May 24, 2024

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An interview with Keri Johnsrud: Jazz and world music are the folk music of their origination: Video

Jazz interview with jazz singer Keri Johnsrud. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Keri Johnsrud: – I grew up in a small rural town in Iowa called Conrad. Music was always a part of my upbringing as my parents and siblings were very musically inclined. Someone was always practicing an instrument of some kind or had music playing in the house. So, music was ingrained in me from the get-go.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal?

KJ: – My mother was a professional cabaret vocalist and would be singing big band standards throughout the house on the regular. So, I had an affinity towards that type of music since I was very young. I also played piano and trumpet when I was young, but found that vocals were more of a strength of mine than the other instruments. Therefore, it felt more natural for me to sing standards than to play them. My oldest brother was a huge jazz fan, as well, and he was a major influence on my musical choices growing up.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal?

KJ: – Karyn Sarring, who was my first vocal coach when I moved to Chicago, was instrumental in introducing me to the possibilities of what I could do with a jazz standard. She helped me step outside my comfort zone and experiment with possibilities. Another great mentor for me was Gary Filip. He help shaped me as an entertainer and guided me when I was venturing out on the professional scene in Chicago. Honestly, listening to other vocalists and jazz musicians, whether it be in a live setting or recordings, is a great learning tool for me, as well.

What made me select jazz over other types of music would probably be the freedom I feel when singing jazz. The ability to improvise and to make a song my own is very appealing to me. I feel there can be such an intimacy with jazz vocals that I don’t necessarily experience with other genres. Plus, all of my favorite vocalists happen to be jazz singers.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

KJ: – Prior to my mid-twenties, I would say I had a very strong musical theater presence in my voice. However, over time, my voice has become much more subdued; partly due to maturity, but also because I’ve learned to utilize control when singing. Life experience has also had a major hand in how I approach a song. Having the ability to emotionally connect to the story I’m telling is a priority in song selection and how I compose music.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

KJ: – Since I also compose my own music, I like writing in different meters or to the pulse of what’s happening in my surroundings, whether it be to the ticking of a clock, the wind through the trees, or to the rhythm of the traffic outside my window.  I find writing this way challenges me to shape a story rhythmically in a way that comes across in a more organic and interesting manner than if it was a piece written in a predetermined time signature.  So, I’m constantly listening and trying to be aware of what’s going on around me. Also, listening to other vocalists and instrumentalists, whether it’s Shirley Horn, Jaco Pastorious, Billy Joel, or Debussy, provides inspiration for me in regards to phrasing and interpretation of a story.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

KJ: – I’m not partial to a specific harmony or harmonic patterns.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

KJ: – The most important thing you can do is to just ‘do you.’ There is only one person/musician like you in this world and that uniqueness is what is attractive to an audience. It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of comparing yourself to others (I’m guilty of it), but have the confidence and faith that what you bring to the table is good enough.

In regards to navigating a career in this business, go to where the opportunities exist. Do what you think is right at the time, and sometimes it works out.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

KJ: – I think jazz is a business already. As musicians, we’re all entrepreneurs and need to be able to evolve and grow with the times in order to survive and stay relevant. What may have worked 30 years ago, may not necessarily work today. That’s true with any industry. I feel having the ability to think outside the box in order to reach a new audience and make a living, while still loving what you do, is paramount in this business.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

KJ: – People, young or old, are attracted to certain types of music because they feel they can relate to it. Jazz doesn’t just mean the standards that were written 70 years ago. The American songbook has definitely expanded to include songs written in the 70s, 80s and even 90s. I think one of the keys is to attracting a younger audience is to include songs that speak to that generation, whether it’s writing original tunes based on today’s current climate or taking familiar songs and recreating them into the new jazz standards.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

KJ: – I would say I’m still working on that.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

KJ: – My expectation, personally, is to keep creating good music. I’m not sure if I have any specific fears or anxieties, but I suppose not having the ability to create would not be cool with me.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

KJ: – I’m working on a new album with my collaborator Kevin Bales featuring the music of Fred Rogers (aka Mister Rogers).

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

KJ: – Each of these genres have their distinct qualities, for sure; however, there is also a common thread between all of them.  Jazz and world music are the folk music of their origination.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

KJ: – I like all types of music, so it ranges from Hall and Oates to Earth, Wind, and Fire, to Hank Jones.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

Картинки по запросу Keri Johnsrud

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