In charge of the music and sound art programme at kunstencentrum STUK
After a considerable hiatus spent touring as Jackie Lynn, her cocaine-queen alter ego, Haley Fohr has returned to CDY with a fresh album and a new lease on life. The latest release in her impressive repertoire, Reaching for Indigo, is equal parts celestial and cinematic. Synthesizers, strings and guitars swirl around inexorably and infectiously, grounded by Fohr’s signature baritone, which swings between operatic intonations and primal howls, far from being quick and dirty. In fact, it took her a while to write it, but hey: this is the theme of the mag, so we had to mention it somewhere in this feature.
Interview by Julia Yudelman
Photos shot by David Kasnic in Chicago, USA
Why the colour indigo in Reaching for Indigo?
So indigo is a really interesting colour. Colours have frequencies, like a number attached to them, kind of like a frequency in audio. But with indigo, it’s never really been scientifically defined. It’s a spectrum on a rainbow, but scientists have never really agreed on what exactly indigo is. In human culture, it’s been celebrated and honoured for centuries as the sixth chakra, which is intuition, or the third eye. I find intuition really hard to utilise in today’s world. With the internet, and the swiftness of the media, and overpopulation, I just feel overstimulated. So for me it was kind of like returning to intuition and following that internal knowledge.
I know that you’re a big advocate of home recordings. Why is that so important to you versus working in a studio?
I guess initially it stemmed from my means. I’ve never had a large budget for recording and everything I’ve done, I’ve paid for myself. Now that I’m, you know, deep into my discography, when people approach me with money, I have a hard time taking it, just because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and ownership is so hard to hold on to these days. But also artistically, I’m more comfortable when your mind’s not on the clock. I think you’re able to re-approach some songs and accompaniment in, like, a more careful way. Each song that Cooper and I captured is basically because we had ample amount of time at home. We would try something out and then really dig in because we had the freedom to do that. For instance, with overdubs and the arrangements, Cooper and I get pretty deep. Like on ‘Brainshift’ there’s a backing vocal part that’s 16 or 18 vocals stacked on top of one another.
I have such a hunger to return back to my heart and what’s coming from the demon side of me
Your alter ego Jackie Lynn is awesome. Is that like a David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust kind of distinction?
Yeah. I mean, I did some research and I thought the way that David Bowie approached Ziggy Stardust was pretty inspiring, pretty effective. I’ve gotten a lot of comparisons to Chris Gaines – [country singer Garth Brooks’ alternate persona], which I’m not inspired by at all. [Laughs] But yeah, I do think it’s pretty individual. I wasn’t trying to repeat anyone else’s artistic steps, and I really gained a lot of perspective through that project.
What kind of perspective?
Well, I thought I was untethering myself from identity in a lot of ways, but in fact I think it was the opposite. I take a lot of time to write, so this was supposed to buy me time for this Reaching for Indigo album, but in fact I just created a second band that people kind of cared about. So that was a lot of responsibility. And on a technical, selfish side I just wanted to write smaller songs – shorter songs that were easier to digest – and, like, sing more words, and be more of a poignant lyricist instead of going existential all the time, which is something I have to do just to deal with my mind sometimes.
How do you feel getting back to CDY now, after inhabiting that other persona?
It definitely felt like a departure, and I guess I feel the largest difference in a live context. When I’m performing as Jackie Lynn, and Jackie Lynn’s doing her thing, it’s fun but there’s something missing — something’s not satiated. I have such a hunger to return back to my heart and what’s coming from the demon side of me. Practicing and rehearsing for this tour, it’s just so fulfilling. It’s all about challenging my voice and trying to go as far as I can vocally; everything just feels so real and personal as CDY, so it’s a relief to be back. The mysterious thing that people don’t talk about – where your heart’s at – really does make a difference.
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