INTERVIEW: Calamity Jane

It’s a pleasure to have you here and thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Your new single has just been released, what’s been the reaction to it so far?

Thanks for having me, it’s an honour! The reaction to “Devil Went Down to Georgia” has been great so far. I’m not surprised. After all, it is a cover of one of the most famous and loved country songs of all time! Our take is quite diferent than the original, so I was curious to see what people would think. In general, it turns out everyone still loves hearing someone shredding on the fddle! A lot of folks have also commented on the electronic aspect. There is a really cool beat and electronic ornaments that spice things up and modernise the song.

In terms of successes, there’s a long list of Music Row radio stations in the states that have added the song to their playlists after only one week of campaigning. And after only a month – and a debut single no less – the song is up to ~10K spins on Spotify and featured on over 140 playlists. In Australia, “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was premiered on Kix Country Network on 2/10/2020, followed by a live interview. There is a long list of additional blogs and stations both in Australia and in the states that will be featuring the song and posting interviews, so stay tuned!

How long have you been singing (performing) for?

I’ve been playing and performing on viola/violin since I was six years old. I was classically trained, and continued playing seriously throughout high school. I played in orchestras, toured internationally, and competed. In college, I was a Music Performance Major. After college, I decided I wanted to create my own music instead of interpreting someone else’s. I moved to Nashville, and started singing/songwriting four years ago.

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

The genre of my music is called folktronica. It’s essentially folk music combined with EDM. In my writing, one of the defning elements is the violin. It is used as a solo voice, just like the vocals, and isn’t a backup layer. Some of my songs are more on the “folk” side while others sound more “EDM.” Think, Mumford & Sons meets Avicii. Avicii actually started to make the folktronica genre mainstream with his “Wake Me Up” album. Sadly after he passed, no one picked it back up. I think this is a really beautiful, underserved genre, and I’d like to be the one to rejuvenate it.

In terms of the songwriting itself, I would describe my music as having a focus on catchy/commercial melodies, as well as poetic lyrics focusing on messages of hope.

How do you go about creating your music? Is there a specifc process for your songwriting?

This is a great question. I have many diferent approaches to songwriting. For starters, a couple years ago I received some of the best songwriting advice I’ve ever had from a good friend of mine. He said, “pick your favorite song and rewrite it in your own words.” This is one way that I write. I listen to a song or melody I love and add my own words to it. The reality is, the song changes vastly when you do this, and truly becomes original. Diferent words end up morphing the original melodies, and diferent chords fll in the gaps. Then, you end up with a totally new and original song, inspired by a sound you love.

The second way in which I write is harder to describe. As a musician, I’ve accepted that music has become engrained in me over the years. Sometimes random melodies will pop into my head out of nowhere, and I’ll record a voice memo so I don’t forget them. I also have a running note in my phone for lyrics that I like.

Often, when a melody pops into my head I’ll go to my list and combine it with lyrics I had written down. I think when you listen to enough music, there’s always something playing in your head or in the back of your mind 24/7. A lot of the time all I have to do is listen to what’s in there.

Who are your favourite music artists or musical infuences?

As I mentioned regarding my sound, I’m deeply inspired by Mumford & Sons and Avicii. Though they seem like polar opposites, they’re really not. Both focus on beautiful melodies and inspiring lyrics. Each song is a journey, and almost poetic. Both artists also seem to focus a lot on fnding oneself after being lost, or embarking on an epic journey. These are the types of songs I also like to write.

Another interesting note; a lot of Mumford & Sons songs actually have “drops,” like you would hear in an EDM song. They are just flled with acoustic instruments instead of electronic sounds.

I think that if you were to take an Avicii song and play it acoustic, it could sound like folk music. If you were to take a Mumford & Sons song and put an EDM beat to it, suddenly you’d have a dance song. Hence the beauty of folktronica.

What else inspires you?

I’m inspired by inspiration itself, if that makes sense. I love the idea of getting back up when you’re down, and always focusing on the change or hope that is to come. Most of my songs are about overcoming adversity. They’re about being down in the trenches but picking yourself up anyways and choosing to be stronger. They’re epic journey’s that hopefully everyone can relate to.

The inspiration for these journey’s comes from my life, and everyone’s lives. I listen to the struggles my friends and family are going through, I listen to myself and write down my feelings when I’m angry or frustrated. I write down my feelings when I’m excited and happy too. All of this becomes “the inspiration.”

What are some of your favourite pieces of music and why?

I appreciate the fact that you ask “what musical pieces,” instead of “what songs.” There are many pieces of music I hold near and dear to my heart that are most defnitely not songs. Growing up in the world of classical music, I have been lucky enough to get close to some of the greatest composers and pieces of music of all time.

Ludwig Van Beethoven, for instance, is a musical genius and one of my all time favourite composers. I adore all of his symphonies, most specifcally the third, “Eroica.” I also have a very special place in my heart for his String Quartet No. 13, Movement III “Cavatina.”

Not surprisingly, I love Beethoven because of the drama. He was a troubled soul, and his music refects that. Music by Beethoven is always a journey, ranging from the deepest, darkest moments of despair to the highest peaks of joyfulness. I relate to the humanness and ingenuity of Beethoven’s work, and I’m sure it has impacted my writing.

How would you describe your voice style to someone who has not heard you sing before?

My primary voice is really my violin. I have been playing violin/viola since age six, and didn’t really start singing till about 4 years ago. I believe my singing voice is still developing. I tend to have a fairly soft, indie sound by nature. I would compare it to Alison Krauss. With more practice and voice lessons, I hope to continue to improve!

Herein also leads to the beauty of Calamity Jane as a brand. I chose to feature Camille Rae on “Devil Went Down to Georgia” because she has a beautiful, powerhouse voice that ft the part perfectly. In future songs, I plan to continue bringing in featured artists to sing parts I think could be better suited to a voice other than mine. And speaking of Camille, we plan to collaborate more in the future and possibly bring her on as a more permanent member of the Calamity Jane brand. Stay tuned!

Do you like performing live?

Of course! This is the most fun part of being an artist. What is music and creativity if you can’t share it? I love interacting with the crowd while on stage, and seeing their reactions to words and melodies. My favorite part of performing live, however, is the interaction with my fellow bandmates. There’s something magical and inexplicable that happens when a band is truly in sync, and participating in one sound as opposed to fve diferent voices and instruments. It’s almost spiritual.

Do you like recording?

Recording is much diferent than performing live, of course. I don’t love recording. When recording in the studio, there seems to be more pressure to play or sing something perfectly. This is what is going to stick “forever,” so there’s not as much room for error. It’s easy to get in the wrong headspace, and in the attempt to play or sing everything “technically” perfect, you can lose some of the musicality. This is an ongoing challenge; fnding the balance between technical prowess and your musicality.

What do you hope to achieve with your music?

This is a more difcult question than it sounds, I think. Reason being, I believe all artists ultimately play or sing because they simply love it. This is certainly why I do it. I don’t necessarily want to assume that my music is going to change lives, or that I’m bestowing some sort of gift on people as if I’m anyone important. At the same time, I love what I do, and of course I want to share the excitement. If my songs can speak to people in ways they may need to hear in the moment, and it helps them, that would be a great achievement.

Have any elements of your personal background infuenced your music?

Absolutely! I’m sure this is true for everyone. I think I am greatly infuenced by the idea of hard work paying of. I started playing at such a young age, I learned very quickly what hard work looks like.

From age six through middle school, my Mom would sit with me and have me practice my viola for thirty minutes a day. As a six year old, thirty minutes felt like a long time. I ramped it up in high school and would practice for three hours a day after school, excluding homework. So I’d be at school for seven hours, come home and do homework, then practice for three hours.

In college, my regimen got even more intense. I would practice for four hours a day on top of classes, hours of rehearsals, and having a social life. There were plenty of Friday nights spent practicing in a windowless practice room instead of going to a party with friends. I was preparing for an audition, or competition, or performance. I wanted and needed to “make it.”

To raise the stress levels another bar, I failed about 80% of the time. I would constantly question my self worth, the goals I had for myself, and whether or not the years of practice had been a waste. Many times, I was embarrassed I didn’t perform better in an audition, and was placed within the second or third tier orchestra instead of the frst. The classical music world is a small community, and everybody ranks, watches, and judges constantly. It took an immense toll on my emotional stability at times.

However, while I failed 80% of the time, I succeeded 20%. Those were the wins I’ll always remember, and the wins that got me to where I am today. These experiences, and the blood, sweat, and tears, have impacted my life choices in general. All people see is the 20% of the time you win, so they don’t necessarily realize or understand what has gone on behind the scenes.

I like to write songs that acknowledge what goes on behind the scenes, and encourages listeners to push further. I focus a lot on the concepts of hard work, never giving up, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I write about these things because I’ve experienced them frsthand, as does everyone to varying degrees.

What do you believe makes you stand out as an artist?

Most obviously what makes me stand out is my violin/viola playing and classical training. It’s taken years to become very skilled at these instruments, and it’s usually the frst thing people compliment and notice. They’re my claim to fame!

Secondly, for all the reasons I listed in previous questions, I think my genre and songwriting are unique. I’m not so focused on breakup songs and ballads. I like to focus on the bigger picture, and the journey.

What are your plans regarding future releases?

I’ll be in the studio the frst two weeks of March, 2020 with Camille Rae recording two new original singles! Those will be released in March and April. After that, we’ll be recording a fve song EP and releasing it over the summer. It’s going to be an exciting year!

Also, there’s a music video for “Devil Went Down to Georgia” I’ll be releasing at the end of February, 2020!

Stay tuned!

What are your long-term musical goals?

My main goal is to create music that inspires this generation to be better, do better, and never stop trying to make the world a better place. Starting with oneself.

What has been the best part of your musical journey so far?

I think what I’ve enjoyed most about this journey so far is sharing my music with people who are close to me and hearing their reactions. It’s amazing how people can have so many diferent interpretations of one song. It helps give me perspective, and makes me happy to know that there are times my songs have actually encouraged people I care about during times of need.

As I mentioned before, I play and write music because I love it. But I don’t necessarily expect everyone else to believe I’m some sort of godsend. When people close to me say “this song really helped me get through a tough day,” it’s pleasantly surprising to me.

I’ve particularly enjoyed sharing my music with my Dad. My Dad is a very musical guy, though he never dedicated himself to an instrument like I did. He’s a true lyricist, and has a way with words. I like to believe I picked up a thing or two from him. Often my Dad will send me a text or e-mail with lyric ideas; something he read or heard during the day. Some lyrics my Dad sent me actually helped inspire one of my original singles, “The Mountain,” I’ll be recording and releasing in March, 2020. A quick preview:

“Up on the mountain, down in the valley

Hard to overcome what I used to be but

I keep, I keep, I keep climbin’

Can’t blame a fool for tryin.”

What do you hope to communicate through your latest track?

“Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a special song, for many reasons. Sure, I hope people enjoy and appreciate the technical virtuosity of the violin part and the “fashiness.” But mainly, I hope people are inspired by the metaphor the song represents.

“Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a story of good versus evil; it’s about the demons we face in our lives on a daily basis, obstacles we must overcome. I connect to the story because “Johnny” (in my case “Lucy”,) is a mere mortal who beats the Devil and forces him to leave town. It’s a triumph of humanity, and it’s inspiring.

It’s no coincidence that I chose to perform this song from a female perspective, and included a band of powerhouse females as well. In many ways, this song has begun to represent the demons we as women face in the music industry today. We’re constantly fghting for equal play, to be appreciated and recognized like our male counterparts. It’s not just “Johnny” who can beat the Devil, we can too.

To further solidify this metaphor, I made the specifc choice to release the title of this single as “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” instead of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” per the original track. The reason I made this choice is because “Devil” is used as a proper noun in this song. He’s an actual “person” or “thing” Lucy is up against. Each day, Devil may take a diferent form. Some days he could take the form of an argument with a bandmate, or a poor performance, or another “no” from an industry contact. But we know how the story ends. Lucy, (we,) overcome.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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