Name: Haley Fohr (Jackie Lynn/Circuit Des Yeux)
Current Release: Jackie Lynn album ‘Jacqueline’, out now on Drag City
Recommendations: Art & The Artist by Otto Rank/ On Writing by Annie Dillard
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
The first time I sang by myself while the teacher played the piano, I must have been 7 or 8 years old. I remember loving the way my body felt when I sang. I've been singing ever since. I started writing and producing music when I was in high school and have always been fascinated with music. I’ve studied it from many views - as an archivist, ethnomusicologist, composer, performer, recordist etc. My favorite part about music is the fact that it is an invisible medium. There is something so magical about how intangible yet entirely all-encompassing music can be.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Finding my creative practice was a very personal journey. I was shown an underground world of music when I was a teenager that certainly came to shape the beginnings of my own artistic practice. I was lucky to have been fed very special records at a young age. I listened to Pussy Galore's rendition of "Exile of Main Street" before hearing the Stones' version. Moon Dog, the No-Wave scene, Stravinsky, Smegma, these are all musical seeds that I found when I was a teen. I have never really tried to emulate anything consciously. I don't really cover songs very often. My process stemmed from dealing with my emotions. I think because of the music I was exposed to at an earlier age, banging on a pot, or using a record loop seemed just as an honest musical expression as chords on a guitar.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenges in producing and creating has always been financial. I am grateful to have considerably less financial strain than I used to. I remember in college it took me four years to save up $400 because my ends were barely meeting... My challenges now certainly include finances to some degree, but I have a difficulty honoring my ideas over the years. I wish I was more diligent and disciplined in my practice.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was a 4-track with an internal microphone, a record player, and an acoustic guitar. My personal studio now has a few pieces - a Poly6 synthesizer, my Gibson B-12, a U87, a Universal audio preamp, and a Quartet interface. It's nice and easy for me to demo at home. I also have an Eventide harmonizer, as well as a handful of outboard gear for light mixing.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I work mostly in the old world of technology. I enjoy acoustic instruments and the way they can breathe energy into music. I write almost all of my songs on my guitar, Boom. I consider her an integral part of my creativity. The voice is certainly the most "human" instrument and my voice is the essence of my art ! If I couldn't sing, I would be nothing but a machine, or a bug! I enjoy utilizing machines for manipulation. Pitch-shifting and delay can be great trappings to a song. My partner Cooper and I have often used tape machines to achieve these desired affects.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I try not to get too in the way of myself and the song, which is why I rely more on acoustic environments rather than the digital realms. I think this can be heard in all of my records. I like to try to find the essence of the emotion first through performance. It isn't until the song has been tracked and in the late stages of the demo or writing process that I start to open up the process to other tools. I will often experiment with a new pedal or instrument where I can find a place where mistakes turn into miracles. Sometimes it can lead to a road that will stylize a certain song, or even change the root of the track entirely.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I love to discuss process with other artists. I am always looking for interviews or conversations where artists break down their own creative process. There are so many ways to make things, it is a mystery I am always chasing. I go through seasonal periods of collaboration. I enjoy sharing and working with other musicians and learn something new about myself, or find a new corner of art that was once undiscovered. I find myself in the act of collaboration through jamming, discussions, reading, plotting, eating, etc.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My days vary... Feed the cat, make coffee around 10:30 a.m. Sit out back, and check my email while the cat roams. Read the news. Noon - make a smoothie. 1 - 5ish work on related music whether it's an album, collaboration, or just running older songs. 5 - 7 break for food & free time. 7 - midnight - work on related music tops. Midnight - dinner, then to sleep around 2 or 3 a.m. I am a night critter through and through! I have a separate studio space that I go to 3 - 4 times a week. I go there to do vocal exercises, perform loudly, and paint. Music is what I do with my life - and it is incorporated into my daily practices. I am lucky to be able to blend my life in a way where I am able to live and exist in my true nature, where I make and create as much as possible!