Courtney Jaye – Looking For Some Love and Forgiveness
by Jay S. Jacobs
When we last left Courtney Jaye, she had just released her debut album Traveling Light, which in my opinion was one of the ten best albums of 2005. At the time her label Island/Def Jam was hoping that she would become a huge star. Through some bad luck and bad mojo that stardom ended up not happening, although the gorgeous songs “Can You Sleep?” and “Lose My Head” got a certain amount of notice and the wonderfully poppy “Can’t Behave” became a minor hit. Still, the album did not sell as expected and Jaye received an up close and personal look at the win–at–all–costs dark side of the label system. The imprint abandoned the album way too quickly and it has since become a lost treasure.
This is where it ends for many musicians. However Courtney Jaye just picked up, dusted herself off and moved on – to Nashville, Tennessee. In the years since, she has become a vital part of Music City’s alt-country world, marrying her old-school rock vibe with a traditional country edge. And she’s doing it her way, for her own label. Her first release of the new incarnation was the 2007 EP ‘Til It Bleeds. She followed that up with the lovely 2010 release The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye, which paid tribute to the music of Hawaii, where Jaye called home for a while.
Now Jaye is releasing her third full-length album, and it may well be her best yet. Love and Forgiveness mixes Jaye’s supple vocals with her natural pop sense, creating a country-rock platter which is both wonderfully retro as well as right on the pulse of today. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if Love and Forgiveness brought Jaye the stardom that alluded her on her earlier album? That may not happen, but the album is strong enough that a buzz may build up.
Soon after Love and Forgiveness was released, Jaye gave us a call to catch us up on her music, her career and her life.
You told me years ago that you pick up a little bit of the music everywhere you live. What have you learned from Nashville?
I have learned the importance of writing a good song. (laughs) I have learned don’t even get out of bed and slip in the studio unless you have the songs. It’s such a song–oriented city. I think that is what has been imparted the most upon me.
Love and Forgiveness definitely has a bit more of a country vibe than Traveling Light. And yet, it’s not really typical of most of the country that is coming out of music city, either. Do you feel an affinity with old school country rock?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the music that I listen to and that’s the music that got into my system at a very early age. Because of my family and my parents and their musical tastes: It just stuck with me. It’s the music that I have learned from. The artists that I grew up listening to. So yeah, I feel it belongs more in that world.
I noticed that the new album is a little further away from the Hawaiian music that you did on The Exotic Sounds and even on “Traveling Light” and “Hanalei Road.” Although I did pick up a hint of it in “One–Way Conversation.” Did you feel that sound was a little off the track of what you were doing in the new album?
Yeah. I feel like I got Exotic Sounds out of my system. That had been in the back of my mind for close to ten years, wanting to make what I call a “Hawaiian country” album. I think once I got that out, I was able to look at the songs and the material that I had already that I didn’t put on Exotic Sounds. A whole other record was being written and I didn’t even realize it. When I did realize that the songs had a common thread that in my mind harken back to songs of the 1970s, I just wanted to let the songs become what they wanted to become. I didn’t want to stylistically fit them into any sort of a box. That’s what we tried to do in the recording process.
Who were some of the singers who originally inspired you to take up music and inspired this project?
Oh, lord. Dolly Parton. Linda Ronstadt. Neil Young is actually probably my top, my number one. The Band. Carole King. Oh, there’s so many. There’s so many.
I loved all the styles you played with in the album, “I Thought About It” had sort of a bossa nova backing, “Summer Rain” had the pedal steel feel, “Morning” was rather poppy. Do you enjoy the opportunity to play with styles in your music?
Absolutely. I feel there is an art to balancing a record out. Allowing the songs to become what they want, but also maintaining a common thread that holds the record together. I feel like for this record there were different elements in every song. Again, it wasn’t a conscious thing, but when it was all said and done, I did realize: okay, “I Thought About It,” that has a disco groove to it. Then “One Way Conversation” has this sort of Levon Helm rhythm to it. “New Day” sort of has this Dolly Parton sort of feel. I realized there is a way to balance it all out. But yeah, I do. I love to experiment.