Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Jascha

I am sitting here today with local singer songwriter Jascha. Having worked with him numerous times in the past I felt it was only fitting to have him tell you guys a little bit about what he is doing in the industry these days. Jascha brings a very distinct sound to the stage and you feel warm inside and feel that you need to be next to the fireplace with your soul mate when he is singing. His lyrics have meaning; they are deep thoughts that is hard to find in a musician these days. He has a lumberjack appearance but an industry standard voice. Let’s take a few moments to learn a little bit more about Jascha.

It has been a long time since you and I have talked. How are you doing these days?

At the moment, I’m just coming out of my winter hibernation. Releasing some new demos, starting to play shows around and out of town more. Still a little frozen, but warming up.

I see you have some shows coming up in New York. Are you trying to branch out of the city of Indianapolis and become a traveling musician?

You know, it’s funny you put it that way. I actually got my start playing shows on the road – a few years ago I was working as a detective and sort of felt my life falling apart around me. I had a few songs, a demo CD recorded in a friend’s living room, and two shows under my belt at United States of Mind in Indianapolis. I threw everything in my car and took off for California, playing at open mics or any show I could set up along the way. I didn’t really have a plan, or a route, I was just doing it. On my way out there, I got an offer to play a show in Massachusetts at The Dreamaway Lodge; a venue Bob Dylan had played. I couldn’t pass it up, so I added an East Coast leg to my travels. On my way back to California from there, the brakes on my car exploded in Ohio. I sort of crash landed back in Indianapolis. I’ve done a few tours around the country since then, but I always wind up back here. As a rule, I don’t actually ever book any shows; if I’m asked to play, I do. I’ve performed out in Jamestown, New York a few times before, and they keep inviting me back. I guess they must like my music a little bit. It’s one of my favorite cities.

What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

Somewhere over 800 people is what I’m told. A Katrina benefit a few years ago with a national headliner.

The smallest?

Including myself? (Laughs) Probably 3.

If you were headlining at Verizon Wireless Music Center who would be opening for you?

As tempted as I am to name one of my favorite popular artists, I’d like to think if I make it that far and have anything to say about it, it’d be one of my friends that deserve some recognition – Paper Route, or Christian Taylor.

What do you put on your pizza?

Well, that depends on my mood. Ham and pineapple, or black olives usually. But always, always extra cheese. I love cheese.

What are you drinking on stage?

Am I getting paid? Whiskey. Preferably a golden Kentucky bourbon more than 10 years old. But I’m not picky.

Where does your inspiration come from when you sit down to write a song?

That’s actually a trick question for me, and it’s got a trick answer. I’ve only ever sat down and written one song. The normal process of songwriting for me generally involves a single line – from something I hear, read, see – being written down in a notebook. There’s usually an immediate idea for the melody of it.

Sometime in the future; a week, a month, a year; another line or idea comes into my head. I add it. After that, it’s usually only about five or ten minutes for me to finish the rest. I type it up on my typewriter, and play it with the music already in my mind. If it seems to go, it’s a song. At this point, I’ve never really sat down and said “I’m going to write this song”, although I’ve heard that’s the way to do it. I’d like to try it sometime. I’m interested to see what comes out.

Are you a PC or Mac kind of a guy?

Mac. Unequivocally. Although I don’t at this point in time own a computer. On tour in 2006, someone in St. Louis took a crowbar to my car window while I was playing a show and made off with my laptop, and a lot of pedals and other gear that I still sorely miss. I have habitually avoided St. Louis since then.

Do you think MySpace is good or bad for musicians?

For me, it’s been good. Being as reluctant as I am to self-promote myself, or to book shows; it’s been nice being able to just put something out there and have a medium for people to find me. I’ve gotten a lot of shows and fans through the site, and made a lot of friends. It puts me in touch with a lot of people who otherwise would have no clue who I am.

So is Jascha your real name?

It is.

Did you just want to be like Cher and Seal sticking with one name?

You know, I was thinking more like “Jesus”, or “Charlemagne”, but essentially, yes.

Who are your biggest influences?

I’m going to answer this in a more general sense than I assume you’ve asked it in, because I think that influences for a musician extend far beyond just what music you listen to.
My family is my biggest influence. My mom’s side is extraordinarily musical. My cousins were the ones who got me playing guitar in the first place. My brothers serve as my filters and nonchalant managers.

I’m also extremely influenced by things I read – Jack Kerouac, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Ernest Hemingway, Douglas Adams – I’m a huge sucker for murder mysteries, like Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, or Rex Stout.

Music I listen to is a list that never ends: Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith, My Morning Jacket, a host of my friends that no one knows. I’m not even sure where to begin. Lately I can’t stop listening to a song my friend Erik wrote.

If you could play only one cover song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Wow, that’s probably the toughest question on here. I love playing “Lack of Color” by Death Cab; there are some Rocky Votolato songs I wish I’d written. I’m going to go with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” by Bob Dylan. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that song. Cake’s “Frank Sinatra” is a close second.

If you were offered a $250,000 record deal but you had to sing someone else’s lyrics and it was a country album would you do it?

No. Although, I admit being tempted. That kind of money would do a lot for me. But while it might be fun to stretch into another genre for a bit, ultimately I wouldn’t be able to handle hearing myself sing someone else’s words over and over again.

Let’s play word association. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you read these three words?

Animal Planet: Monkeys.
U2: Tyson.
Swordfish: Nero Wolfe.

What is your favorite color?

Green. Although my wardrobe contains a suspicious amount of baby blue t-shirts.

If you could live anywhere other than Indiana where would it be?

Somewhere warm year-round, but with mountains close. I’d like to die in Montana.

If you could meet one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Someone who could shed some light on ancient human history. Someone from the Olmec tribe. I’m extremely curious about it.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while on stage?

Well now, that’s a tough one; so many to choose from! Last year, I started singing a song in a completely different key from the one I was playing it in. That was more personally disappointing than anything. I also played a show where a policeman came up to the stage and confiscated a flask that I was drinking from – unfortunately because of his accent, I couldn’t understand what he was saying! It turned into a little bit of a hassle.

Have you ever forgotten your own lyrics?

Yes. Very recently. Fortunately there were so many people singing along, I don’t think anyone noticed.

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

First of all, thanks so much for the interview. The site looks great, and I hope I can steer some more people your way.

Second, I’d like to make everyone in Indy aware that Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday nights at the Red Eye cafe there is live music that shouldn’t be missed – Christian Taylor, Lovely Houses, Kendall Ludwig, Jesse Lee – and those are just the local guys. I’m usually down there hanging out, having a beer, sometimes playing; I’d like to encourage people to come check it out.