A Chat with Jenee Halstead (22.01.2021)

With her latest album, Jenee Halstead is pushing the boundaries and refusing to be pigeon-holed into a single genre. Disposable Love moves from edgy surf guitars to RnB ballads showcasing what Halstead has to offer and capturing the essence of each track. From societal change to the dark side of the digital world, the album has a lot to say and it does so with an exciting musical edge. We sat down with Jenee Halstead to talk about the album, covering different genres, musical stories and much more!

OSR: Over the years, your music has been influenced by different artists, meditation and experiences. How do you feel this has impacted the type of music you make?

Halstead: I think I have always been attracted to songwriters and musicians that seemed like they were writing from more of a heart space and instead of from the craft of song. I think craft is important, but I am definitely more drawn to music that feels like it is from a pure expression and totality of the artist. Take Kate Bush, for example, she is my absolute favourite musician. Her music feels like it comes up from the earth through her and straight through her heart. It feels like the full totality of who she is in every sense of her being.

I try to write from a place and express from a place this feels totally aligned with who I am. I could not sing a line that didn’t feel aligned with me. I think diving into meditation and having a serious yoga practice has allowed the creative flow to come through me with much more ease than it used to. I don’t have the severe doubts, at least not as much, that I used to when writing. Everything flows a bit more easily and I trust my voice so much more than I used to.

OSR: Your new album Disposable Love covers a range of different genres and musical styles. Was this something you actively worked on or did it evolve as you created the album?

Halstead: I think it evolved as I wrote and co-wrote with my producer Dave and my friend Susan Cattaneo, who is a songwriting professor at Berklee College of Music. There wasn’t an intention to write songs in different genres. I think it was more like “what do I want to say and what style of song would best express the way I want to say it”.

My producer Dave definitely has an amazing understanding of soul and RnB and that was one of the reasons I wanted to work with him. I wanted a soulful approach to the songs and it just blended beautifully and naturally with the writing. For example, ‘In the Seems’ was more of a country-soul song and Dave transformed it into a solid soul song.

OSR: Is there a genre that you prefer, or do you feel that they all have a place in your music?

Halstead: That is a great question! I really love, but can’t define what Kate Bush, Nick Cave and PJ Harvey do. I guess you would call it alternative, some people consider that a genre I guess. I love artists that uniquely do what they do without it fitting squarely into a genre. Neko Case, PJ Harvey, Kate Bush, Smog, Richard Buckner, Bonnie Prince Billy, Sam Phillips; these are all artists that write and express purely from the core of who they are without the constraint of genre. I am not sure if this exactly answers the questions.

OSR: Is there a theme or concept to the album?

Halstead: I think initially the theme was going to be about technology and AI and the darker side of this taking over our lives. But I also had ended a relationship when I started writing this and the pain of some of that experience found it’s way on the album, which I was actually trying to avoid. I think at the end of the day, I wanted the album to be more fun and more approachable than what I had set out to do. I am actually quite happy about this. To me, the entire album is listenable and the songs that have heavier content are buoyed by lighter pieces. I still believe in writing albums and experiencing albums, so this is always the lens from where I create.

OSR: Each of the tracks on the album tells its own story, but which would you say is closest to your heart?

Halstead: I think ‘Solitary People’ is probably closest to my heart. It is my story. It is completely and authentically something I needed to say and it was also something I was afraid to put out because I didn’t want to hurt the party and parties involved. It was the first time I had written so honestly and completely from my heart and it feels really good to have it out in the world.

OSR: If listeners could take away one thing from the album, what would you like that to be and why?

Halstead: I am not sure. I guess I just want people to have a joyful listening experience. I think when people get lost in daydream listening to an album, if anybody does that now, it is always a good sign you are doing good work. By this I mean, if it sparks creativity or takes a listener to a place of their own creative imagination, then my work is 100% done.

Jenee Halstead

OSR: How do you feel this album compares to the music you have previously released?

Halstead: I think the album is more “commercial” or whatever that means. It is bigger, the sound, the lushness, the production, the mixing and mastering. I am much more fully expressed in my singing. I don’t hold back in any way of this album. It comes from a place of a more rounded artistic expression and confidence.

OSR: What is the most memorable event you have ever played at?

Halstead: I am not sure. Playing live now seems like some other lifetime. Wow, I guess I could think of a handful of shows that I loved playing in the last 10 years and they usually had nothing to do with venue or size. I enjoyed them because of the amazing people that were in the audience. I actually love smaller shows where you can connect intimately with people and tell jokes and just get people going. This might sound like a nightmare for some people, but for me, it is the reason I do it. I love playing in Europe, especially Germany and Holland because people really listen and they are curious and inquisitive about the songs and the songwriting. They ask questions and it makes you feel like they are moved by the songs.

OSR: What advice would you give to budding musicians who want to follow in your footsteps?

Halstead: I would say keep your stable job if you have one and try and make music for the sake of making it. That sounds so opposite to most advice, but being a musician is very, very difficult and it seems to be getting harder. You really have to get creative about how you want to create revenue streams. It is a business at the end of the day and that isn’t really for everyone. I never want my creativity and my expression to be crushed by that part of music. For me, this is vital and everything else is secondary. I would say hold on to your soul and your muse and if you can navigate the rest of it without losing those two things then do whatever you can to protect them.

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the coming year?

Halstead: I think I am going to start making music more in the style of Dead Can Dance or even some of my favourite mantra artists like Simrit. I have really been called to do music that sits more in the World Music or dare I say “New Age” genre, although I loathe the name of that genre. I am interested in studying Bulgarian folk singing and I am hoping that if things change this year I can get there to study. If not this year then the next. So we will see. It may not happen this year, but the start of that new adventure will be beginning in some way. It’s hard to say what this year will hold for me, but I am sure a few singles will come out later in the year.

Thanks to Jenee Halstead for chatting with us! You can find more about her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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