Can you talk to us more about your latest album “Lehigh Valley Line”?
“Lehigh Valley Line” is my first full-length album that I released in September of this year. Compared to most everything else I’ve released, it’s about as acoustic as you can get. It’s also the first release I’ve had complete creative control over, which has been very exciting. This time around I wanted to keep the focus on the songs and the stories they tell, as well as keep things in line the way I sound in a live performance. I’m thrilled with the end result and super excited to finally be sharing it with everyone!
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Not so much an event as a piece of history. I have this habit of working train imagery into my lyrics a bit too often, so I figured I’d get it all out of my system and write one song entirely about a train. The Lehigh Valley Railroad used to run through Buffalo (my hometown), and once I had read up on its story I knew I had to write about it. It’s a really neat piece of Buffalo history that I thoroughly enjoyed crafting a story around.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I certainly have plans for a couple of the tracks. I’ll probably have to wait until the spring to start in on anything, though – Buffalo winters don’t really allow for much outdoor filming!
Why did you name the album after this track in particular?
The entire album was written, produced, and recorded right in Buffalo. I thought the most fitting title for the it would be one that pays a little homage to the city that inspired its creation. And then I get to tell the story about the inspiration behind the song whenever someone asks about it!
How was the recording and writing process for the album?
Long! There’s a song on the record that I wrote in 2012, actually written about six months prior to the EP I released in 2013. So it’s really been quite a few years in the making. But I absolutely love being in the studio, and it was a very rewarding process overall. It’s been amazing to finally be able to hear the finished product after working on getting it done for so many years.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are covering someone else’s music than when you are writing your own music?
I definitely do. When you’re playing original songs, you fully understand the story and the emotion behind it, because you wrote it. It makes it easier to get the message across to the listener. When you’re playing someone else’s song, most of the time you can only guess as to what the underlying meaning is, which can make it more difficult and require some extra work to get it right.
What role does Buffalo play in your music?
I am forever inspired by the people and places in Buffalo. A majority of the songs I write have references to the city in them somewhere. Plus, the people in the music industry in this city have welcomed me with open arms, and have allowed me to do some very cool things at a relatively early stage in my career. I’m grateful to have started here, and certain I’d be a very different musician if I lived somewhere else.
Does acting influence your music and the other way around?
I tend to look at them as entirely separate entities, actually. I was involved in my high school’s theater productions, but after that I had never gone out seeking any roles in film. But when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a couple small films being produced here in Buffalo, I couldn’t pass it up. There are quite a few similarities between acting and performing music, which definitely made getting back into acting easier after taking a break from it. Acting is telling someone else’s story though, while playing music is telling my own, and that’s where I’ve always been the most comfortable. But if I get the chance to continue acting I’ll definitely take it – it’s a ton of fun!
Any plans to hit the road?
Absolutely. I can’t say for sure when, but I’d definitely like to make an East Coast tour happen in the very near future.
What else is happening next in Jess Chizuk’s world?
Now that the initial chaos of releasing this album is subsiding, I’m taking it easy for a bit! I’ve got a lot of great shows coming up in my hometown through the fall and winter, and I’ve got some interesting song ideas kicking around that I’d really like to work on. Once we get past the holiday season, though, I’ve got a lot I’m excited to get started on. There will be cool things happening in the new year!