Interview: Jaye Bartell

Folk soloist Jaye Bartell's new album Loyalty was released just last week via Sinderlyn.  We recently talked to Jaye about the sources of his inspiration, his dream collaborators, and the making of Loyalty. Read on!


When were you first inspired to write music? What’s your process like?

I was born with a zither in my diaper! I was first interested in writing music as a kid, along with everyone else, in early high school years, but I never approached it with much focus or design, along with everything else. At some point later, at around 19, I moved to North Carolina and fell in with people who played songs, and after I learned the E, A, and D chords from them -- and heard Cat Power and Palace Brothers albums for the first time -- I started working on music every day.

My songwriting process is nothing remarkable -- work! After the initiating melody or idea, its repetition, rumination, and exploration until the song comes to form.

What’s the inspiration behind Loyalty? How is this different from the new record you’re working on?

The songwriting process is the same in essence, although the circumstances differ, meaning, the songs on Loyalty were written in one city and my more recent work was written in another. But the songs were developed in collaboration with the other musicians on the album -- Shane Parish, J. Seger, and Emily Easterly. We played that material for about a year before we recorded it, and each player influenced the development of the songs immensely. Lyrically, the songs from Loyalty are embroiled in the anxiety of The Other (to be both extremely abstract and specific at the same time). The last song on the record, Oldest Friend, served as a kind of harbinger for the next phase of work -- embodiment, in one's own life.

Are you going to be playing shows with a band or solo? Which context do you prefer for live shows?

For the past year or so, I've been playing (and writing) material for solo guitar and singing, although there is some accompaniment on my new recordings. The two modes -- ensemble/ solo -- are so different, I can't claim a preference for one or the other. It depends on the possibilities of the time. I live/sleep/work in a fishtank at the moment, so I'm playing fishtank music.

How has your music evolved as you’ve moved from place to place over the past few years?

"It's difficult to sum up briefly," as Robert Creeley writes -- mostly because the elements of a place (particularly the people there, more than, like, landscape or how much it costs for a sandwich) have such significant effect. I'm Mr. Quotations here, but I think of two lines from Charles Olsen -- "I have had to learn the simplest things last," and, "People don't change -- they only stand more revealed; I, likewise." The development is braided in a way, of my life and the music of it/in it.  

How did you get involved with Sinderlyn/Captured Tracks?

The record shop and onetime headquarters is in my neighborhood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where I live and work, so there's a local quality to the relationship (which is still new) that I value. Other than that, it's  a long story that involves chance, the graces of good people, and who knows!


If you could pick anyone--living or dead--to collaborate with, who would it be?

I would love for Marianne Faithfull to interpret or make a version of one of my songs.