Jem: Is this Vinnie?
J: Vinnie, do you taste like chicken?
V: Dude, thatís the foulest thing anyoneís ever said to me in an interview.
J: Sorry. I had to ask. (laughs) So, how are you doing today?
V: Iím good. How are you doing?
J: Iím great! Iíve got a bit of a hangover, but I think thatís a bit rock 'n' roll, so allís fine.
J: Iím all good.
V: How many more interviews are you doing today?
J: Ummm,.. actually, I think youíre the last one.
V: The last one?
J. Yeah. Then, actually, I get to watch a movie this afternoon, which is pretty cool.
V: What are you gonna watch?
J: I think itís a new film, and they want to put some music in it. Usually you just say ďyesĒ or ďnoĒ, but for this one, I actually get to see it.
V: No way.
J: Yeah! Itís perfect, because Iíve got a hangover, so I can just sit and watch it.
J: I canít think of anything better, except maybe to get a burger or something beforehand. (laughs) I did just finish a promo tour, and it was totally insane, so I think I deserve a bit of a rest. (laughs)
V: How was it?
J: You know, it was brilliant meeting people and all, but amazingly-- or not amazingly, actually-- I took the rain everywhere I went.
J: Seriously! We were in the airport last night, and me and my guitarist were looking at the map together, and everywhere weíve been was covered in rain. (laughs) Everywhere else was absolutely fine. Actually, todayís my first sunny day, and Iíve been to L.A., San Diego, and New York. Itís funny to come back to New York and have it actually be lovely.
J: Seriously! My chaps had never been to L.A., and I was like, ďOh! Itís wicked! Itís this, itís that, la la la,...Ē We get there, and it just pissed down for three days.
J: In San Diego and San Francisco, it was alright for about two hours. But really, itís so much fun to travel around America.
V: So, you have a band now?
J: At the moment, itís being formed. Well, I was going to say that, but itís a lie, actually, (laughs) because I need to put it together. I think I go home in a week, come back in three weeks, and then we go. So Iím going to put a band together before the tour, and then Iím going to tour for the rest of my life, just like Dave Matthews.
J: Iím gonna get some top tips from him on how not to get mad on the road. I canít wait.
V: Have you met Dave Matthews?
J: I have, actually. I met him a few times. I hadnít seen him in awhile, but I saw him last week when we went to Seattle, where it obviously rained. He came out to dinner with us, which was very nice. He was laughing because I was saying how much I liked his album, and he was calling me a cow, because he thought mine was really good.
J: But, no, heís absolutely wicked, and heís been amazing to us.
V: Was he an integral part in signing you to ATO Records (Matthews' record label)?
J: I couldnít tell you behind the scenes whether he was, but we actually met his A&R guy, Bruce Flohr-- who actually signed Dave ten or eleven years ago-- to RCA. I met him, and he kinda went mad and phoned every day for three weeks. (laughs) I didnít meet Dave Ďtil later, but I heard that he really liked the album and was like, ďYou know, weíve really got to sign her.Ē
V: Did you feel any pressure at all by having this huge, famous rock star pick your album?
J: Well, no! Thatís the funny part. When it actually happened, I didnít know who he really was!
J: Yeah! Well, thatís a bit untrue. I actually had heard of him. They did do a campaign for him in the UK about five years ago, so I knew the name. But when I met him, I was literally like, ďHey. Hello. Howís it going?Ē My manager, whoís my sister, just went straight up to him and gave him a hug, because weíre quite friendly, you know? And heís obviously a very friendly person, too, but was a bit taken aback by her just coming out and giving him a hug. Heís not used to that, because he is a huge rock star. So, we were just like, ďHow are you?Ē
J: Then, that night, we went to Radio City Music Hall, to see him do an acoustic gig, and we were just totally freaked out, like, ďOh my God!Ē The streets were closed down! It was certainly amazing. So, before, we were just like, ďHi, Dave.Ē But afterward, I was like, ďYouíre fucking amazing!Ē It was wicked. Very good. Heís brilliant. He really is. Being on ATO is quite suitable, in a way, because heís not really caught up in all that rock star crap, you know? He just kinda says what he thinks.
V: And I think the two of you are peers in a way, which a lot of people might not recognize. I mean, you both have a pretty eclectic sound about you.
J: Well, thatís nice to hear! Iíve only just discovered his music, but,.. have you heard Daveís new solo record?
V: Actually, Iíve only heard him from other people playing it.
V: Yeah. Iíve never really listened to him.
J: I think itís really good. I really like it, a lot. Before that, Iíd only heard,.. well, they gave me Busted Stuff last year. He is quite eclectic, isnít he? Heís got the sax and fiddle. And, with me, Ge-ology chucked in some very strange instruments on my record. (laughs)
V: Yeah, man. I owe you an apology.
J: (laughs) Why?
V: Because, when we first got the press release, Dani (Lovett, Cornerstone Media) was really pushing for us to talk to you--
J: And you were like, ďI donít want to speak to that Welsh bitch!Ē (laughs)
V: (laughs) No, no. The press release was all like, ďPop songstress,.. worked with Madonna,..Ē and I was like, ďOh, boy.Ē
J: See? Thatís a lesson in not judging. Because, I have to say, one of the songs on the record that people love,.. when I heard that sheíd actually written it with this guy-- who I didnít want to work with because he had written Cherís ďBelieveĒ--
J: You know that song? Well, it was a big lesson for me in not judging! I heard Madonnaís song, and was like, ďOh, I shouldnít judge.Ē They wrote a great song! I donít know. What would you call it, because I canít actually bracket myself?
V: What, your sound?
V: I donít know. See, itís something you could totally hear on the radio, but then a mandolin will come into a song, and Iím like, ďWhat the fuck?Ē
J: I know! I love it! You know whatís really funny? I was actually watching Captain Corelliís Mandolin about three weeks before doing the album. We were recording ďTheyĒ, and we were going through some sounds, and I had these mandolins. I was like, ďWe have to use them! Theyíre amazing!Ē
J: Iím sure if I hadnít watched that film, they might not have been in my head. Itís really funny how things like that happen. Itís funny you mention it, too, because we tried to go with ďTheyĒ for the single. I really like that song. And the radio stations-- thereís obviously a lot of pressure on them over here-- but they have added it as a single, and they said they get 50 calls a day about it. Itís a rock station, too, which is cool. I just think people want something different. Like, I was listening to a radio station out in L.A. the other day, and it was like Sting,.. and Sting,.. well, it was pretty much all Sting.
J: I mean, I heard that station and was like, ďThereís no way theyíll play my song on here.Ē But, really, I think all it would take to get people into it is actually getting the music into their ears, because then people would be like, ďWhat the fuck is this?Ē (laughs)
J: Iím really glad it has that kind of impact.
V: The best thing I can compare it to, when Iím talking to people I really want to hear it, is Portishead, but really happy.
J: (laughs) Oh, thatís really nice! I like that a lot. Theyíre absolutely brilliant!
V: Yeah. Their stuff is so layered, yet sounds really sparse. And I think on Finally Woken, there are so many layers to it, but it still sounds very simple and sparse.
V: And thereís some stuff, too, where itís really hard to categorize what youíre doing. I read that youíre really into Stevie Wonder, and there are times where I can definitely hear that vibe.
J: I love him. (laughs) I was just telling someone, actually, that I sent a letter to him years ago, in braille, that said, ďPlease produce my album!Ē But I never heard back. And I really do want to do it. I was always thinking, ďBah! Iíve got to get in touch with him!Ē And then, one day, I was skiing, and found out a friendís mum had a braille typewriter. So I typed it and mailed it to him. But Iíve never heard back from him.
V: Man, youíve got to use some of this leverage now that youíre famous!
J: Well, I will!
J: Iím gonna get him on the phone! Iíve got the management details, because I tracked it all down, you know? Stevieís someone Iíd absolutely love to write a song with.
V: Who else is on that wish list?
J: I think Iíd actually sway more towards wanting to work with people in hip-hop. You know, Iíd love to work with The Rza.
V: Oh, man.
J: Iím definitely interested in contacting him. Actually, I want to track down his details, because I want to see if heíd do a remix.
V: Oh, wow.
J: Iíd love to work with hip-hop people. Maybe write the music and the hooks, but not actually sing it, you know? I mean, itís a bit cheesy sometimes when hip-hop has singing in the chorus, but,...
V: I donít know. I think thereís some really good shit like that.
J: Well, I think if itís catchy and they had really good raps, itíd be great. But, you know, weíll see what we can do to infiltrate those circles. (laughs)
V: Working with Ge-ology, did you get to meet a lot of MCs or other producers?
J: No. We just locked ourselves away at his place in Brooklyn. But I did actually work with Michael Elizando, who is Dr. Dreís right-hand man. And that was sweet. Heís such a nice guy. Itís funny, I keep meeting such nice people that everyoneís starting to think my perceptions of people are so wrong, because lately Iíve been saying that everyoneís so nice.
J: But really, everyone that I meet is nice! And he was totally un-hip-hop, and just wicked. Other than that, though, I havenít really met anyone else involved in hip-hop. But, I mean, itís just like meeting anyone else, isnít it?
V: I just wondered, you know, with wanting to get into that scene, if youíd met anyone.
J: No. Iím trying to think, actually. There probably are some others, but I canít remember. Mostly in the UK. I have a lot of friends involved with dance music and stuff like that. The hip-hop thing is something that I definitely eye from afar, and admire it, especially when I DJ. And thatís the great thing if your music gets big-- it can open doors, so you could maybe call Stevie Wonder, you know?
V: Do you see yourself going down a similar path to Sly and Stevie, where you are making really successful pop records that are also musically fresh and creative?
J: Do I think Iíll do that in the future?
V: Well, as opposed to--
J: Are you saying that my recordís not really catchy or really good?!? (laughs)
V: (laughs) No! What Iím saying is, you arenít doing the typical pop star thing. Youíre not following a Britney Spears path.
J: Oh, no. I would never. But I havenít really thought it out, either. This music is just what comes out of my head and my heart, you know? So, just whatever happens, happens. I really am in love with music. It just blows me away, every day, and every night. You know how, if you donít have anything in the world, some people get a dog to keep them company? Well, to me, music is like that. Itís always been there, and itís always just amazed me. Thatís what I get out of music. I think thereís no question that, for example, maybe by my third or fourth album, I might do an acoustic album. Thatíd be great, you know?
J: Iíve always wanted to travel the world, and record a different song in each country. Just hang out with different indigenous peoples and make a crazy album. But, yesterday, me and my guitarist came to the conclusion, ďForget that!Ē He said, ďYou should do a mad third album where you totally lose it.Ē So, itís been decided that on my third album, Iím gonna lose it and go mad in Germany.
V: Iíll have to interview you from the asylum.
J: Yeah! (laughs) We laughed about it for ages, but I think Iím gonna have to hold myself to it! So, Iíll deliberately make myself go mad by that point.
V: So, did you assemble a band for Finally Woken, or did you play a lot of the instruments?
J: Well, we didnít have a band for the album. When we did the album, it happened a few different ways, depending on who I wrote with. For example, with Ge-ology, I always had the samples on vinyl, so weíd chop those up in his studios. Then weíd pick a beat; heís got the most amazing beats! Weíd kind of arrange it from there, and those became demos. Then, when I met Yoad (Nevo), Iíd finally met someone I could do a whole album with. So we just locked ourselves in a studio, away from everyone, where there was no pressure. Basically, he is a genius with instruments. And that was perfect for me, 'cause I can always hear things in my head. Like, Iíll know I want it to be a harp, but I canít play it. Iíll hear the melodies, but I traditionally write on keyboard and piano. So, weíd get the tracks to a certain point, then just stare at all the instruments he has hanging on his wall. Weíd start choosing. ďWhat about the banjo?Ē or ďWhat about the rock guitar?Ē Heíd start playing something, and Iíd kind of direct him. It was cool, too, because weíd keep an eye on each other.
J: Iíd keep an eye on him, because he likes dodgy, '80s rock drums. (laughs) And Iíd tell him, ďThereís no fucking way that snare drum is going in the track!Ē (laughs) Iím very picky about my drum beats.
J: Seriously! Certain snare shots make me feel sick. Like, I get physically sick! And he would always lean towards them. And he would keep an eye on me in terms of adding little melodies. We have lots of counter-melodies on the record, and, occasionally, Iíll want to put one too many on the track. Heíd be like, ďWe donít really need it.Ē And Iíd say, ďYeah. Youíre right, actually.Ē
J: Itís all been perfect, though. The whole path, up to this point, has just been perfect. Iím really happy.
V: So, then, I have to ask you-- The story on your site about the crystal river--
J: Oh my God! From that book!
J: Someone told me that I shouldnít put it up there because of copyright.
V: Fuck that.
J: Thatís what I thought! If whoever wrote that-- Richard Bach, presumably-- thought nice enough, he wouldnít sue me. (laughs) Did you like it?
V: Yeah, I did.
J: Oh, isnít it just-- I read it, and was like, ďNo way! Thatís amazing!Ē
V: At what point in all of this did you discover it? Was it back when you were working for the label, or when you were just getting signed?
J: No. Actually, let me think,.. It was actually about 2001. You know, everyone says, ďRead The Alchemist.Ē Whatever. So I read that one, then I read something different, and then I read the book this quote is from, and I just loved that part! To me, that just summed up everything, you know what I mean? I think that anything is possible, but weíre all a little bit limited by ourselves, whether itís fear or whatever. But the imagery of this little, (laughs)-- I donít even know what it is, a mollusk? Something,.. the image of him letting go, causing the other ones to go, ďOh my God! He can fly!Ē
J: But all he did was let go, you know what I mean? People might see me and go, ďOh, wow! Sheís so special.Ē But Iím not any more special than anyone else, you know? I just worked for something. And I really believe anyone can do anything. Itís really nice that you read it!
V: Yeah, well, when I read it, it struck me that it kinda echoed your own personal professional history. I thought, ďWow! What are the odds of finding something like that?Ē So I wondered when you came across it.
J: Well, I didnít find it before I got into music. I was going down that road naturally, you know? I consider myself an eternal optimist, knowing full well that life is actually quite hard. Itís not like I go around saying, ďWow! Everything is great!Ē
J: I think that life is quite hard, but youíve got to make the best of it. And, definitely, something weird has happened in this last year where I just feel like, truly, I just donít want to care about that hard stuff. Thereís so much crap that we concern ourselves with thatís just so limiting, and it stops everyone from doing things. Technically, the song ďTheyĒ could be about Big Brother. But itís more about how we listen to ďtheyĒ and what ďtheyĒ say and what their opinions are, even though we donít look into them for ourselves, you know?
J: I went to Turkey last year, and when I came back, someone was like, ďOh my God! You went to Turkey on your own?Ē Very concerned, you know? And I said, ďYeah. Why?Ē And their response was, ďOh, you know,.. itís so dodgy!Ē And I thought about it, and if someone had said that to me before I went, I might not have gone, because we tend to just listen to shit like that. And itís such bullshit! And Iím done with it. I donít want that in my life. And that passage from that book just encapsulated it for me.
V: Man, you should come hang out here, because weíre all pretty much of the same opinion.
J: Where are you based?
V: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
J: Wait, wait, wait,.. hang on. My geography,.. let me figure this out. I donít think itís the Midwest, is it?
J: Oh, I got it! Is it near Nebraska? No, is it down from Nebraska?
V: No, weíre up North.
J: North? Oh, well, I tried.
J: Iíve got a world map in my studio because my geography was so bad that I thought Canada was in America. (laughs) I kept correcting my friend who said she was going to Canada. Iíd say, ďYou mean America.Ē Sheíd go, ďNo! Iím going to Canada.Ē And Iíd say, ďYeah. America.Ē (laughs) I donít know if youíve got Risk over here. Itís a board game.
J: Well, thatís how I learned my geography when I was young, and it didnít have Canada on it! It was just territories! So, I bought a world map now, and Iím studying America so I know where Iím going. But no, itíd be great, hanging out. Actually, hopefully, when I start touring, weíll go everywhere. And Iím really glad you liked that story. Iím going to keep it up there. I actually donít think Iíd get sued for it.
V: You know, itís a really cool thing. So if people get on you about copyright laws,.. fuck that! Itís what inspired you, and you should share that.
J: Good. Iím going to keep it up. Thank you. (laughs)