I actually, I just finished an album a couple months ago, so I haven't been

Jess Klein:

like actively writing songs recently.

Jess Klein:

I've been doing a lot of journaling and sometimes that turns into something

Jess Klein:

and sometimes it just keeps the flow going from my mind to the paper, but

Jess Klein:

I have been loving, performing a lot.

Jess Klein:

It just feels really good to just sing and like, Let the

Jess Klein:

sound out and that feels good.

Jess Klein:

That feels like, I feel like I'm starting to remember why I do this.

Juliana Finch:

yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And I'm, I'm glad you brought up your album because I think something that.

Juliana Finch:

It doesn't get talked about a lot when starting out as a songwriter

Juliana Finch:

is that, you know, there's a time to write and prepare and then a time to

Juliana Finch:

record and then a time to go perform those songs that you've put out.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And it's, it's this long process.

Juliana Finch:

By the time you're done making the album, you do need kind of a break.

Juliana Finch:

There's sort of a natural break that happens with writing new stuff.

Juliana Finch:

and you shift into this other gear of like focusing on performing the

Juliana Finch:

songs, is that your usual experience?

Juliana Finch:

That's certainly what happens to me.

Jess Klein:

It definitely, I feel like, yeah, like I kind of need a break from

Jess Klein:

all that soul searching and digging stuff up and, you know, tweaking language.

Jess Klein:

And it's just like a really different part of the process

Jess Klein:

for me than the performance part.

Jess Klein:

And they both are equally important.

Jess Klein:

And, um, a friend of mine songwriter named Ray Bonneville called.

Jess Klein:

He called this time when you're not actively writing, he called it fueling.

Jess Klein:

And I, I just always really like that, cuz it's like, you're just kind.

Jess Klein:

You're just doing other things you're like absorbing life experiences or you're

Jess Klein:

just sort of observing or whatever it is that you do when you're not writing.

Jess Klein:

It's it's like an important part of the yeah.

Jess Klein:

Of the cycle.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

It's still an active part.

Juliana Finch:

It's not actually this like inert thing that it feels like sometimes.

Jess Klein:

Yeah, exactly.

Jess Klein:

I mean, for me, you know, often, I mean, it's, it's a little

Jess Klein:

different if I'm trying to write for a specific project, but often.

Jess Klein:

I will be surprised by the strength of an idea that will come along.

Jess Klein:

When I wasn't trying to write, it'll just suddenly be like a wave of emotion.

Jess Klein:

And it's like, now I need to sit down and put some words to this, or.

Jess Klein:

You don't always have to be sort of like banging down the door every

Jess Klein:

day, trying to get to the ideas.

Jess Klein:

If you've trained yourself to receive them, like they're gonna come back.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Talk more about that process of like receptivity, like

Juliana Finch:

you've been at this while.

Juliana Finch:

And so you probably kind of live in it subconsciously a little bit at this.

Juliana Finch:

what was it like to develop that skill?

Juliana Finch:

Because I think there's a difference between I'm sitting around and

Juliana Finch:

waiting for inspiration to strike.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Which, which maybe is not very effective usually versus this, this

Juliana Finch:

receptivity that you're talking about.

Jess Klein:

I guess one of the things that I do, and I don't, it's like

Jess Klein:

a chicken and egg situation, but I tend to like really observe human

Jess Klein:

nature and take note of other people's habits and emotions and stuff.

Jess Klein:

And also, I would also sort of naturally do that on a large scale.

Jess Klein:

Like, what is society doing right now?

Jess Klein:

Or different parts of society doing and act, how are they acting?

Jess Klein:

To me, that's sort of like the, putting the soil, like putting the right soil in

Jess Klein:

the garden of, of writing or songwriting because I'm watching my fellow humans.

Jess Klein:

Like, I'm always just sort of like watch watching them, myself,

Jess Klein:

like, what am I feeling today?

Jess Klein:

To me, that's sort of a step that lays the groundwork for writing to happen.

Jess Klein:

Yeah, like you said, like it's not passive really, but it's, I'm not

Jess Klein:

trying to force it into anything.

Jess Klein:

It just sort of eventually I'll have like a, a clearly formed like thesis

Jess Klein:

about what I'm observing and then it can be kind of put into words.

Jess Klein:

There's a lot of mixed metaphors in there, but, um, yeah.

Jess Klein:

we got, we got it.

Jess Klein:

It's like the garden and the you're building a house and it,

Jess Klein:

yeah, it's really interesting.

Jess Klein:

I mean, I think, I feel like it's taken me a long time to be okay with the part where

Jess Klein:

I wasn't producing something actively.

Jess Klein:

Like, I think that I felt like I had a lot to prove when I first started out and I

Jess Klein:

mean, first start out, like probably all through my twenties and thirties, I felt

Jess Klein:

like I had had to constantly be proving something like, I can still do this.

Jess Klein:

I'm gonna write one that's as good as the last one.

Jess Klein:

Or, you know, . Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Like, cuz I think every time you write something that

Juliana Finch:

you really like, there's a, there's this like voice in the background.

Juliana Finch:

That's like, that's it.

Juliana Finch:

That's the last one.

Jess Klein:

That's all you get.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

And I mean.

Jess Klein:

If there's anyone listening that's sort of older or is starting out and

Jess Klein:

is a little older, like to me, things sometimes come more slowly now, or

Jess Klein:

it does take longer because I'm not personally living in the kind of drama

Jess Klein:

that I was when I was younger and right.

Jess Klein:

Everything was just sort of like at 10 all the time, emotionally for me in my.

Jess Klein:

and, you know, so that's also something to sort of note in your, in your sort

Jess Klein:

of life, lifetime of creativity and, and writing, you know, I think it's okay.

Jess Klein:

If it takes longer to create your sort of work, when you're older,

Jess Klein:

it's gonna have, it's gonna have that depth of experience behind it.

Juliana Finch:

Oh, totally.

Juliana Finch:

I think that's like a great reminder too, because yeah, the stakes are not

Juliana Finch:

as high on a daily basis, you know?

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Not everything is like a pop love song.

Juliana Finch:

right in your life.

Juliana Finch:

right.

Juliana Finch:

I was recently rereading, you mentioned that you journal and I've, I've

Juliana Finch:

journaled since I was a kid and I actually keep almost all my old journals

Juliana Finch:

and, and I'll go back through to, to find stuff to write about sometimes.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I'm like, well, let me see if there's a little seed of something in here.

Juliana Finch:

That'll set me off and rereading my journals from my early twenties

Juliana Finch:

recently was a very humbling experience.

Juliana Finch:

not just in terms of like, you know, my skill or lack

Juliana Finch:

thereof writing, but just, yeah.

Juliana Finch:

The drama like, oh my gosh.

Juliana Finch:

Not, not to belittle any 20 somethings that are listening, but just to tell

Juliana Finch:

you that, like, Extreme emotion does chill out eventually for most people.

Juliana Finch:

yeah,

Juliana Finch:

I could.

Juliana Finch:

You couldn't pay me to go back and be 20 again.

Juliana Finch:

I would not do it.

Juliana Finch:

No.

Juliana Finch:

How do you use journaling in your life?

Jess Klein:

You know, well, it's interesting now that we said all

Jess Klein:

that stuff about being younger and everything being dramatic and then being

Jess Klein:

older and things aren't as dramatic.

Jess Klein:

Like I still need to journal almost every day.

Jess Klein:

cause of the way my emotions are.

Jess Klein:

I have to kind of, I mean, not, you know, it's not all the time, every,

Jess Klein:

you know, all the time, but if there's a lot going on in the world or in my

Jess Klein:

life, I typically, my typical process is like, Definitely at night before bed.

Jess Klein:

And then sometimes during the day I just sort of have to have like a brain dump.

Jess Klein:

I have to let all the feelings have words and be out of me and onto the page.

Jess Klein:

And then it's like, I can do something with them further if I

Jess Klein:

want, but if I didn't, at least it's not rattling around inside of me.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So that is a resource that like you come back to for song ideas.

Jess Klein:

Do I come back to, that's a really good question.

Jess Klein:

Like I, I had put this question up on social media, I don't

Jess Klein:

know, six or eight months ago.

Jess Klein:

And I was like, you might have been one of the people that responded, but I was

Jess Klein:

like, do you save your old journals?

Jess Klein:

You know, and go, and all these people were like, you have to save them.

Jess Klein:

You have to go back through them.

Jess Klein:

There's gold there.

Jess Klein:

Almost never do that.

Jess Klein:

I mean, maybe I sh maybe I should, maybe I will.

Jess Klein:

And maybe I should.

Jess Klein:

And I mean, I know a lot of people do.

Jess Klein:

I think, I often feel like if I got through that, whatever

Jess Klein:

that was, I just wanna move on.

Jess Klein:

But yes, you know, it is, that's definitely a tool that

Jess Klein:

a lot of people recommend.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

But it sounds like your approach is too,

Juliana Finch:

which is that the journaling itself, the process of doing it.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Is the thing that's like that writer's muscle in shape and

Juliana Finch:

also like keeping you on kind.

Juliana Finch:

A plane where you're receptive to stuff.

Juliana Finch:

And so maybe you don't actually need to go back and read it

Juliana Finch:

because the process is the thing.

Juliana Finch:

And not necessarily that you're using it to generate ideas.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Um, I definitely know, like, you know, I have a meditation practice

Juliana Finch:

and I also journal and if I haven't done either of those things for like

Juliana Finch:

a week or so, I definitely feel it in my, you know, I feel squirrly yeah.

Juliana Finch:

yeah.

Juliana Finch:

In a way that I don't, if I'm consistent with that.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

Like I think of writing an inspiration often.

Jess Klein:

You wanna keep your muscles sort of loose and warmed up for me,

Jess Klein:

that practice is the journaling.

Jess Klein:

So that if it, if an idea, when an idea strikes, I'm sort of

Jess Klein:

warmed up and I'm used to writing.

Juliana Finch:

I like that you said the phrase like used to writing because

Juliana Finch:

it is a thing that can to use the muscle metaphor again, that can kind of

Juliana Finch:

atrophy if you don't do it regularly.

Juliana Finch:

Even if you are very experienced and you've released a number

Juliana Finch:

of albums and you've toured nationally, you know, it's not just

Juliana Finch:

a thing that happens to beginners.

Juliana Finch:

It's a thing that everybody needs to do.

Jess Klein:

Totally, totally.

Jess Klein:

I mean, for me, it's like, yeah, if I don't, if I haven't been writing

Jess Klein:

for a while and then I'm like, okay, I'm gonna try and dig in here.

Jess Klein:

And.

Jess Klein:

You know, work on an album.

Jess Klein:

It takes weeks and weeks for me to get to the point where I feel like

Jess Klein:

I'm creating something I might save.

Jess Klein:

And that doesn't mean all the other things weren't valuable, but it just, it is it.

Jess Klein:

Yeah, definitely muscle that you have to warm up for one way or another.

Jess Klein:

Cause to me, it's like layers need again, this is a total mixed metaphor, but

Jess Klein:

it's almost layers have to get peeled off and all that stuff you've been, you

Jess Klein:

know, living with and living through and the sort of periphery of your life

Jess Klein:

and you know, this annoyance and this other thing over here, it's like all sort

Jess Klein:

of has to get honored somehow and then put aside, and then you might get that.

Jess Klein:

To me, I always have to go through that to get to like the deeper core.

Jess Klein:

That feels like a compelling thing.

Jess Klein:

That is a song that's like the core of the song.

Juliana Finch:

When you're getting through that, are you doing that through

Juliana Finch:

writing songs that you then don't keep?

Juliana Finch:

Or usually what, what does that look like?

Jess Klein:

Yeah, it usually looks like songs where I have an, you

Jess Klein:

know, it's sort of like, oh, you can kind of hear something in there.

Jess Klein:

Like.

Jess Klein:

If I were to, so producer that I've worked with a lot, I often will play him things

Jess Klein:

that I'm working on and get his feedback.

Jess Klein:

Cuz I trust him to tell me like, think you can do better or you know, whatever.

Jess Klein:

And often it'll be like, , it'll be like, that's pretty like, you

Jess Klein:

know, and to me it's like, it can feel really powerful in the moment.

Jess Klein:

And then if I go back and listen to it, it's like, I didn't totally get

Jess Klein:

to the heart of the matter there.

Jess Klein:

Like there's something there's something deeper or better I could do with that.

Jess Klein:

And so that song probably won't be kept because if I'm aware that there's

Jess Klein:

something deeper to get to, I'd rather try and find the sort you know, deeper

Jess Klein:

and more compelling thing typically.

Juliana Finch:

And then having that as a starting point is like clearing the path

Juliana Finch:

for that other song that needs to happen.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

And sometimes it's really annoying.

Jess Klein:

Like I, I did.

Jess Klein:

, I'm part of a.

Jess Klein:

Well, I've been pretty lazy about it lately, but, and part of a song gang,

Jess Klein:

which is, you know, like weekly, this songwriter friend will send out prompt and

Jess Klein:

we're supposed to complete a song around that prompt, that phrase or whatever,

Jess Klein:

by the next end of the next week.

Jess Klein:

And at some point while I was writing for this last album,

Jess Klein:

the prompt was greatest hits.

Jess Klein:

And so I wrote this whole story song about this guy who follows

Jess Klein:

his favorite band and he is.

Jess Klein:

Kind of lost in the rest of his life, but when he sees them on

Jess Klein:

stage, he'll follow them anywhere.

Jess Klein:

Cuz they're just speaking to him, you know, and I played it for my producer

Jess Klein:

and he was like, And I thought it was really great, you know, and then I

Jess Klein:

played it for him and he was like, you know, this is a really good narrative,

Jess Klein:

but there's like one line in there that I think that you could write a whole

Jess Klein:

other song around and when oh, wow.

Jess Klein:

And he, and he told me what the line was.

Jess Klein:

I was like, oh, okay.

Jess Klein:

That's the really good idea.

Jess Klein:

But I was also really annoyed cause I was like, I don't wanna have to fucking

Jess Klein:

write this, you know, another song, like I wrote you a song, you know, I wrote.

Jess Klein:

But, you know, I made myself do it and I now that's the title

Jess Klein:

track of the new album, because it was, it was way more compelling.

Jess Klein:

It was personal, first of all.

Jess Klein:

And it was like about my life as an artist kind of.

Jess Klein:

And, um, so I mean, I don't know.

Jess Klein:

It's like sometimes I just feel like it's such a strange thing to be an artist or

Jess Klein:

to live as an artist or creative person, cuz it's like, I don't know, you're just

Jess Klein:

really just signing up to do more work.

Jess Klein:

Like it's just, it's not, it's never done, you know, it's sort of

Jess Klein:

like, I mean, it does go in phases.

Jess Klein:

It's incredibly satisfying.

Jess Klein:

It's incredibly personal.

Jess Klein:

It's incredibly crazy making sometimes, but I don't know.

Jess Klein:

It's just, obviously for those of us who write or create, it's just

Jess Klein:

like, we, we just have to do it.

Jess Klein:

It's some kind of.

Jess Klein:

It's to me also, it's like cleansing.

Jess Klein:

I feel like it, it's a way to cleanse my, my soul somehow.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And I think there's also an interesting thing about this.

Juliana Finch:

This thing we do, which is that a lot of us who are songwriters

Juliana Finch:

and performers specifically.

Juliana Finch:

We have this sort of introversion that's necessary to be a writer in some ways.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And then the performance part requires doing extroversion, even if we're not

Juliana Finch:

identified as extroverts, you know?

Juliana Finch:

Yeah, totally.

Juliana Finch:

And so there's this like balance of, of how can I honor the really interior parts

Juliana Finch:

of the process that are, that necessitate me being alone and having quiet time and

Juliana Finch:

being really reflective and then turn around and translate those feelings.

Juliana Finch:

And this is something that you're so good at when, when I see you live

Juliana Finch:

of like taking that internal life and externalizing it in a way that

Juliana Finch:

an audience can access that also.

Juliana Finch:

And like when people see a Jess Klein show, they're like powerfully overcome

Juliana Finch:

by emotions, you know, I've seen, I love going to one of your shows and watching

Juliana Finch:

an audience watch you because you're just really externalizing that process.

Juliana Finch:

And I think the part of it that is a skill is to do that and

Juliana Finch:

really give it to the audience.

Juliana Finch:

Sometimes if you're too internal, you're just watching somebody stare at their

Juliana Finch:

shoes and have their own feelings.

Juliana Finch:

And they're not actually like letting the audience in yeah.

Juliana Finch:

To that process.

Juliana Finch:

So there's like an interesting balance that I see when I watch you

Juliana Finch:

of you're really showing people, you know, that internal process and

Juliana Finch:

you're letting it be theirs also like letting them have yeah their thing.

Juliana Finch:

So how do you like protect your interior life when you, when

Juliana Finch:

you're up there on the stage?

Juliana Finch:

Like putting your heart out there?

Juliana Finch:

That's it.

Jess Klein:

Thank you.

Jess Klein:

That was really kind of to say.

Jess Klein:

Yeah, let's see.

Jess Klein:

You know, a couple things came to mind when you were saying that one

Jess Klein:

was that I didn't always protect.

Jess Klein:

I think like my inner life, there was a time when I was living in New York city.

Jess Klein:

I was writing and then recording this album called city garden.

Jess Klein:

But I, I didn't, it was like I was putting so much, I was somehow putting so much out

Jess Klein:

in the performances that I didn't someone.

Jess Klein:

And then I've kind of trained myself to see the stage as

Jess Klein:

like a safe place where I,

Jess Klein:

I get to decide what happens.

Jess Klein:

It's my choice to how much I let out.

Jess Klein:

I don't really know how to describe what the shift was that I made,

Jess Klein:

except that it just started to feel more about empowerment than exposure.

Jess Klein:

like, it just was like, I started to.

Jess Klein:

Look at it as I'm gonna feel good if I give my all to this, because these

Jess Klein:

are my words and why wouldn't I just stand up there and, and sing them.

Jess Klein:

Like, I really believe them and like use my voice and my body and the

Jess Klein:

things I say to the audience to just embrace like the whole of who I am.

Jess Klein:

I mean, like there's parts of me, I think that only ever come out on this stage.

Jess Klein:

I dunno.

Jess Klein:

mm-hmm , which is probably not uncommon.

Jess Klein:

It just feels more and more like, uh, I don't know, maybe it's just been getting

Jess Klein:

older or maybe just finding, like finding more security and safety in my real life,

Jess Klein:

relationships and situations has helped.

Jess Klein:

It helped me know that what I do on stage is my choice.

Jess Klein:

And it's not like this desperation that maybe was driving me when I was younger.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

There's definitely a difference between I would say like early career

Juliana Finch:

when you're getting up there and you're like, I hope people like me.

Juliana Finch:

Right.

Juliana Finch:

It's not that we don't hope people like us, you know, in

Juliana Finch:

what we're doing, but yeah.

Juliana Finch:

You get up there and that's your space.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And you're inviting them.

Juliana Finch:

You're inviting them in, not the other way around.

Juliana Finch:

Exactly.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

That's exactly it.

Juliana Finch:

I think that's really powerful and it's, it feels really

Juliana Finch:

good to be on a stage doing that, but I also think it feels good in the

Juliana Finch:

audience to see a performer like that.

Juliana Finch:

The audience also feels cared for.

Juliana Finch:

if the person, if the person on stage seems like they feel safe and confident,

Juliana Finch:

then the audience is like, good.

Juliana Finch:

We're in good hands.

Juliana Finch:

It's we're gonna have a good time, you know?

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

I think I totally agree with that.

Jess Klein:

I like to see performances where the, yeah, I like to see that.

Jess Klein:

And I mean, I guess I've, I've started to think of it.

Jess Klein:

Like I wanna be up here giving people permission to feel what they feel.

Jess Klein:

And the only way I know how to do that is just to do it myself.

Juliana Finch:

Well, I wanna shift gears a tiny bit to talk about whether

Juliana Finch:

your experience of writing has changed based on living in North Carolina.

Juliana Finch:

Now you moved here from Austin a few years ago.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And we moved, we moved to this area around the same time.

Juliana Finch:

I think 20, I moved in 2016.

Juliana Finch:

Oh yeah.

Juliana Finch:

That's we moved?

Juliana Finch:

Oh yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So we, we came here at the same.

Juliana Finch:

and I wonder if, if you notice anything about your process

Juliana Finch:

being influenced by place at all?

Juliana Finch:

Mm.

Jess Klein:

I think that I've had to sort of, I mean, I prefer living here.

Jess Klein:

Like our life is much better in most ways, living here, but creatively.

Jess Klein:

I've had to sort of figure out what works I've had to be more proactive in

Jess Klein:

terms of figuring out what works for me.

Jess Klein:

Versus I think in Austin, I was so like submerged in a culture of

Jess Klein:

songwriting that it was, I didn't even have to think about it that much.

Jess Klein:

It was just like, I could go out every night and see someone who would

Jess Klein:

write at least pretty good songs, you know, mm-hmm , if not great.

Jess Klein:

And here, you know, the music scene is sort.

Jess Klein:

Split up more, you know, there's Durham and there's chapel hill and there's

Jess Klein:

Carrboro and there's Raleigh, and I've had to sort of figure out more proactively.

Jess Klein:

I think what worked for me and part of that for me, was getting

Jess Klein:

back in touch with my producer from Austin, cuz I knew that he would

Jess Klein:

give me the feedback I needed.

Jess Klein:

I was having trouble finding like the sort of feedback from another songwriter that

Jess Klein:

I would trust fully maybe with my work.

Jess Klein:

But other than that, I,

Jess Klein:

I think it's given me like a, maybe a broader range of sounds to draw from.

Jess Klein:

I mean, I, I don't know, you know, listen to a lot more maybe gospel

Jess Klein:

influence stuff since living here.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

Um, and bluegrass, for sure.

Jess Klein:

So like you can't, you can't escape it, you know, living here and, and,

Jess Klein:

and also just the sort of there.

Jess Klein:

I mean, it's pretty broad strokes, but there's like just like a sweetness and

Jess Klein:

a softness here that I don't associate with Austin, which was kind of has that.

Jess Klein:

I don't, you know, whatever, whatever Texas is it.

Jess Klein:

I mean, there, there are a lot of really cool people in Austin

Jess Klein:

and people can be very friendly.

Jess Klein:

But if you think about the landscape it's harsher and

Jess Klein:

I think mostly just like, as a human being, like, it's

Jess Klein:

just easier to live here.

Jess Klein:

that makes any sense.

Jess Klein:

The climate is easier and the, the cause of living is easier

Jess Klein:

and people are friendlier and the pace is a little slower and

Juliana Finch:

yeah, that, that is great.

Juliana Finch:

Cuz it ties into something that I feel like I talk about a lot just because

Juliana Finch:

I'm pretty passionate about it, which is that like this idea of struggle being

Juliana Finch:

idealized as part of artistic process.

Juliana Finch:

And we have this, like this idea of the starving artist, which I hate.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And I think it can torture us.

Juliana Finch:

We can torture ourselves, you know, of thinking that we're supposed to

Juliana Finch:

be like struggling, but I don't do very good work when I'm struggling.

Juliana Finch:

Something else I've noticed as I've gone on further with my

Juliana Finch:

work is like, actually, if I.

Juliana Finch:

Can afford groceries and rent and I feel emotionally stable.

Juliana Finch:

I wanna sit down and play guitar more, you know?

Juliana Finch:

yeah, totally.

Juliana Finch:

It's actually better.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah, absolutely.

Juliana Finch:

And so like prioritizing being in a place where you feel cared for.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

However, that means by the environment, by the relationships, by the house

Juliana Finch:

that you're in or whatever yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Is actually like really beneficial to the creative process, I think.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah,

Jess Klein:

absolutely.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

You know, we do, we really love, we love to read about the struggles that made this

Jess Klein:

person, who they are, you know, or made this person write this thing or whatever.

Jess Klein:

Um, but yeah, I don't know.

Jess Klein:

I mean, I guess I feel like it sometimes takes me longer to complete

Jess Klein:

something now that my life is good.

Jess Klein:

mm-hmm but I also think I'm not like the love and the

Jess Klein:

comfort I have just to like go.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

I don't think, I don't think that.

Jess Klein:

The myth of the tortured artist, like is sustainable.

Juliana Finch:

Mm-hmm yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Like actually I'd like to be medicated for my mental health issues.

Juliana Finch:

I am better when that happens.

Juliana Finch:

Yes.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

So when you're in a period of time, when you're not writing, it sounds like you

Juliana Finch:

have a pretty good handle on and have like befriended that place a little bit more.

Juliana Finch:

How are you, how do you care for your creative process when

Juliana Finch:

you're, what does it feel like?

Juliana Finch:

Do you recognize when one of those periods is happening or maybe once

Juliana Finch:

you're in it, and then how do you take care of yourself during that time so

Juliana Finch:

that you don't have, you know, that thing that we talked about a few

Juliana Finch:

minutes ago of like, oh, that's gonna be my last song that I've ever written.

Jess Klein:

Yeah.

Jess Klein:

I, you know, I feel like that shift only, maybe only happened to me really recently.

Jess Klein:

I think that because maybe because of the pandemic or whatever, I've just

Jess Klein:

finally learned if I'm able to rest, like, I'm just, I'm just gonna rest.

Jess Klein:

Like, that is a good thing to do for my creative muscles for my body.

Jess Klein:

And I think.

Jess Klein:

It can kind of open up, like I said, like we were talking before about receptivity.

Jess Klein:

It's like just allowing myself to see what inspires me just in terms of listening.

Jess Klein:

It's almost like if you, yeah.

Jess Klein:

Like if you think of finishing an album as a completion of a cycle,

Jess Klein:

then it's like, you're just like born anew and it's like, oh, what,

Jess Klein:

what could be inspiring to me now?

Jess Klein:

I can just, I can just allow my mind to be totally open to

Jess Klein:

what just, what am I drawn to?

Jess Klein:

Like one thing I've sort of been drawn to kind of off and on in recent

Jess Klein:

years, but feels really prominent to me now is like my ancestry.

Jess Klein:

I'm really interested in my connection to my ancestors like that.

Jess Klein:

You know, they were Russian Jews and they escaped, you know,

Jess Klein:

persecution and death to come here.

Jess Klein:

And then they built a relatively safe life and I've reaped the benefits of that.

Jess Klein:

And that is a big part of how I define like my motivation to do activist

Jess Klein:

things or to like speak to, I hate to say like social issues or something,

Jess Klein:

but just like the shit we have going on, like the repression and everything.

Jess Klein:

I've just had the time to just be like, what is drawing my interest now?

Jess Klein:

And this is something, this is like an idea that's really inspiring me right now.

Jess Klein:

So I just, because I'm not in the midst of like an intense cycle of writing.

Jess Klein:

I just have the freedom to just sort of wander, you know, mentally

Jess Klein:

until I stumble on something.

Jess Klein:

That's interesting.

Jess Klein:

And that's exciting to me.

Jess Klein:

yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I love the, this like reframing of that time as

Juliana Finch:

just like wide open possibility.

Juliana Finch:

Cuz that does feel exciting.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

And like, oh, it's okay.

Juliana Finch:

If nothing is happening right now, because that means anything could happen.

Juliana Finch:

Totally.

Jess Klein:

Yeah, totally.

Jess Klein:

That's right.

Jess Klein:

And I mean, I feel like it's so, especially.

Jess Klein:

For people in creative careers,

Jess Klein:

it's like a big stumbling block for me is when I'm like, well, when

Jess Klein:

is, when am I gonna hear back from this person about this opportunity?

Jess Klein:

And when am I gonna hear about whether this is a possibility in my job, in my

Jess Klein:

career of art, but all that time that I might, you know, spend wondering when is

Jess Klein:

someone else gonna step in and tell me whether or not I can do this career thing.

Jess Klein:

That's time when I get to be instead, I could be just like, Hmm, what would

Jess Klein:

I like thinking about, you know?

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Juliana Finch:

I love it.

Juliana Finch:

Well, Jess, this has been so awesome.

Juliana Finch:

Thank you so much for talking to me today.

Juliana Finch:

My pleasure.

Juliana Finch:

Thank you.

Juliana Finch:

Y'all Jess's newest album In the Arms of a Song is coming out in the fall.

Juliana Finch:

And I can't wait to hear it.

Juliana Finch:

And if Jess is coming through your town, you definitely need to go catch a show

Juliana Finch:

so you can cry in a really great way.

Juliana Finch:

And can't wait to see you play live again, Jess.

Jess Klein:

Thank you.

Jess Klein:

Likewise.

Jess Klein:

I love The Other Girls I just love that song so much.

Juliana Finch:

Oh, thank you so much.

Juliana Finch:

I appreciate it.

Juliana Finch:

Yeah.

Tamara Kissane:

Established in 2017, artist soapbox is a podcast production

Tamara Kissane:

studio based in North Carolina.

Tamara Kissane:

Artist soapbox produces original scripted audio fiction and an ongoing interview

Tamara Kissane:

podcast about the creative process.

Tamara Kissane:

We cultivate aspiring audio Dramatists and producers, and we partner with

Tamara Kissane:

organizations and individuals to create new audio content for more

Tamara Kissane:

information and ways to support our work.

Tamara Kissane:

Check out artistsoapbox.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Tamara Kissane:

The artist soapbox theme song is ashes by Juliana Finch

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