Joss Jaffe released his album Sun Mountain Sea recently. We had the chance to catch up with him and ask some questions. Get to know the person behind the music a bit.
RMM - What's your inspiration?
For this album my inspiration was to create a body of work that evokes a feeling of looking back – to past loves, life dreams, and memories from youth and childhood – and then bring those feelings into the present moment. How do I feel about this now? Sometimes we live in the past and it paralyzes us. But by processing those feelings – some very old and some recent – they can flow freely and not hamper us anymore. The album has a dreamlike quality in the lyrics, instrumentation, and production. The album imagery references nature, outer space, and mystical-spiritual energy. Ultimately every song on the album is a love song in one form or another.
RMM - If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
Good question! I don’t assume to know all the ins and outs of the music industry but I would hazard to say people should just try to take care of each other better. The streaming services seem to be doing quite well so I would say artist payments need to be increased per stream. There are various initiatives to make songwriting royalties distributed more fairly and I support these. Being an artist can be a challenging career. We need to look out for each other and not feel like we are all in competition against each other.
RMM - You're so right. We should lift each other up. What is your favorite song to perform?
Right now I really like singing my song Natural Rhythms.It has a deep slow beat that’s fun to sing over and it’s in D minor so it works with my newest instrument – The Ngoni African harp.
RMM - The minor notes are always something special. What would you be doing right now if it wasn’t for your musical career?
Definitely don’t want to consider that question! I’d probably be on a surf trip somewhere remote with no plans to return.
RMM - If you could go open for any artist, who would it be?
I’d love to open for Talking Heads.
RMM - What first got you into music?
Well I was obsessed with Michael Jackson when I was 9 in 1989! Does that count? Shortly after that I started playing guitar. It was hard at first and I wanted to quite a million times. I’m really grateful my parents actually forced me to stick with it. When I finally found my way around the instrument it was this great “Aha!” moment. That experience led me to want to learn other instruments including the voice. Learning that one instrument demystified the process of learning music. I’ve been doing it ever since.
RMM - Any inspiration counts, we all get our passion from somewhere. Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Surfing is my one true loves outside music. I enjoy cooking and love learning dishes from other countries. I like hiking and being in nature. Travel and having an adventure. Road trip!
RMM - Road trips are some of the best adventures. which instrument is your favorite to perform?
That’s actually a really hard question. I’m blessed to be proficient on a number of instruments and I cycle through loving different ones more. Right now the Ngoni (African harp) is high on my list. It’s a wonderful instrument to sing with. It’s been called a “natural arpeggiator” (is that a word?) by my friend Evan Fraser of Dirtwire.
RMM - Might have to look up that instrument later. Learning about new sounds is a cool part of music. What is it about music that makes you feel passionate?
I like it when the inspiration to play comes naturally. Sometimes I’m playing an instrument and I just get this intense urge to sing. It’s like surfing. The one turn leads to another turn and you just ride out that rush of energy. Then it passes and comes again. It’s a feeling of being in the present moment and being alive. That’s what it is in its most raw essence. From there I like putting music together, composing, building songs and creating art.
RMM - People always ask for advice from others, but I want to know what’s the best piece of advice another musician has given You?
My friend Dave Stringer once said, “Follow the Love”. It’s an invaluable piece of advice. Play the venues, stages, and events where people love you and want to hear your music. It makes everything so much easier. That and “go to the bathroom before you go on stage”.
RMM - There can be nothing without the love and passion for the music. What’s your process for dealing with performance anxiety?
This is deep. Is this a music interview or a therapy session? Just kidding. Performing has actually taught me incredibly a lot about life. In my experience it is very rare that everything goes right on stage. Usually there is at least a couple (often more!) problems you have to deal with. From sound issues to technical issues to equipment issues to your body or voice if you are a singer, lots of things can go wrong. The state of mind of rolling with it and dealing with problems has taught me countless lessons. Lessons I’ve used in life many times. Trust the process. Have good people around you. Make it fun.