Welcome back to Local Spotlight, where we profile great local talent from across Alberta. If you’re reading this, it means one of two things: 1) you tolerate my writing, and/or 2) you appreciate good music by good people. This week I spoke with Edmonton artist Faith Healer, where we discussed stereotypes, breaking up with religion, and the future.
This is Local Spotlight.
Local Spotlight: An Interview With…Faith Healer
“I left my instinct because of cosmic troubles,
we weren’t made to make it to the end”
Jessica Jalbert is Faith Healer, but Faith Healer is not Jessica Jalbert – to an extent at least. Originally singing and songwriting under her own name, the Edmonton artist decided to release her latest album, Cosmic Troubles, under a new moniker. “I didn’t want to feel totally pigeon holed. If you’re using a band name you have the opportunity to use a lot of different sounds, it doesn’t have to be one thing.” Jessica explains as we discussed her shift from solo act to band. “I found that the shows I was being offered [before] were specifically and only shows that were opening for singer/songwriters, specifically female singer/songwriters. And as much as I appreciate that…[my] sound has evolved a little bit [since then].”
With a contract signed with her label Mint Records, Jessica was on the cusp of releasing Cosmic Troubles by Jessica Jalbert, but after discussing her worries with fellow musician and good friend Renny Wilson, who was a major collaborator on the album, she signed a new contract with Mint to release the album under the name Faith Healer. “Had I not done that, I don’t know how different it would be. I mean it’s the same album, same exact music, but I would be curious to compare the two experiences. But it’s definitely [felt] a lot different, not only changing the moniker, but I also have a small team with me now in terms of working with the label, there’s just more structure in place whereas there wasn’t before…it’s a step forward” she explains. The name itself, Faith Healer, also carries a lot of weight with it consciously and subconsciously to the artist. “Having the name instead of having my name means there’s a lot more directions I can take it, but it also means from this album and moving forward I definitely have a lot more freedom of expression…I have a little bit more confidence and more ideas and getting more opportunities. Because of that I feel that everything about my experience now is more free than it was before” says Jessica.
Jessica came up with the name Faith Healer after talking with friends and bandmates, and is keeping up with her religious upbringing through it, by taking the themes from her childhood and working them into her music. “It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I actually actively didn’t believe [in it] anymore. In fact I was probably 20 or 21 before I was like ‘ah this isn’t for me’,” she explains. “I got pretty deep into Catholicism, and I know that comes out in a lot of my lyrics and in the name of the band for sure, but I don’t think about it like I’m pushing against my religious past or [that I] resent it, and I’m not being snide or sarcastic by using religious references or anything like that. It’s just a part of my realm of knowledge.” Though it used to have a place in her life, the artist knows that she won’t go down the path of religion again. The shift away from her values was smoother than most, but there was one challenge that the artist did have to confront from time to time. “When I finally stepped away it was like ‘ok I can breathe now’, so I didn’t really feel like I was losing anything. The only thing I was losing was a belief in god, feeling like I had something to talk to that was like some sentient universal power or something. So it wasn’t hard for me except that one aspect…it’s definitely comforting to believe that there is an afterlife or a god or something, but I would rather not be comforted.” she says.
In terms of the actual content, her lyrics and music itself are so unique it seems unbelievable that it came out of someone’s head. Cosmic Troubles drips existentialism, and is deeply retrospective. Writing the music herself or collaborating with friend Renny, Jessica has developed a sound that holds you in a nostalgic trance, seeping through your body and leaving you sitting in silence at the end, unaware that the album stopped playing long ago. The title track Cosmic Troubles hits you with lyrics right off the hop that are deep enough to drown you; “I left my instinct because of cosmic troubles, we weren’t made to make it to the end.” Jessica has a way of taking your own dark thoughts and making them into something beautiful through sound. “I hope [that people can relate to my music], I don’t have any grand scheme or big message that I’m trying to send to the world or anything like that, but I hope that what resonates with me resonates with other people so I can feel some sense of fraternity with the world” says the songstress. “[Relatability is something I strive for] within my own sphere. I don’t want to write a song about something that I don’t have lived experience in…I do really like music that is narrative in their lyrics, but it’s not really my strong point. But I love listening to a Kate Bush song for instance that’s about some grandiose figure in literature, I really admire that, but I would never try and do that because I would stink it up!”
As good as her music is, it doesn’t come all at once. The artist struggles with getting in the writing mindset and has only written 40 some songs in her career, with 11 of those being on her latest album. “It takes a lot of alone time, a lot of emotional moments, but it’s not about if I’m dating someone, or sad, or having a fight with a friend, there is no way to actually tell [when it’s going to happen for me]” she explains about her creative process and her ability to sit down and focus on song writing. Growing up, Jessica listened to a lot of classic rock, a sound that you can hear rubbing off in her music, which the artist feels can be both a good and bad thing. “People have different perspectives when they’re listening to something and it sounds ‘throwbackey’, they might think that you’re clinging to an old sound or copying an old sound.” She continues “And of course that’s basically true, because it’s just the music I like, I can’t really help it.” The artist has tried to delve into the world of modern music, but feels most confident in sticking to her roots.
Earlier this March Faith Healer was down at South By South West (SXSW) promoting her latest release, but the event didn’t pan out as the artist would have liked. “It’s sort of an industry event, so the point is to make contact with people” she says, “I was excited to do SXSW, but well aware that it might just be a money pit.” Running your own band at South By can be tough, as you need to organize shows, pay for the band to get there, and set up some important contacts that may or may not actually show up to your set. “It was a gamble, and I wouldn’t say that I won that gamble,” she laughs, “nothing really worked out super well for me going down there, but it happens, you never know.” The artist is optimistic about the festival, and is not letting the outcome deter her from trying again in the future. “I wouldn’t go again without putting another album out first. Cosmic Troubles is done, it’s recorded, its released…we will do a little more touring on it in June, and then I’m putting it to bed. Should [a new album] come to fruition by the time the next South By comes around, then ya I will try to push it again. It’s a gamble, and next time I could win.” she says smiling.
Jessica’s end goal out of all of this is simple. Less day job, more music. “I would like my work everyday to be just playing music” she says, “I would like my music to be valued enough by people that they decide they want to pay money for it, or pay money to see it enough that I don’t have to work. I want to make good music. It really worries me about writing new songs; like if I can’t write another good song…I could go the route of turning shit out, and I think I could make money doing that…but alongside the goal of making enough money to not have to work a day job full time, there is also the goal of making music that I can respect, of making music that the people I respect can respect.” Planning on sticking with the Faith Healer name, Jessica is looking forward to what the future has in hold for her and her new found brand. She is planning on recording her next album this September, and putting more focus into taking some time off to solely devote herself to the record. If all goes well, we can expect to hear the new album everywhere come 2017.
You can check out Faith Healer live on April 28th at the Needle Vinyl Tavern in Edmonton, where she will be playing a show with Alberta bands The Provincial Archive and The Velveteens. You can also peep Cosmic Troubles on her Bandcamp page, here.