We've had our eyes and ears peaked ever since we first heard Jillette Johnson surface from the depths of the internet a few years ago. Since that time we've seen the pianist/singer-songwriter conquer the promotional hell-scape that is SXSW and turn in one of our favorite moments at Bonnaroo. We've dusted words on her brilliance across the site ever since, so we seized on the opportunity to invite her by one of our Bands and Brews Sessions when it became a possibility earlier this summer. Held in the basement of our West Village party pad with plenty of Kraken Black Spiced Rum ready to be slurped up on hand, Jillette and her cohort Matthew Pynn hushed the lively crowd with compelling exposes on love and life from her 2013 release, Water in a Whale. Get to know an artist we feel whose time has clearly come in this powerful new performance on Baeble.
- Hello everybody at the party. Let's bring it in. Come, come, come along Everybody hit their party drums - So it's time to party, right? All right. Namaste and amen Roll off of your tongue Whatever which way you get it done Good grace, God bless Love will fill the emptiness. Aren't we just The luckiest kids east of the river plucked out of nowhere brought together by a greater motion Come on, come on let's paint the town red Let's tie our shoelaces together and unhinge the dam And let flood the ocean Fishbowl, rabbit hole Hunkering down to hide the romance of a hopeless heart But you can't help who you really are Learned it from your mum and dad they try to cover you up with elbow pads but you still catch in electric wire Whatever it is that started the fire Aren't we just the luckiest kids east of the river Plucked out of nowhere brought together by A greater motion Come on, come on, let's paint the town red Let's tie our shoelaces together and Unhinge the dam and let flood the ocean Come, come come along Everybody hit their party drum And sit next to your friends Namaste and amen Aren't we just the luckiest kids east of the river Plucked out of nowhere brought together by A greater motion Come on, come on, let's paint the town red let's tie our shoelaces together and let flood the ocean I gotta know, do you remember First thing you said to me was the weather Is breaking open You are the sun, you'll make it better Let's tie our shoelaces together and Unhinge the dam and let flood the ocean - Thank you. This is a very beautiful place to be doing stuff like this. I feel like I shouldn't say bad words or offend anybody. I wrote this song about stalking someone. I wanna follow you around like a dog, like a dog like a basset hound I wanna feel you everywhere Like the wind, like the wind and away you spin I got my tongue in a knot I got a paper cut heart And it stings, baby, stings from your lemonade love Love me or love me not I am under the wheels of your juggernaut I wanna follow you around like a dog, like a dog like a basset hound I wanna feel you sticks and stones in my lungs, in my veins, in my splintered bones I got my tongue in a knot I got a paper cut heart And it stings, baby, stings from your lemonade love Love me or love me not I'm an innocent soul in your witching pot While you play games I'll be at your game, baby Watching from a stone's throw away I can wait, I can wait But I wanna follow you around like a dog, like a dog like a basset hound I wanna come in from the cold I'm a stray runaway I'm in starving mode I got my tongue in a knot I got a paper cut heart And it stings, baby, stings From your lemonade love Love me or love me not You're my great white hope and you're all I got While you play games I'll be at your game, baby Watching from a stone's throw away, baby Wondering how long it's gonna take I can wait, I can wait But I wanna follow you around like a dog, like a dog like a basset hound 'Til they bury me in hollow ground Cameron's in drag, makes his father mad Since he was a little boy, he always felt more comfortable in lipstick People call him fag, teachers turn their backs Off the bus he runs and runs To get home before anyone can catch him These days the world is full of aliens The world is full of aliens but you are a real, live human Aren't you, Cameron? Powder and a brush can cover any cut And quickly running cotton under cold water Rinses out the blood marks Cameron, you're a star A light where there is dark And you're a hundred times a woman A hundred times the men that they are These days the world is full of aliens The world is full of aliens but you are a human A real, live human Aren't you, Cameron? You're not an alien you're not an alien You're not an alien, Cameron You're not an alien, you're not an alien You're not an alien, Cameron Cameron's in drag, makes his father mad Since he was a little boy, he always felt more comfortable in lipstick These days the world is full of aliens The world is full of aliens but you are a human You're not an alien You are a real, live human Aren't you, Cameron? - Thank you. So this last weekend I played a very fancy private party. It was an engagement party for... Let's just say it could have been my wedding in my wildest dreams and I was specifically told that I wasn't allowed to sing songs about hating men. I don't hate men. I don't write songs about hating men, but apparently some of the...some of the references that I use have to do with heartache and not happily living ever after. But I got to a point at the end of my performance where I got really frustrated with the wedding. I played a couple of songs that essentially ended my set because I was told to stop. But I'm going to play one for you. - Good for you. You know, I just feel like it's healthy for people to have the full scope of what it's like to be in a relationship. It's inane to think that you're gonna get married to somebody and live with them for the rest of your lives and you only want to listen to songs about how much you love them. So this is for all the lovers out there. If I recall it was a Friday Gentle hum before the war You were high and watching poker And I had just walked in the door You started screaming at the TV Saying, "Make a play, you filthy whore" And I was trying to make you see me Like the way you did before So I took off my clothes and I opened a bottle And told you I'd do you whatever you wanted Naked on the floor crying "I'm too beautiful" Oh my poor, poor, pauvre coeur Beats no more Dare I say I was enamored By the stories of your pain You were darkened in the wild fight And I was tangled in your mane But God forbid you would get angry I had to dive out of the way You'd be gunning for me blindly And there was nothing I could say But I love you, don't do this Is it really worth it? It's not very Buddhist and I don't deserve it I'm naked on the floor, crying "I'm too beautiful" Oh my poor, poor, pauvre coeur beats no more Poor, pauvre coeur beats no more Making me nauseous, open elevator I'm stuck in the middle there's nobody out there To pull me off my sword I am far too beautiful To be yours - Thank you. I know how to take a right hook I know how to put a shot back I know how to fake a hard look When I just about done lost everything that I had They've been hunting me for decades Barracudas on a warpath But they'll never get me I will not idly go I got too much to fight for So come on torpedo, do your worst You get me right in my heart, blow me up 'til you see my ghost But I will not lay down in the road I will not make it easy I don't want no saints or saviors This is guerrilla and I will fight this war So come on torpedo Just a little more morphine A little peace while I writhe I'll get back into it easy Saddle up my horse and ride like a wildfire There's no water so wicked No rapid so ruthless This may be the way I die But I gotta try for the other side So come on torpedo, do your worst Get me right in my heart, blow me up 'til you see my ghost But I will not lay down in the road I will not make it easy I don't want no saints or saviors This is guerrilla and I will fight this war Heart in my throat, dirt on my nose Dark diamond in my eyes, will my demons ever die? Heart in my throat, dirt on my nose Dark diamond in my eyes will my demons ever die? So come on torpedo, do your worst You get me right in my heart, blow me up 'til you see my ghost But I will not lay down in the road I will not make it easy I don't want no saints or saviors This is guerrilla and I will fight this war So come on torpedo I will fight this war So come on torpedo I will fight this war So come on torpedo I will fight this war So come on torpedo - Thank you. Baeble, thank you so much for having us. I think you're everywhere. I don't think it makes sense to say wherever you are 'cause we're in your house. This song is about coming home and New York is home for me, so it's always a lot of fun for me to play it in my home, which is right here the most beautiful townhouse that I as a musician can afford. The enemy is in my mind But the little bellyaches give it life If I could be inside my body while I move my mouth Then I could better swallow when I fail And it would only be like water in a whale I could release it to the ocean with a mighty sound I'll find true north Somewhere, somehow When the road ends and spits me out I'll call my friends and wipe my nose I'll find true north and stumble home Come on, be a comedian Got to admit there's something funny in the fall to ruin You're broken, hungover, and living in your parents' house You'll find true north Somewhere, somehow When the road ends and spits you out You'll call your friends and wipe your nose You'll find true north and stumble home Stumblin' home Stumblin' home Am I air or am I water Will I dry or will I drown? I built everything I wanted then I tore it down I am sure as heart is cold The more I learn the less I know I'll find true north and settle down Relieve the lowness of my doubt I'll call my friends and wipe my nose I'll find true north and stumble home - Thank you guys.
For Jillette Johnson the journey has been as integral to her musical experience as the destination. Jillette, who began taking music lessons and penning songs as a child, has been performing live since she was 12, captivating audiences with her sultry, thoughtful piano-driven tunes. The musician has spent the last decade cultivating her sound and defining her unique perspective. When she moved to New York City from her small town of Pound Ridge, NY at 18, Jillette was already familiar with the city and its clubs, from Sidewalk Cafe to The Bitter End to Rockwood Music Hall.
In early 2012, Jillette inked a deal with Wind-Up Records, who were drawn in by her standout track Cameron, an inspirational number that explores the struggle of a transgendered person. The song appeared on the singers five-track EP, Whiskey & Frosting, which came out in August 2012, a prelude to her debut album Water In A Whale, out June 25, 2013. Culled from six months worth of recording sessions at Wind-Ups New York studio, the album traces Jillettes experiences and ideas about living in the city and being young in todays society. She finished the album fall 2012, just before going out on tour, and as it turned out those weeks on the road shifted the musicians sensibilities.
Theres this funny thing that happens when you go on the road, Jillette says. Because youre not around the people that youre normally around and youre in a different environment and youre constantly being creative and putting out things. Your voice starts to change, both literally and figuratively. I just started growing really rapidly and my perspective started changing a lot. I got back two weeks before Christmas and I knew that we had to have everything done by the first of the year. So I had six months to make the record and two weeks to change everything. A lot of artists dont get that opportunity, to be able to have the album that they made and come back and make tweaks. Thats pretty rare and I got to do it.
The final album, which features the five tracks found on Whiskey & Frosting, centers on Jillettes soaring vocals and the sparse, haunting piano lines she wrote to accompany them. Produced by Peter Zizzo (Vanessa Carlton, Avril Lavigne) and Michael Mangini (Joss Stone, David Byrne), the album reveals Jillettes pensive reflections on the world around her, all of which lead to a deeper understand of self-identity. Cameron, the discs lead single, was written both from personal experience with someone the musician knows and from the idea of what it means to grapple with who you are. The glowing number focuses on what it means to be authentic to ones self, a universal theme.
I do have someone in my life thats transgendered and Ive learned a lot from this person, Jillette says. But I think I actually wrote 'Cameron more about myself and about that feeling of being alien in your own skin. Its been really awesome to play that song around the country and meet people who share stories that may have to do with being transgendered or may have to do with feeling a little bit different.
The real power comes from those songs about the musician herself, however and the rest of the album follows in tone. When the Ship Goes Down, a hushed ballad, plays with the idea of the immortality you feel when youre young while the sultry Bassett Hound offers an unbalanced account of unrequited love, based on, as Jillette says, every time I showed too many of my cards and wanted someone too much. The ethereal Pauvre Coeur treads similar ground, excising the anger the singer felt about a relationship that started to devour her. True North, a soaring and epic number written in that urgent two-week period last winter, touches on what it means to return home, a fulcrum for the musicians ideas about her identity. Its about coming home and accepting the failures that you endure along the way, Jillette says. And realizing that youre gonna have a place to come home to, and thats the home inside your own head when all the other voices go away. Because theyre not you so they dont care enough to stay that long. Youre still going to have your own voice and thats what coming home means to me.
Jillette, whos toured with Delta Rae among others, brings her impassioned live aesthetic onto the album, infusing each number with a sense of intimacy and fervor. The songs shift from light-hearted buoyancy of Bassett Hound to the heavy urgency of Cameron, showcasing a viable array of musical and lyrical inspiration. For Jillette, whose years of experience and practice have set her up for whats to come, the goal is to bring these songs to life for as many people as possible.
The next year or two I think are wide open, in terms of what amazing things could happen, the singer says. And I think its just up to me to work hard every day and have a lot of luck. I hope to really build my live show. I cant get to hung up on what exactly will happen. Its really just about every day playing my heart out and connecting with fans over human experiences.