By Sanjeev Selvarajah
Jessica Labus headlined at the bar Precinct recently and she’ll be playing solo there frequently, even though she has a knack of attracting performers for her band. She recently arrived in Boston, from New York, to recruit a band for the new music she’s working on.
“The New York scene feels ever changing. You see a lot of the same faces though, and it’s nice because there’s a sense of community in that, while a lot of the time New York can feel so anonymous…Boston feels very welcoming so far to me. It feels like it has everything New York has on a mellower scale. It’s a lot easier to breathe here.”
Singer songwriters often sound like they’re trying to hypnotize themselves, alone, in a vain attempt to convince them that there is a career to be made from live performance. Here Labus, it’s clear has her vocals trained on her audience and on her very first note warns her fans that she won’t give up until they have a great night’s sleep, looking forward to tomorrow.
“Jewel was the reason I started playing guitar and also learned to yodel,” says Labus. “Ani DiFranco inspired a lot of my early songwriting days. I also love Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna and Miranda Lambert and the Dixie Chicks for their down to earth writing style. I’m inspired by Eminem and Kanye West for their sometimes offensive, honest and funny styles. Vocally I grew up inspired by Janice Joplin, Jewel, Reba McIntyre, Sutton Foster (Broadway) and Idina Menzel (Broadway). I’ve always had a thing for Lisa Loeb too.”
Jessica has this tendency, especially audible in her new song Judgment Day, of switching up her vocal range to effectively add an editorial to her previous line. It’s in the biting criticism of suitors like “Bryan” or “Dustin.” She favors her own ideas and ideals over the average conception of romance that most singer songwriters placate. She finds her muse in themes and lyrical plot lines and subsists on her own individual artistic merit. Historically speaking, muses aren’t only available to male artists.
“I started playing guitar at 14 and writing songs,” Labus says. “I went to college for Musical Theater and then began focusing on songwriting and playing shows when I was 21. I started playing in the local bar scene, performing mostly solo and acoustic, then putting a band together a few years later. I released my first album Mirrors, in 2009, which is very pop singer songwritery. The older I got my music got a little more edgy and jaded. I also started writing funny songs and swearing a bit more. My vocal style matured from experience as well as singing in other styles with other bands.”
The production value of her previous album Mirrors reveals a penchant to reach the prayer-like epiphany of Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan—like she was singing—“I just remembered to ask for this from Santa.” Her new song, California, achieves the singularity of a celebratory Jewel, and Labus pursues Jewel’s forte in the song Levi.
“I think my average fan’s playlist would include singer songwriters, maybe a lot of other female musicians, and probably pop or indie pop like Regina Spektor or Ingrid Michaelson or Grace Potter and the Nocturnals,” says Jessica.
For a sample of her tunes, check out her reverb nation page (http://www.reverbnation.com/jessicalabus/songs) and count the days till her new music, featured on Youtube, will be collected for a new album release.