There is nothing that I admire more than a musician who puts herself and her music out there for all to see & hear. My next guest is the epitome of this and I could not be happier for Jill Cagney as she releases her sophomore CD, ‘It’s All In How You see Things’ Saturday night at Crossroads in Garwood, NJ. I have heard the album twice now, and with catchy songs like “Riverbed” and “Change Your Mind” I plan on having this album playing all summer long. Come on out and support a musician who does not need to use shock value & controversy for you to enjoy her tunes, go Jill!
Stoli: Where are we talking from today and what are your plans for the Spring?
Jill Cagney: Hi Stoli! We are talking from my living room couch in Cranford N.J. I have been very focused on releasing “It’s All In How You See Things” on 4/30. I am booking the “spring weekend tour”, which means that I am lining up gigs after the release every weekend until school lets out, and then a more planning for a more extensive tour this summer. I will also be working on building my own business; “Change Your Mind Music” which is registered in NJ, but requires some more of my attention and thought. I am going to try to plant some flowers too.
Stoli: How are you feeling about the release of your new album this month?
Jill Cagney: I am completely excited about the release!
First, the release party is going to be amazing. I have lined up two very cool and very different opening acts for the show. Salon of Refuse is a five person band with an alternative sound that reminds me of some of my favorite bands like Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction. Jared McCloud is an accomplished singer/songwriter whose music I listen to all the time, and whose work is powerful and melodic. All three of us have very different sounds that I believe complement each other. Plus, since it’s my release, I picked artists whose music I love, even if it is very different than mine.
Second, I love this album and believe that there is something for everyone on it. It has been a huge step forward for me in my writing and performance and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
Stoli: What must you do as an independent artist to promote the new album and do you enjoy the process?
Jill Cagney: To promote a new album, I think you have to think outside of the box. Of course I have done the expected things like press releases, email lists, social media promotion, flyers etc., but I have also spent time thinking about what other avenues there are. What I have found is that there is a wealth of experience and creativity amongst my friends and fans, and they are very happy to get involved and spread the word. I also think that artists should help and cross-promote each other and have reached out to artists who I have gotten to know over the years.
This time around I have enlisted the amazing Eugene Foley to promote the release. I have hit the point in my career where I needed to build my circle of professionals around me. Having said that I am very careful about who is a part of that circle.
I can say that I am learning to enjoy the process. As an independent artist in the music business as it is currently, you must be able to wear every hat; writer, performer, booking agent, manager, and promoter. Of course, there is the part of me that would like to only write and perform, but that is not the way things work now. I figure that anything you do can be a part of your creative process if you look at it that way….it’s all in how you see things!
Stoli: This will be your second album since 2009. How have you grown as a musician and how is this album different?
Jill Cagney: This album is better!
When “Sometimes I Tell The Truth” came out, I was proud of and happy with the album. I had written some newer songs for it, but had older songs that I had wanted to record that I put on that record.
After that release, I began writing for the new album. I have to say that working with my producer, Jason Rubal, has been an incredibly creative and enriching experience for me, and that my writing has grown significantly since getting together with him. He explained to me how singer/songwriters often write in a linear way…same strumming patterns and vocal patterns throughout the song, and advised me to consider restructuring some of my songs to make them more interesting and engaging. I have taken this to heart and feel that it has made a big difference in my writing.
This album is different because I wrote specifically for it. I think in the past I would spend a lot of time second guessing myself about whether or not I should write a song about what was on my mind, and this time I worked hard not to do that. For example, I was talking with my son one day about cell phones and how strongly attached people are to them. I work as a social worker in a high school, and when students gets there phones taken away, they lose their minds. I made a joke about the 5 stages of grief in relationship to losing your cell phone, and my son said “You should write a song about that” and that became “Cell Phone”. Another song on the album was about a student who had been suffering with so much loss, and just when we thought things were ok, he had another significant loss. I wrote about it to try to understand how to help him, and that became “Breaking Point”.
Stoli: If you had to choose the standout single for the album what would that be and will there be a video?
Jill Cagney: It is hard for me to choose the standout single and when I ask others, people will pick different ones. For me, I love “Riverbed”. I love the music, the harmonies and the lyrics.
A video is definitely in the plans after the release. We have narrowed down the choices for which song to “If You Leave Me”, “Riverbed” or “Cell Phone”
Stoli: Who are you talking to in your song “If You Leave Me…” and is that a threat or promise?
Jill Cagney: Ha! That song is more a plain statement of fact! The story behind that one is that I had played my song “Leaving” at a showcase at the SSCape May Conference. That song is about the how the worst part of someone leaving you is the time right before they go. After the gig a friend of mine asked if “leaving” was about my husband, and I said “No, if he left me I’d kill him”. That was it….new song.
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Stoli: How much time per week do you spend doing music and do you have to balance family or work as well?
Jill Cagney: I would say I spend 20 plus hours a week on the music. I do have a full time job as a school social worker and have a family. I think of it as having three full time jobs. Luckily, I have school hours and my family is very supportive and encouraging of the music. I find balancing these things requires being very focused, having a schedule and organizing my time. I set aside specific hours for writing, rehearsing, booking, promoting etc…and stick to them. It also really helps that my husband is an excellent photographer and designer, so he takes care of that end of things for me…another reason he can’t leave!
It is my goal to build up the music career and leave the day job. I am in the process of working this out and very excited about the prospect of having more time to work on the music and tour.
I think I am one of those people who does better when I am busy. I get very focused. If I have a lot of free time, I can sort of piss it away and get nothing done.
Stoli: I refuse to watch American Idol because I do not see talent in cover songs. Would you go on AI and do you watch it?
Jill Cagney: I refuse to watch American Idol also, although I did get kind of drawn in to the more rock and roll version with the show “Rock Star” a couple of years ago, because I like that music. I can’t stand the whole reality show thing. This is going to sound kind of “hippie”, but I really feel that with all that is going on in the world, and really even next door to each of us, there has to be a better way to spend our time than gawking at other peoples’ lives.
Personally, I would rather hear a not so great singer, whose pitch is not perfect, sing with authenticity about something that they wrote that has meaning to them, than hear the world’s most amazing voice sing a song that we have all heard 50 thousand times.
No, I would not go on American Idol.
Stoli: You are playing Utica Music Festival September 17th, what can fans expect from that show and how will you prepare?
Jill Cagney: I love the Utica Music festival…it’s a great scene up there and a lot of opportunity to meet and get to know some amazing musicians. I love to perform, and fans can expect a great time, new songs, more amusing and sometimes crazy stories about the songs, and to be called on to participate!
When I am getting ready for a show, I rehearse daily. I practice vocals and guitar separately and then together and with a metronome. I do not want to be concerned that the technical aspects of things will get in my way, so I believe in a lot of practice. That way I can be present and focus on the audience at a show. Rehearsing for me is not that different from when I was a little girl and would stand in the middle of my bedroom with a lollipop for a microphone and pretend I was in front of an audience. The goal is to keep the audience in the moment and give them a good feeling or a new way of looking at things for a little while to take with them when the show is over.
Stoli: What is next for Jill Cagney and where can we follow you online?
Jill Cagney: There are lots of things coming up for me. I will be touring with the new album and making a video. I am on the board of directors of the non-profit organization “WeRIndie”, which supports independent musicians and also runs the “Back To Nature Music Camp” for kids in the summer. The CD release will be raising money for the camps scholarship fund, and I will be teaching songwriting at the camp this July. I will be showcasing at the Indiegrrl Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee in August and moderating a panel on “Perseverance as an Indie Artist” at that conference. I am planning to return to Toronto in November to for some gigs up there.
I will be returning to the studio with Jason Rubal in July of next year to record the next album which I have been writing for. Already there are songs about using super hero powers to get someone to notice you, people who talk too much, homicidal people and being wed to your own misery. Lots of fun awaits!
Thanks so much for this interview! You can follow me online at jillcagney.com, and in all of the usual places, Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation . “It’s All In How You See Things” is available on ITunes, Amazon and CD Baby.