Jesca Hoop on dreams and her new album, Memories Are Now
I originally did this interview for hmv.com/ca, but since the company has gone into receivership I’m posting here instead.
I have a vague recollection of talking to Jesca Hoop for Vancouver weekly the Georgia Straight around the time of the release her 2007 debut album, Kismet, when if memory serves she played the Commodore Ballroom as an opener (for who or what I can’t recall, though I have vague recollections of seeing her wearing a furry hat). One factoid that stood out at the time was that she had been nanny for Tom Waits‘ and his wife Kathleen Brennan‘s kids.
I hadn’t paid much attention since, but it turns out she released a few other albums and collaborated with a bunch of people, including Iron & Wine‘s Sam Beam. Listening to her 2017 album Memories Are Now (out Feb. 10 2017) prior to the interview was a pleasant surprise – it’s folky and dreamy, as befits a collection of songs from someone who keeps a dream diary/blog.
Here’s my interview, conducted a couple of weeks before the album’s release. Questions written down but not asked include: What are you getting at with the album title? and, This was recorded in a Moroccan restaurant?
SC: Where are you?
JH: I’m in Manchester, the sun is going down. And, it’s not raining.
SC: Is that a rarity?
JH: Well, the days are getting longer. The sun goes down at 3:30 in the winter time, and it’s raining the majority of te time. Today is clear as a bell.
SC: You’ve been living in the North of England for how long?
JH: The lion’s share of a decade.
SC: You must love it.
JH: I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t love it. Of course, I’m a California girl. You can’t take California out of the girls. So there are things that I miss. But there are things I miss when I leave England behind as well.
SC: Has living there affected your approach to music, or what you listen to?
JH: I’ve been introduced to a lot of stuff through living up here, and I’ve also learned more about British heritage. A lot of what I used to think was American because of my America-centric point of view, I later learned was British. I learned a lot about British music since moving over here. I’m not sure how it influences me, necessarily.
Video – Jesca Hoop, “The Lost Sky”:
SC: You keep a dream blog. How do you train yourself to remember dreams?
JH: I would say that dreaming is a practice that can help you with songwriting. More than I think I’m influenced by my dreams, I think the practice of dreaming influences my ability to write. I think the place that you write from is similar to or located in the same place in the brain. You have to be able to step outside of your conscious mind, and reach into a deeper well of subconsciousness to write, or at least I do. And if you’re able to look beyond the present moment, or what you can see on the surface, you’re able to reach more colourful ideas, or something perhaps more emotionally charged. And also there’s the whole realm of what surprising elements your imagination can think of that your conscious mind isn’t able to.
To remember dreams, you have to take some time to pause and reflect on them when you wake up. I generally bore somebody with what I dreamt or think about it myself. Then I write them down, very often. I also try to recall the dream in as many senses as I experienced it in. Which isn’t always in the six senses but often times is.
SC: Did you ever dream a song?
JH: I have a song called “Angel Mom” and it’s an exact account of a dream I had. The dream I felt was worth writing into a song because it pertained to my mother’s death. At the time I held the idea that if you saw your departed in a dream they were actually there. It was the first time I’d dreamt about my mother since she’d passed. It was on my birthday. And in the dream there was a song that was played on the radio… It’s a little complicated! (laughs) You have to listen to the song.
SC: Did you bring anything from the collaboration with Sam Beam to this album, whether in terms of lyrics or production?
JH: I actually wrote this one before I wrote the one with Sam Beam, so I can’t say I necessarily took anything in terms of the timing. But, I gained a lot through that experience in terms of… I don’t know, just feeling like… he encouraged me to rely on my songs, really. He reinforced my confidence in my own songs, that they stand on there own and that there’s a lot you can do with just your voice and the words you have to say. On the record there isn’t as much sonic information, it leans on the song and the singing of the song.