To paraphrase an oft-used and somewhat sexist expression, hell hath no fury like a woman songwriter scorned.
All one has to do is listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade, or You Oughta Know by Canada’s Alanis Morissette to understand that a female artist has ways of processing and expressing the often complex emotions surrounding a relationship coming to a sudden and searing conclusion that are elegant but also rapier like in their ability to get to the heart of the matter.
For the sweet, soulful Whitby, Ontario –born roots songwriter Jadea Kelly, her new album Love & Lust is just that, and is also a bold departure in tone, tenor and sheer raw emotion. Always introspective and authentic on her previous releases, such as her 2008 debut Second Spring , 2010s Eastbound Platform and more recently Clover (2013), Kelly lays her heart bare on this new album, which is revelatory in its honesty and in the way it sees a maturing artist cathartically processing the pain, sense of betrayal and ultimately displaying the inner strength she has accrued with the ending of a long-term relationship.
“I guess it’s a break-up album. It’s been a couple of years in the making, and sort of started around the time the subject matter started to come to light. It’s one of the most honest and uncensored albums that I have ever released and I really struggled with releasing some of the songs. I would send some of the tracks to my parents and they said, ‘no, you have to do this.’ They were so encouraging. They said, ‘this is your story and you need to tell it.’ I feel like it’s going to resonate with a lot of people because it’s about infidelity and it’s about love and it’s about lust, human frailty and forgiveness,” Kelly explained from Toronto, after returning from a stint in Nashville.
“And I know I am not the only person who has felt those things before. It was very therapeutic. I wrote the majority of the album in Enterprise and in and around the Napanee area [halfway between Belleville and Kingston in Eastern Ontario] while sitting beside the lake at our cottage. All the photos for the album are taken at my grandparents’ farm up there and at our lake and all the video footage is shot in the water there.
“I went to that area because it allowed me to get away from the city and kind of confront my emotions and have the support of my family to write this record. It was a very painful experience, I’ve got to be honest. It truly is my break-up album – it’s my Jagged Little Pill. But I am now totally over the experience and now the fun part is I get to put it out there and share it with the world.”
Love & Lust is being released through Kelly’s own label, Darth Jadea Music and distributed by Fontana North. She said she took her time in finding a label to work with and was very happy when she came to an agreement with Fontana North.
“I wanted somebody professional to distribute it and promote it. Fontana North is a Canadian label and they have always been a fan of my music. They work with a lot of great Canadian artists like Joel Plaskett and Royal Wood – people I truly admire. I really respect how they operate and am glad to be working with them,” she said.
The album was collaboratively produced by Kelly, along with Stew Crookes (Hawksley Workman, Doug Paisley) and her guitarist Tom Juhas.
“Stew produced the last album, Clover, so when it came time to record this new one, I wanted to work with someone I knew and who knew me and knew my history. Stew is like a fly on the wall and he never says anything discouraging. He lets us have our own artistic process and pretty much says yes to everything. If you have a wacky, cool idea, the weirder the better to him. He wants whatever you do to sound unique. He wants to bring your own weirdo mentality to the table and that’s what shines through on the record. And it’s a perfect approach for me because I am weird,” Kelly said with a laugh.
The album took a couple of years to come to fruition. During the process, Kelly was also touring extensively, including jaunts in Europe opening for Whitehorse as well as spending almost half a year in Nashville, where she is beginning to make in-roads in the music scene.
“I had visited Nashville a few times just to write with people. The second I arrived I honestly felt like home. There are so many people moving there right now from New York and Los Angeles: it seems to be the new home for a lot of songwriters from across the spectrum, not just country music. There’s a beautiful energy in the city that is just inspiring. I really, really love it there,” she said.
“I am not really a city person and I find that Nashville is a beautiful middle ground of country and city. There’s a wicked music scene here and, for example, every Monday night you can just go see Vince Gill play with the Time Jumpers at the 3rd and Lindsley Bar & Grill.
“It’s so laid back too. I ran into Emmylou Harris in the soup aisle at a grocery store one day and I just about lost my mind. I also ran into Pam Tillis at a clothing store and she helped me pick out a dress. There’s these kind of people just walking around doing normal everyday stuff, and it’s blowing my mind because I grew up listening to their music. Emmylou Harris is my hero – her music is a huge part of who I am as an artist.”
Digging into the meat of the album, the lead-off single and video for Make It Easy has already been released and features a sensual, but starkly evocative lyric video that sets the self-exploratory tone for the whole album.
A number of the songs deal with the empowerment than can come from learning to enjoy one’s own company and that solitude can sometimes be a good thing.
“With the song Can’t Outrun, I wanted to write about learning how to be alone and learning to be happy in your own skin. It’s the greatest achievement in being human. If you can learn to do that then I think you could be happy for the rest of your live. I know a lot of people who just jump from relationship to relationship and they don’t ever confront themselves and their emotions,” Kelly explained.
“And it’s similar to Good Girl, which I wrote with Robyn Dell’unto, who is a pop songwriter here in Toronto. I wanted a female anthem about being happy about being alone and not dealing with bad behaviour. The video for it hasn’t been released yet but we just kind of rented a venue with 15 of my girlfriends and we all just danced around in slow motion in the club.”
One of the most poignant tracks on Love & Lust is the haunting Love You.
“It’s just about trying to love someone who has left you emotionally and has found someone new already, but they don’t know it yet,” Kelly explained, adding that the song Beauty, co-written with Peter Katz, is about coming out on the other side of the heartache and heartbreak.
“I wanted a song that said despite the hardships of life and love, there is still beauty. Despite how hopeless it may seem, there is still beauty here on this earth and being alive and breathing this air. I think trying to find that beauty again after you’ve been hurt is a really courageous thing.”
Love & Lust will be released in physical and digital formats on June 3, and Kelly will embark on a series of album launch shows, starting with Toronto’s Drake Underground on June 4. She then comes to the Riverside Church in Yarker (near Napanee) on June 11, before a NXNE showcase at The Cameron House in Toronto on June 14, and a date at The Blacksheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec on June 18. Three British Columbia shows follow to cap off June.
“I have a few festivals as well over the summer. My manager also manages the Sweet Alibi from Winnipeg and we’re both hitting the road as a double bill in the fall and we’re playing some bigger theatres. Then we’re going to start touring in the U.S. before heading off to Australia and then over to Europe. So it’s pretty busy, which is cool,” she said.
For more information on Jadea Kelly, the new album and upcoming tour dates, visit www.darthjadea.com.
* Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at email@example.com.SHARE THIS POST: