Since completing the 1001 Songs Challenge, I have struggled to find a vocalist who, in my mind, can hold a candle to some of the classics; who can leave listeners dazzled. Thankfully, the fall is usually a season of musical discovery, where the latest talent take over, and usually win the coveted spots on our iPods/smartphones/etc. With her new EP, Strangers In Fairyland, Jocelyn Arndt has listeners mesmerized. Between her soulful vocals and the classic rock sound she and her brother, Chris, have accomplished, there seems to be no stopping these two artists on the road to stardom. Bouncing between music and Harvard (yes, they’re both Ivy League geniuses), Jocelyn was kind enough to take the time out to chat with Planet Stereo about the new EP, balancing music and school, and what it’s like to work with her brother. Check it out below:
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Jocelyn Arndt: I’m doing great. The band and I just came off of a tremendous show in NYC and that’s always fun. Thanks for having me!
PS: Your new EP, Strangers in Fairyland, just came out. How are you feeling about the EP?
JA: Absolutely awesome. I’m extremely proud of these songs, and the response we’ve had has been unbelievable. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that I get to share my music this way, and on top of that, people really seem to like it.
PS: I was so impressed by the EP, and I have to ask where your influence stems from?
JA: Everywhere. My brother Chris and I grew up listening to all kinds of music, thanks to our parent’s bottomless CD collection. When I was younger, I remember spending hours just pawing through shelves of albums, pulling out random cases and plugging them into a little handheld stereo. To this day, it’s actually a rule in our house that we can’t eat dinner without music playing. That said, both of us have always been drawn to classic rock, soul, and blues. As a guitarist, Chris loves the 70’s. Led Zeppelin, Dire Straits, and The Rolling Stones are all on regular rotation on his iPod. And for me, big voices have always been a huge inspiration; I love singers that have such a commanding, distinct sound and attitude that you can hear them sing three notes and know exactly who they are; Janis Joplin, Grace Potter, Blondie, Aretha Franklin, and Grace Slick are some of my favorites, to name a few.
PS: I know you worked with your brother Chris on the EP. What is it like working with your sibling?
JA: Honestly, it’s amazing. I love it. I couldn’t ask for a better songwriting partner. I know a lot of people assume that it could get petty and overly personal sometimes, and I’d be lying if I told you that we never argue about dumb stuff, but most of the time it’s really fun and rewarding. And there’s also something cool about the fact that we can go from having an intense songwriting session to arguing about who gets the last slice of pizza [laughs]; it adds a genuineness to the whole process that keeps us both from taking ourselves too seriously. We make a great team.
PS: Was it a conscious decision to mix an alternative rock sound with classic soul/blues style?
JA: Not at all, although Chris and I are both happy with how it worked out. We just went with what we thought sounded the best for each song. We put everything we had into every part we played, and let the feel and emotion dictate the vibe. Luckily, our producer David works the same way, sort of letting a song define itself. Our starting goal was to make every individual track the best it could be. In the end, I really think we accomplished that. We’ve got a collection of songs that we truly feel good about, and they’re all linked together by a little bit of rock, blues, and soul stemming from years of underlying influences.
PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process behind the EP?
JA: Sure! Each song started with something small. Chris would come up with a riff, or I would have a line of lyrics buzzing around inside my head, and from there we would work on building a song from the ground up. After we hammer out a pretty clear idea for a tune, we bring it to the studio, where David Bourgeois (our producer) and the rest of our music team help us flesh it out. We would brainstorm, try different things, deliberate, switch parts around, eat pizza, and do it all over again if needed… we were open to anything. This EP is the result of that openness to ideas. It took hours and hours, actually months of hard work. I’m thankful for all the wonderful people we’ve got in our corner who not only believed in our music but helped us bring this thing to life.
PS: Do you have a favorite song from the EP? If yes, what is it and why?
JA: That’s tough, but I’m going to say “Lullaby”. I really love the way this one played out, especially once we got it into the studio. It has a very warm, comfy feel to it. Every time I hear it, I just want to make it some hot chocolate and give it a big hug.
PS: What advice would you offer to young musicians?
JA: I feel a little weird giving advice, namely because I’m a little clueless myself sometimes. If I had to give one bit of advice, though, I’d say the most important thing you can do as a musician is to play whenever and wherever you can. Practice makes perfect, and good performances can only come after you’ve gotten the bad ones out of the way. Taking every show seriously is important, too. No matter how small the crowd or how sketchy the venue, a performance is always still a performance. You never know who’s watching.
PS: I hear you’re studying at Harvard. What are you studying, if you don’t mind my asking?
JAK Officially, English. Unofficially, strategies for getting sleep [laughs]. We’ve really been focusing on playing shows lately; in the past few weeks we’ve played everywhere from Nashville and Chattanooga Tennessee, to Georgia, Boston, and New York City, so these days sleep is the Holy Grail. But seriously, as far as academics go, in the past year I’ve had a change of heart. I started out as pre-med, but decided to go the English route instead. I’m happy with my choice; I’ve always been all about the words, anyway.
PS: How do you balance education and developing your music career?
JA: Very carefully. It’s a challenge, but if it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be worth doing. Chris and I have both just had to learn to prioritize and make sacrifices when necessary. Since signing a development deal, our music has become a serious priority. We have a big opportunity here and we recognize that. Sometimes, that means staying in on a Friday to catch up on class reading while my friends are out having fun. Sometimes it means doing Chinese homework on a tour bus before load-in for a show. In the end, it’s all about the music. We’ve got a good thing going here; it’s tough, but we’re not complaining.
PS: What do you love about performing live?
JA: Everything. The lights, the stage, the stilettos… I get worked up just thinking about it. And the best part of a show is always the audience. They’re the key to the whole puzzle. To have people there, listening to our music and enjoying themselves… it sounds cliché, but that’s the best feeling in the whole world. That’s what it’s all about for us.
PS: Any last words?
JA: Thank you again for having me! I really appreciate it. And if you’re looking to keep track of what I’m up to, including my chronic lack of sleep, check out the facebook/jocelynarndtmusic. It’s always up to date with the latest music, news, and mayhem. Thank you!
For more on Jocelyn Arndt, please click HERE.
Strangers In Fairyland is out NOW.