–I am sitting in a pile of final exams, wearing the scowl of a grueling and isolated semester, watching the Orange Line rattle its way south-west–the sun is shining, finally. My ex girlfriend has lended me her phone. She is a foot away, reminding me she has to go soon, that I should finish up soon, that she needs her phone, why do you always do this. I need to call my mother. Rent is due. But first, Brian to call Jadea. I shrug, swallow my concerns, dial her number with the phone to my face, and listen to the dial tone.
JADEA KELLY : “Hello?”
BRIAN MARTIN : “Hi, this is Brian Martin from Circus Magazine calling for Jah-dey-ah (?) Kelly–we’re having a talk about her upcoming show in Chicago?”
JK : “Hi, yes, this is Jadea.” [Jay-Dah]
I apologize for mispronouncing her name. She tells me, “No worries, everyone gets it wrong.” Her voice is light, comforting. While Jadea Kelly is certainly unaware of the mess I am sitting in, and her words were meant exclusively to accommodate my mispronunciation, they remain 80% of everything I need to hear at any given moment–everyone gets it wrong. Thank God for that.
BB : “So, your newest album, Clover, is named after and inspired by your grandfather’s farm… It’s a gorgeous album, spacious, layered in harmonies, and so I want to ask how this sound represents you experiences growing up on that farm, because when I think rural Canada I don’t immediately think Portishead… And, furthermore, how is an album based in the country received by urban audiences? Is there an ideal place you’d like to perform?”
I ask a lot of questions.
“I’m actually there right now,” she begins, referring to her grandfather’s farm. It is very telling of the way Jadea approaches art that as I interview her about music and touring, she is in the opposite place as me: where I am in a pile of anxiety, listening to Chicago’s train-rattle and city life (coincidentally where she’ll be performing May 29th), she watches her father do farm work from a cottage window. She tells me her resolve parallels the patient tenacity of farm life. Particularly her grandfather, now a retiree and technically unable to carry out a lot of the agricultural labor, who refuses to slow down–hence, her father is taking over the handiwork. In a span of three years, it is in this place where she composed the songs which now appear on Clover. I comment on how we, as audiences, often believe that songwriting is a streamlined process where artists immediately compose and record the music we listen to.
JK : “For some people it’s like that. Everyone has a different artistic process. We do live in a world of technology where a lot of activities kids take part in are instantly gratifying... Farming takes time, a lot like this record took time. But in the end it’s worth it. When people listen to Clover, I want them to remember we’re only here [on Earth] for a short time, but we’re given gifts and we should share those gifts.”
She tells me about the tour. That it’s her first American tour–that visas, support, inspiration, music, and myriad elusive things finally came together. She tells me she was raised in suburbia, visiting Clover on the weekends; she grew into Toronto’s music scene as a record label intern where her own musical aspirations persisted and grew. Focusing on these, she produced records like Second Spring and Eastbound Platform. But Clover, in many ways, is a defining album. It is a change from ‘country’ into ‘full orchestration’; a dialogue of solitude, shifts in her life and outlook; countless songs written and written over. It is bruised palms balancing the dredges of day-jobs & social expectations, music & block, city & farm. Jadea tells me that after a long period of feeling unheard, she feels Clover is a voice that is definitely heard. That, having performed in Philadelphia and New York, people have been attentive and receptive to her music. I ask her how she thinks an urban audience can connect to music which has strong ties to the rural.
She tells me she feels that because of the instant gratification, the bustle of city life, the stress, people long for the patience of country life. The slow beauty. And, again, she’s said my whole life in a sentence. It is beautiful to know that someone, somewhere is living almost in spite of the world spinning restlessly around them. It is beautiful to know there are people like Jadea to tell us about them.
–article by BRIAN MARTIN