You can't call the chanteuse Joanne Weaver a throwback.
On Interstellar Songbook, Joanne Weaver interprets eight classic jazz standards. She, (along with producer Andre Fratto) has chosen specific classics - from "Black Coffee" to "Moon River" - in order to tell the story of "a woman's journey from the pain and anguish of losing her lover to growing and ending up hopeful."
You left your home and pre-med career in order to pursue music. How did your friends and family react to your decisions?
I was in San Francisco, and the situation pretty much booted me out. I got laid off from a cushy dotcom job, the house I was renting with some roommates was getting bulldozed in order to make way for a luxury home to be built there, and me and my longish-term boyfriend broke up. I wasn’t in the best mental state when I left for NYC, so my parents were worried about me.
But they didn’t stand in my way; they supported me through it, and have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, and never made me feel like an underachiever, even though I had this snazzy college degree and was basically bartending and waitressing for years while I figured out what I wanted to do…which was always singing, but it took me awhile to really own up to the fact that I wanted to pursue it as a career.
I always figured that I had to do something with my life that was difficult and didn’t come easy in order for it to be valuable. Some weird, Puritanical throwback in my genes, or some such. Pre-med was hard; singing wasn’t, so the choice was obvious, right?
What’s it been like getting your start as a musician in New York City?
A slow burn for years. If it wasn’t for Andre Fratto, the producer of Interstellar Songbook, and Elynn Diamond, my longtime voice coach, both prodding me onward and basically forcing me to wake up, take myself seriously as an artist, and finish this album, I might still be in the slow burn phase. It feels really good to have accomplished something that I want to share, and it makes me want to share more of myself.
You have a pretty unique sound. How would you describe it?
I’d say it’s smoky, sensual, atmospheric, chilled-out, and trippy, with a tinge of otherworldliness. It’s the orgiastic lovechild of David Lynch, Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards, all the members of Pink Floyd, and Frank Sinatra.
Why did you record an album of standards for your debut album?
These are THE classics from the Great American Songbook, hence the “Songbook” part of Interstellar Songbook. Both Andre and I got super excited about the concept of mixing the timeless standards in the form of this spacey, electric and trippy sound I love so much.
I also equate these songs with my childhood, as my uncle introduced me to jazz, and my dad was also a bit of a jazz enthusiast (Kind of Blue and Take Five played in our house fairly often). My secretive reason for making this album a space and jazz mashup is that I liked the idea of actually sending these soundwaves out into space so that they could somehow reach my dad, who passed away in ’06.
Is it all just lights out and that’s it, or do we go someplace that defies the natural laws we think we know, where we can maybe hear these radio waves on our way to the great beyond, or back from it?
What’s the reception been like for Interstellar Songbook?
It’s been incredibly positive. I was half-joking with people that the pre-release party we threw last month felt like my funeral, in that I actually got to be alive to enjoy it! That theater was packed to the gills with my family, friends (both old and new), and people I haven’t seen in years who came out to support me. The outpouring of love and good juju in that room was overwhelming. I still get vaklempt when I think about it!
Most people seem genuinely excited about it and comment that they’ve never heard anything quite like it before. Mission accomplished.
What’s next musically?
Well, I’d like to take Interstellar Songbook on the road and really develop it into something: Vegas, Atlantic City, Paris, Tokyo - hell, everywhere! As the show itself is really more like a play or a piece of performance art, as it has a definite story arc and a character. I think there’s lots of possibilities to develop it further. This project is now pushing three years in the making, and I’m still not sick of it!
I’d also die and go to heaven if I could get this in the hands of David Lynch and collaborate with him on something, anything; it’d be a dream come true to perform in one of his movies or shows. I hear he plays music too…can you imagine doing a duet with David Lynch?
I’m starting in on my own originals soon; I’m dusting off the piano keys and getting some very initial thoughts down.
And, to keep my performance muscles flexed, I’m hoping to do more sexy-cabaret-jazzy gigs with pianist and musical director Daryl Kojak—he is a hoot to play with and so talented—and also taking things up a notch with my jazz quartet, The Kitchen Table Quartet.