A Conversation with JØUR: A Tale of Contrast

JØUR is an active performer in her local Twin Cities music scene, and is the co-founder of the Good Arts Collective, a local collaborative arts organization that seeks to empower artists to transition from hobbyists to professionals. JØUR is contrast. Head vs heart. Light vs dark. Clear vs obscure. Minimalism vs complexity. Analog vs electronic. All of these elements, often pitted against each other, find themselves simultaneously alive and true in a beautiful paradox on JØUR’s debut record Chiaroscuro.

Robert Lehmann, Marketing and Booking Coordinator, sat down with JØUR (fka Jourdan Myers) ahead of her debut album release show as JØUR at The Cedar on October 11th. They chatted about how Jourdan got started in music, where she draws inspiration from, what she thinks of the Twin Cities music scene, her interests, and a little about the Good Arts Collective she helped start. Read the full interview below and get tickets and more information about the show here.

I want audience members to know that I designed the show so that everyone would enjoy it. It wouldn’t be about trying to fill the room or making things perfect, but making it sincere and fun and truly a celebration of what we’ve achieved.

R: Could you tell me a little bit about how you got started in music?

J: A really, really long time ago, a child was born. And this child sang all the time. As the story goes, I would sing before my feet hit the floor in the morning. I think music was a part of my spirit as a little kid and my mom enrolled me in piano lessons when I was four. I continued with piano all the way through high school. Then, I picked up voice lessons on-and-off throughout high school, some in college, but I never took that as seriously as piano, because it seemed like, "Singing is a thing that you do because you like to sing.” I didn't know that people made careers in music. It was this long journey of trying a whole bunch of different things. I thought sports were really cool, so I was an athlete in high school, and music was just something I did, but I did win some random singing competitions at my school. It wasn't until I was done with college that I met a guy named Matt Patrick who went on to produce my last two records. That collaboration was magical. I worked with him on a previous record as Jourdan Myers as well as on my new record Chiaroscuro, as JØUR.

R: And it feels good to be where you're at right now?

J: It has its challenges. The biggest challenge that I find in this industry is that everybody's got advice, and no, you can't follow anyone else's path.  Anything that's worked for somebody before, might kind of work for you, but you can't follow exactly what they've done, because the music industry is such a combination of hard work, talent, and luck, and any individual has some different combination of those things. Somebody might be 90% lucky and 5% hard work and 5% talent or they might be 80% talent and 20% hard work and no luck. Or they might be some even combination of all three; it doesn't seem to matter. There's no way to really crack the code, so I think it can be really hard, because you don't know what your combination is until it's already happened.

So I think the challenge that everyone has to face is deciding what they want, and knowing that will guide them. I think sometimes it's hard for me personally to know what I want because so many people tell you what to want, and so it can be difficult to clear through that jungle of noise and really center yourself to find what is it you want from the bottom of your heart, as a musician, as a person, and what success is to you. So I think that this is a long answer to your pretty simple question, but it's complicated to feel about your art. I run the gamut of feeling really excited to really disappointed, to feeling really proud of myself to feeling really confused, to feeling a litany of emotions that I think every artist would feel about something so personal.

R: Definitely appreciate the longer answer. Brevity is not …

J: Interesting?

R: (Laughs) Yes, brevity is not interesting. So you're talking about feeling inspired or feeling confused in music, which leads into one of the questions that I had: what inspires you the most?

J: I think that's a hard question, because there are these external things that inspire you and those things can change on a dime. But I'd have to say that, be it fortunate or unfortunate, there's this undying flame like a pilot light inside that just keeps burning, and it makes it really difficult not to create. I'm not saying that I’m always feeling inspired, because I think that there are a lot of times in life where I don't feel creative, and that's really frustrating. But then, that pilot light can become a source of frustration, because you think, “I know I have this part of me that needs to build and grow and create,” but sometimes you just can't, and that desire is inside of you no matter what. I think that there will always be these external things to inspire me like songs that I hear, but at the end of the day, what inspires me to keep going is just this internal flame that won't die.  And it drives me …

R: Crazy?

J: (Laughs) It drives me either crazy or it drives me forward, so that's my answer to that question.


R: Follow-up question: have there ever been periods in your life where you really haven't been able to create, whether that was an external reason or internally finding that things weren't clicking?

J: Yeah, I mean for sure that's happened. I think a lot of musicians, including myself, have said that it's really hard to write a second album because your first one is spilling your guts about your whole life, and you have so much to say. And then after that you have a short period be it 9 months or 3 years, whatever that window of time is before you make another album. It's so much shorter, and so much less life experience has passed that it's harder to draw from those things. For me, that really pushed me to seek inspiration from more external sources than my own life experiences. That actually really added a lot of depth to me as a person.

I started to look at other people's stories. I pulled inspiration, especially for this new record, from novels; I looked at paintings; I spent time studying art movements, and finding a resonance with the rest of what was going on in the world, less than just with myself. That was an eye-opening experience. It really expanded my view of how the rest of the world thinks and creates. I wrote a few songs based on reading A Tale of Two Cities over and over again. A painting by Klimt, called The Kiss, inspired a song that's on this record called “Danger Game.” So to go back to the idea of your original question, there have been times when I felt uninspired but I've had to pull from other places to begin to be inspired again.

R: Cool. What do you feel like your aim is when you make music or what do you want your music to communicate?

J: That's interesting. I think in general, I didn't set out to send a message, but to respond, like I said, to things that I was seeing in my environment, be they social or political things, or be they artwork that I was inspired by or books that I read. But then, looking back at it, I see reflections of what I was also going through emotionally.

Even though I wasn't trying to engage on that level in my writings as much as I had in the past, I've been going through a transition as a person and finding my own voice in relationships, in my work, etc, learning to identify what I want, and what is true to me, versus what everyone else is telling me to think and expects me to be. I don't know that anybody else would listen to the album and say, “Wow. This record’s really about her finding her own way,” but I think that's what it's come to mean to me.

I never really set out with a message when I make music. What I really prefer people to do is to listen to it and find themselves in it. Once the song has left the speakers and enters into their ears, minds and hearts, I want them to hear it and interpret it according to what their experiences are. Because I think that's how people connect to music. There have been times, for instance, where I've wanted to know the backstory of a song that is close to my heart. I'll hear the song, and I'll think, "They know me; this song is about me," and then I hear the story about why they wrote it, and I think, “That's so dumb.”

R: Like super different ...

J:  Like “That song’s not about me at all,” and it's so disappointing, and it feels like something's been taken from me, in a way. So I try not to give too much insight into the specifics about songs that I write, because I don't want to take away anyone’s interpretation of it. I think everybody should interpret art according to their own schema, their own background, their own experiences, and their own views, thoughts, and needs.

R: Cool; that's a very audience centered approach.

J: Well, I've been an audience my whole life, too. You know?

R: Yeah, it seems like it comes from your own personal experience with music as well, when you brought up having artists' songs speak to you. This next question in some ways runs counter to what you just said, but your upcoming album is called Chiaroscuro. In the context given on your website about JØUR, you mention a lot of concepts that many people would consider polar opposites, like light and dark, minimalism and complexity, head and heart, modernity and then timelessness. Some of this you’ve already touched on a little bit before, but what factors influenced your creation of the album?

J: I took a break once the music was done to work on developing the idea of what I wanted JØUR to be. I became really inspired by the Bauhaus movement of the 60s: the art and design, the idea that form follows function, the simplicity of geometric shapes, and very simple images that are balanced and beautiful. I was simultaneously drawn to photography that was high contrast and contained the coexistence of light and dark in single images. Suddenly, I realized that all of those concepts existed in the music, and that I was being subconsciously drawn to things visually that I had just created musically. So it's been a really interesting journey.

R: One of the things, I noticed listening to the single "Black Hole" is that right from the beginning you've got that contrast of the high vocals and then the really gritty synth that comes in underneath, so even in the arrangements, it's bringing opposites together.

J: Yes; in the arrangements we took special care to make things simple. We tried to see music as space and not to crowd it. I found that interesting; everything in the Bauhaus design movement is also very simple and tries to keep things from being overcrowded. It just kind of all overlapped in a way that was exciting and unexpected.

R: That's cool, that's cool. One of the things I wanted to ask you about quick - you mentioned that you work as one of the co-founders of the Good Arts Collective, a collaborative arts org that empowers artists in the Twin Cities. Could you tell me a little bit more about the arts collective and what the energy was that got it started?

J: Yeah, a couple musician friends and I were looking for space to work and rehearse in and we were given access to an old abandoned youth room in First Covenant Church. We renovated this giant room into a hybrid venue / workspace and built a recording studio in another room. We are really starting to grow our membership now, because it's a really affordable way to have downtown space especially for people in the performing arts, theater, and music. Not limited to that, but it tends to be the most beneficial to those art forms.

Over the last three and a half years, we've grown into this organization that provides this space for artists to create and develop their work, so that they can go out into the world and make art happen. There are so many barriers to making art. Affordable space is one of the biggest ones, so if we can get that barrier removed, then that gives people more opportunity to just focus on what matters and that's creating. That's the heart of Good Arts Collective.

R: That's awesome! Kind of shifting away from music, what outside of music do you like to do?

J: Well, I'm a fitness instructor. I love that. I began taking Barre classes several years ago, because I was on tour with HALEY as her synth player for her record Impossible Dream. While on the road, we'd be in the car for eight hours, and then we'd have to get out of the car and lift heavy gear into the venue. I was having back pain from the lifting, and so I thought, "I really need to have a stronger core.” I started taking Barre classes, and then I started teaching them.

R: That's really interesting because when you were talking about your childhood there was so much music influence and then also athletics in high school …

J: Right! I started college as an Exercise Science major, but college was confusing for me. I just didn't know what I wanted. I ended up graduating with a Spanish and Portuguese degree, which I don't use, but I still love.

R: Qué triste …

J: (Laughs) I know right?

R: How do you view the music community in the Twin Cities right now?

J: (Deep exhale)

R: It's kind of a big question …

J: It is a big question. I've been active in the music Community for about four and a half years now. This town is really fascinating, because it's always pumping out new musicians and new bands. Until recently, I thought I peripherally or directly knew most of the people in town that made music. And then when I released one of my singles, "Black Hole," I was added to a playlist called “Minneapolis New is Pop.” And there are a hundred songs on that list and probably 85 different artists, about 80 of which I'd never heard of, all making outstanding music. And I asked myself, "Where are these people?" I've just been so amazed, and I really recommend going on Spotify and checking out that playlist. I literally thought, “I need to meet all these people. I need to play shows with all these people. I'm so impressed by all of the music that these people are making.”

R: Anything that audience members should know before coming to the Cedar performance?

J: When you put so much work, energy and heart into something, you really want to celebrate. So I asked Andy Cook and Sexy Delicious to play with me because I thought that they would make it an awesome celebration, and they're all really talented and sincerely good friends of mine. Sexy Delicious is just an awesome time. They make great music. They're fun to dance to. They keep it light and light-hearted. And then Andy has been such a huge supporter of me in my journey as a musician. We started on the scene at the same time and have grown up with each other over the last four and a half years. And so to arrive at this point and have someone there who's shared in the journey with me is really important to me, too. What I would want audience members to know is that I designed it so that everyone would enjoy it, and it wouldn't be about trying to fill the room or making things perfect, but making it sincere and fun and truly a celebration of what we've achieved.

R: That's really pure, and really, really great.

J: Aww thanks! (Laughs) And then hopefully, a lot of people come.