FAX MACHINE ANTHEMS
ONE-ON-ONE WITH CURTIS: JOSALEIGH POLLETT
Let us start with a little introduction. For those of you who have completely lost faith in humankind since the rise of the internet, who are convinced nice people don't exist anymore, or at the very least have been banished to a small planet, probably in a galaxy far far away, somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, enjoying their fair share of Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters... for those people we have good news: we have found the nicest of 'em all, on earth, on Twitter of all places. His name is Curtis L. Reeves Jr. And here comes the real kicker, he will lend us his interviewing skills! Today we proudly share the first of (hopefully many) one-on-ones with Curtis in which he talks to Josaleigh Pollett, a beyond talented singer-songwriter from Salt Lake City.
What are some of your earliest musical memories, and how have those played into your art?
"My dad likes to say that the moment he brought me home from the hospital, he put me in between two speakers playing Mozart and Frank Zappa. I don’t remember it, but I do remember sitting on a rickety old fishing boat when I was around 4 and writing a song about the fish my mom had just caught. I remember both of my parents expressing big feelings through the music they listened to, and I felt like that was just what people were supposed to do! Feeling sad? Find a song that feels like you feel! Feeling angry? Find a song with that energy! Feeling sweet? Sing some lyrics to your loved ones. I never thought to process the world in any other way than music."
What is the creation of a song like for you? Are you a music or lyrics first sort of person?
"It always used to be lyrics and music at the same time for me. Especially as a young person, I spent most of my writing time alone and if I couldn’t find a melody to fit something, then I usually shelved those lyrics for good. I grew up as such a perfectionist and felt like if I didn’t have a complete song after sitting down to write, then I wasn’t really a songwriter, which is a very mean thing to convince myself of. Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to let myself be whole and messy and incomplete more regularly, and part of that shows up in how I write now. I spend whole afternoons exploring one line and don’t think about the music much at all at first. Especially since I started writing with my bandmate/producer, Jordan Watko, in 2019. Generally I write too many lyrics and a very basic melody or chord progression on my guitar, and then I take it to Jordan and he stews on it for a while and starts to build a sonic environment for it. Then we work on the structure together and make it all fit. After writing alone for so long, it feels so nice to write songs with another person like this."
Who/what would be your greatest source of inspiration?
"For this new record, the inspiration was a lot of self-reflection and therapy. I was noticing some big patterns in my behavior I wasn’t really proud of, especially in how I relate to other people and how I view myself, and I was trying to break down these big, heavy thoughts into small and relatable analogies and sentiments so that I could make sense of them in a real way. It’s like when you hear a statement that you know is true, but you don’t really believe it deep down until you repeat it enough times or experience something that makes you go “OH!”. I think this new album was me trying to take my own healing to heart so I could actually like myself more and accept my flaws instead of trying so desperately to go against them, while also taking accountability for how they impact others. The act of working in my garden and cleaning my house and getting enough sleep and going on walks felt so REVOLUTIONARY to me in this space. I was finding inspiration in the mundane because it had never felt less mundane to me. I could care about myself AND be disappointed in myself AND be so proud of myself all in one breath and this record is what came of those feelings."
What is the activity you most enjoy away from music? i.e. what do you do to relax, have fun or decompress?
"I am inherently bad at relaxing. It doesn’t come naturally to me and I am working on it haha. If I’m REALLY burned out, I like to make something easy for dinner and watch cartoons. Adventure Time or Steven Universe are my go-to.
I’m also a big fan of lying on the floor and groaning. I like to ride my bike to downtown SLC and have a beer and play foosball at the arcade bar. I like to dance. I would go dancing every weekend if I could. I also love to put on my big headphones and blast ambient music and pull weeds in the front yard. I think it achieves the same effect as a sensory deprivation tank but costs literally nothing and I have to do it anyway."
What’s your favorite meal?
"Lately I’ve been really enjoying what I call my Big Boy Salad that I make in a mixing bowl and put kale and cabbage and cilantro and walnuts and cranberries and apples and whatever other crunchy things I can find around. I also really love a pizza from a place down my street that is a vegan cheeseburger pizza – it has pickles on it. It fucks. I also will always commit crimes for a PB&J."
"My favorite movie is Alien, followed closely by The Thing. I love being scared. I love the practical effects. I love the acting. I’d do anything for Sigourney Weaver. My favorite book is a really cheesy love story about fishing called The River Why by David James Duncan. I read it at an impressionable age and it made me want to be outside and fall in love. I also fucking loooove the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer."
Tell me about the most interesting scar on your body?
"I love that you asked this, because there is actually a song on the record that mentions my most visible scar and is related to getting it, sort of. I have a scar in the middle of my top lip, right at the top of cupid’s bow. It is much more visible when I wear lipstick, but I think it’s always pretty visible. I got it when I was around 4, when my big brother got a ball stuck in a tree. A neighbor kid decided to throw this huge fucking rock up in the tree to get the ball down, and I was sitting beneath the tree and it hit me in the face on the way down. I had to get a few stitches and I still remember what the numbing stuff tasted like while I was shrieking in the ER as a kid. When you’re a kid, memories like that can be so intense. At that time in my childhood, there was also a lot of other intense stuff going on that I don’t have memories as clear of, so in my brain it all gets sort of lumped into that incident. In my song “Jawbreaker” on the upcoming record – I wrote it about exploring childhood trauma in therapy. About how much work it is to uncover those layers of things that your kid brain just couldn’t manage. About how we protect ourselves when we should have been protected by someone who couldn’t or didn’t know how. So that’s my lip scar story lol."
Dream concert lineup? (performing or just witnessing)
"Oh man, this is such a hard question. I think if I was performing, I’d die to play a show with Jenn Wasner/Wye Oak/Flock of Dimes. Everything she touches makes me cry in the best way. For something to witness, I’d want to see a Jenny Lewis/Parquet Courts/Amyl and the Sniffers/Little Dragon lineup. That feels perfectly crafted to everything I love in a live show."
What’s the most difficult thing about being a musical artist at this time, and what advice do you have for others?
"Ooof. Obviously the answer is capitalism. I feel like right now it’s such a clear picture of being an artist and only an artist is impossible without spending all of your time on tour or selling your soul, which isn’t sustainable or safe for a lot of people in this country right now. The alternative is going viral or turning your art into “content” which feels so bad and is so unsustainable. Otherwise you have to have a day job to get you through and that takes away from the time you could be spending on your art or with people you love or going on walks and smelling flowers and laughing. I think it all is pretty bleak. But it’s pretty magical that we get to create music with our hands and our voices in spite of it all and help each other feel a little less alone. It’s hard to give advice because everyone’s situation as an artist is so vastly different right now. The tech/music industry changes so quickly that something that could have been helpful a week ago to get your art seen/music heard is no longer relevant because of something fucked someone like Elon did, you know? It’s fucking hard out there. It all feels like a trap. Personally, I try to keep music and how I make money as separate as possible. Knowing that I’m always going to have to do SOMETHING that makes money and knowing how much I love music, I try to keep my music safe like a little baby I’m trying to guard from the effects of exploitation. It means I spend 40 hours a week doing something completely unrelated that doesn’t bring me a lot of joy. It’s also not something everyone can do and I am really privileged that I get to keep my music safe like that. I don’t know, man. My advice is do whatever you can to keep doing your art in a way that doesn’t destroy your soul and don’t be afraid when that changes."
Considering the negative aspects for artists and the general public alike since 2020, has there been any (positive) aspect that the pandemic brought to your life or music?
"I think, like most of us probably, that the pandemic deeply changed me as a person. That amount of stress and uncertainty just changes your brain. Personally, I feel like I learned so much more about what actually matters to me since 2020. I’m less concerned with the things I used to be. It showed me that music and art will continue to thrive and connect us, regardless of what collective pain we’re all going through, and connecting with others is kind of really all that matters. It also taught me the importance of taking a little walk. Just take a little walk!"
Do the natural surroundings of where you live play any part within your art?
"I think Salt Lake City, and Utah in general, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have always either lived right next to the mountains or right next to a river. It’s kind of like having a built in think-place no matter what. I like to hike alone or sit by running water when I’m working through a thought or exploring an idea for a song, and I’ve been so lucky to have those beautiful, natural spaces to do that in for most of my life."
Any words you might have on your upcoming project.
"I’m really excited about it. I’ve released a lot of music in my life, and In The Garden, By The Weeds feels like the most Me record I’ve ever made. Maybe that’s just because I feel the most Me at 31 than I’ve ever felt before, but it feels less like grasping at ideas and words and more like intentionally putting them where they go. I also had such a blast making it. Jordan is the most incredible musician and the way he explores sound is beautiful to experience and watch. This record feels like our friendship, which has kept me alive for the greater part of the last few years. We’re both proud of it and I just want people to hear it because I think we made something special and hopefully relatable and helpful."