Jeremy Small: Free Listening on Sound Cloud

May 18, 2015 by

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An Interview with Jeremy Small: Free Listening on Sound Cloud

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

Jeremy Small is an artist, musician, performer and songwriter living in the Land of Enchantment: beautiful New Mexico.

In this interview, he discusses the creative process, his work, and his music and shares some of his music and songs with this readership.

1) Jeremy, when did you first get involved with music?

I first got involved with music when the worship leader at my church announced that he would be giving voice and piano lessons. I had been very involved with artistic endeavors outside the realm of music up until that time, and thought it would be fun to learn piano. I was in the fourth grade.

2) Now, do you play an instrument or just sing?

I actually began my relationship with music several years before I began singing, with my introduction being the piano lessons I began taking in the fourth grade. After that, I started playing trumpet in the sixth grade. I played both instruments through high school, picking up French horn my junior year. I was even drum major of the marching band my senior year.

I am not sure I would have ever attempted to sing had I not been forced into an honor choir the final year of my elementary education. The teacher leading the choir had known both of my parents, and, being aware that they both loved to sing and had wonderful voices, did not give me the option to opt out! I fell in love with singing during my participation with that choir, and began to seriously pursue learning voice in the years that followed.

3) What kinds of contemporary music appeals to you?

I really enjoy a wide variety of contemporary music, and try not to limit myself by putting boundaries on what I listen to. However, my heart has a real soft spot for music from the past. I really enjoy the popular music of the 1940s— the great jazz standards that were sung by such monuments as Ella Fitzgerald and June Christy, and written by minds like Johnny Mercer and Louis Jordan. I also really enjoy classical forms of music such as art song and opera. I like to let all of these styles of music inform my songwriting, and bounce back and forth between what I listen to in order to best suit my mood. I believe that every style of music serves a purpose, and sometimes Puccini just cannot satisfy the soul like a Taylor Swift heartbreak ballad!

4) The composing process – what is it like for you – or should I ask – what comes first, the words or the music?

It all depends on the song. The most natural and honest songs I write come from allowing myself to experience the moment, whether that be a conversation that keeps cycling around my mind, an incident which I can’t quite let go, a sense or emotion that pervades my body and seems to be all-encompassing… I find myself in these moments and sit at the piano. Sometimes I can’t comprehend what it is that I am feeling, and the music comes first. Sometimes I hear a text that plays on repeat, and I will sing it out, over and over again, until the melody aligns with how the words resonate within me. Often, the two seem to happen simultaneously.

The biggest lesson I have had to learn with the composing process is to not force a song’s completion. Many times I will get a verse, or just a chord progression, and it will sit perfectly with my soul, but no matter how hard I try to continue, I cannot. I have learned to set those snippets aside, wait until I find myself in a similar mood or frame of mind, and pull it out again, hoping that what I have experienced between my interactions with the music will inform how I should continue. Sometimes that waiting process takes months!

5) Forgive my ignorance- but what exactly is “Sound Cloud” and who can post what on it?

Essentially, it is a website that allows anyone to upload digital recordings and share them, by providing individuals with a webpage that can be viewed either by the public, or by individuals personally invited to access private recordings. It is a great way for artists to share their work, and provides links for purchase should listeners wish to buy the music to which they are listening.

6) Talk about one of your songs – and then provide us with the link to enjoy it?

“Out of My Hands” was written after a conversation I had with the brother of my ex-girlfriend. To say that the entire situation was complicated would be a vast understatement. I remember trying so hard to understand…trying so hard to figure out what exactly had happened and how it had all transpired.

Eventually, or perhaps even during the course of composing this song, I realized that sometimes trying to figure out “why” isn’t particularly helpful, and the best thing you can do is let go and hope that time will bring clarity.

The recording process for this song was a lot of fun, yet provided some very particular challenges. The percussion track was recorded in a bathroom for the sort of distant, blurred-edge sound that the acoustics of the bathroom provided. We recorded it late at night, and trying to explain why we were transporting an entire trap set into a bathroom was quite comical. The many tempo changes in the song, fairly uncommon in current pop-music, were a real challenge, and would have had to have been completely scrapped without the patience and dedication of the team, led by my good friend Aaron Wagner. All in all, I am really proud of the tongue-in-cheek atmosphere we were able to achieve, as the song was never meant to be anything too profound or serious.

This is “Out of My Hands” by J. Small, from the EP The Inbetween:

7) Jeremy, I know about these mp3 things – and you buy songs and download them. Is this the wave of the future?

It is not the wave of the future, it is already our current reality! As technology continues to advance, physical recordings (such as CDs) are becoming more and more neglected for the convenience of mp3s. The format of the mp3 allows for thousands of recordings to be available at the click of a button, always waiting to be accessed by the phone in our pocket. The format also makes the sharing of music incredibly simple; through platforms such as Soundcloud and Facebook, songs can be made available to mass numbers of people at no cost and in as little as the few minutes it takes to provide a link.

8) What have I neglected to ask?

We have covered quite a bit of ground! I would just like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my music. I continue to learn about my own creative process, and am sure that will be an endeavor that will continue until the day I die. Listening back to my own writing, I am often shocked to realize the influence, or the meaning, that was in its inception completely beyond me. I am grateful to have the support of people that love and believe in me, and an artistic community to challenge me, from whom I still have so much to learn!

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