Jay Elle is a folk music artist who has just released the EP Rising Tide; here is a link to his website:
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
A: Great question. My first performance was a bit part in an elementary school play. I was carrying a small chest. I was one of the kings bringing gifts to the baby Jesus.
I loved the whole experience except that I had to wear tights and for some reason I didn’t dig that part of the outfit so much. Otherwise, I enjoyed appearing in front of an audience and I guess that was enough of a jumpstart to get me going.
I did not get into music until a few years later, in grammar school. But once I started playing guitar and singing with bands there was no doubt that performing music was the way to go for me. The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it. It was just a lot of fun. And still is.
Q: Why folk music?
A: Folk is a genre that I love because it can bring together great music and great lyrics. It gives you a lot of freedom, especially when you are by yourself: one voice and one guitar. The possibilities are endless. And it is a lot easier to travel with an acoustic guitar.
It is only one of the genres I enjoy exploring though. Add to that other ways to use a guitar or many guitars. My debut EP, Rising Tide, brings together different guitar based orchestrations and arrangements.
I love variety in an album, much like what you find in the “News of the World” or “Jazz” albums by Queen, or the first albums by Billy Joel for instance.
I would love to include at least one instrumental guitar piece on my upcoming CD, or have one or more available for download. I write classical inspired pieces for guitars, pieces that I think might actually be potential Ballet dance music.
In my view, an album should be a journey to various places, much like a live performance. I would love for me and my guitar to take you to a dance hall, the Appalachians, or a Chicago Blues club while you sit in your favorite chair. Even better if I can make you time travel…
Folk music written for guitar is one of these genres and a great starting point. The rest of the EP, “Rising Tide,” gives you other flavors. On the second song, “Twelve on Sunday,” I use a nylon string Ovation and no other instrument. It’s just me and my guitar. The other songs were recorded with a full band and incorporate edgy rock elements, varying from one song to the next. They all tell a story that is meaningful to me lyrically.
Q: Who are some of your influences and how can we see this in your music?
A: I admire anyone who writes well-crafted songs from Cole Porter to many contemporary writers you hear on the radio today, in all genres. Of course, I have my preferences, writers who combine lyrics and music in a very unique way, and happen to be amazing musicians and singers or performers, some of which are now classics in my mind: Billy Joel, Freddie Mercury, Paul McCartney, Sting, Eminem, Snoop Dogg,…etc.
I am a big fan of Billy Idol, B.B. King, Katy Perry, Elvis Presley, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Pat Benatar, Eric Clapton, Jay Z, Beyoncé, etc… so the list is quite long and eclectic. Add to that classical composers like Bach, Chopin and Liszt, to name only a few, and the list of influences becomes endless.
Hopefully, my songs reflects my openness to music in general and, over time, I hope to share more and more of my discovering different genres and what I find exciting when I listen to other writers and performers.
If there is a second universal language, beside love, it would be music, in my humble opinion. Bringing people together through songs and music is a fantastic opportunity to “make the world a better place.” That may sound a bit idealistic of course. To me, bringing people together means being open and looking forward to hearing something new and different. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of the New York City cultural melting pot model. When you think about it, New York City brings together such various groups of people in a very peaceful way compared to places in the world where much less cultural variety seem to be more threatening to some groups of people. I would say that one of my overall messages is “keep an open mind.”
Q: What do you look for in the people that you collaborate with?
A: A completely different view point and approach to what I do. Lots of creativity and skills I don’t have.
Otherwise, I would run around in circles. I do my best to challenge myself and “think outside my little box, the one between my ears,” but it’s a lot of fun when you have the opportunity to include other artists and share knowledge and experiences.
Q: What has been the most successful thing you have done to promote your music?
A: Working with Star1 Records and MTS Management Group has been amazing. Laura Patterson, the head of Star1 Records has a fantastic team. Sherry works with College Radio stations and over 100 of them are playing songs from the EP “Rising Tide,” which was released on December 1st, 2016.
Michael Stover (MTS Management Group) has lined up great interviews like this one. It has been the perfect example of team work from day one. I am forever grateful for the energy and time they are dedicating to the promotion of “Rising Tide.”
Laura has brought Chris Purcell on board to create and direct a video of “You Got Away,” the third cut on the EP. Chris is both a very talented director and animator. I am very excited about the concept he came up with and I look forward to presenting the video to people. A great video can be a powerful promotional tool.
Q: What has been the least successful?
A: I have dabbled with some of the well-known Internet social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, etc…
I think I have much to learn to use them effectively. I look forward to that challenge in the coming months. These sites are great. I just need to do my homework.
Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your music?
I have hopped from office jobs to office jobs, either managing projects for marketing companies or insurance companies.
Seven years ago my mom passed away after battling breast cancer. She left me a little bit of money and some wise words: “Time passes faster than we think.”
So, I decided to save up as much money as possible and cut down on my expenses. I have a very tiny studio in Manhattan. I don’t have a car, I don’t have cable, and I don’t buy anything I don’t need. I also have a very generous aunt who helps out as much as she can. She bought me my first guitar, and my second guitar as well.
I quit working a year ago altogether to dedicate myself to making music for as long as I possibly can, living off my savings. I hope at some point I can generate enough income to support myself. As with any small business though, the first years are expenses after expenses and very little income.
I love that I can dedicate myself to writing and recording songs, and be available for interviews and supporting the promotion of my debut EP, Rising Tide.
It’s a big leap of faith.
Q: What is your creative process?
A: Stitching and sewing.
I practice guitar and sing every day. Part of the practice time is dedicated to pure improvisation and during that time I occasionally hear some musical ideas that I like. I record the ideas on a small Olympus Digital Voice Recorder and keep on going. Every few days I listen back to what I have recorded. I have tons of them. When one really catches my attention and keeps coming back to my mind I dedicate time to it on a daily basis to see where it wants to go.
I also write a lot of lyrics. Some of them were put to music by other artists. I collect words that I think I could use eventually.
I find that music leads the way, sometimes immediately associated to lyrics or a lyrical idea or an image that I translate to words. Most of the time I look for lyrics in my collection that could go well with a musical idea. When I start with a “finished” lyric I am rarely happy with the result. I need to get better at that. Some people can do it super well.
Then the process gets tedious as I go back and forth between the music and lyrics, that’s the stitching and sewing, if you will.
I get to what I feel is a finished product at some point and start recording a guitar and vocal track.
Then there is more listening and fine tuning. It’s really the song that tells me when it’s done. If I can listen to it from beginning to end without “stopping myself,” then it’s done. Sometimes my mind stops over and over at the same place in the song and it can take a long time to figure out why.
Some parts of the song come out just right and I never question them. I never stop while I listen to these parts. I couldn’t tell you why either.
I wish I could just pick up my guitar, turn on the recorder, sing and play and have a whole song come out all at once. A good one of course. Done! That would be great. Hasn’t happened yet.
Q: What is the overall theme of Rising Tide?
A: “Rising Tide” is both the title of the first song on the EP, and the title of the EP.
I would say the overall theme of the EP is “standing for yourself and others.” By yourself, or with others. It’s a theme I like as we all face challenges in life. How we deal with challenges is very revealing of who we are. We learn from each one of them. And no matter what happens, we have to get back up on our feet, should the outcome be disappointing. Sometimes we are elated by unexpected positive results. Either way.
One thing I believe we realize pretty quickly is that nothing can be achieved by one individual alone, as much as society glorifies “individual achievements,” there is no individual achievement. Nothing good or bad is achieved by one person.
We should be aware of what we stand for and why, who we influence, who influences us, knowingly or unknowingly so.
There is a famous statement and provocative poem that I think illustrate this perfectly. It was written by Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazis‘ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. It is titled “First they came …”
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
It’s easy to follow without questioning. Keep an open mind but question everything.
For the song “Rising Tide,” I experienced missing someone in my life and the emotion was so powerful that it brought to mind how no one can stop the tide when it comes in.
You may be able to fight a fire, but rising waters will rise until they stop on their own. The feeling of being on an island and watching water rising around you while you stand on the last piece of ground reflected my state of mind. Especially in this case, where I did not know how the other person felt. It added to the loneliness of the experience and the need to keep going.
Q: If you could ask any famous folk singer in history a question, who would you ask and what would you ask him or her?
A: I would ask Bob Dylan if he would be willing to collaborate on a song. That is, if he would allow me to sit quietly while I watch and listen. I’d go get coffee every now and then.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.