Still glowing from both the summer 2017 release of her fourth album ‘Heart Of Gold’ and the fall release of limited edition vinyl remixes, House Music songstress Jaidene Veda took a much appreciated pause to open up about her love affair with music. As a singer-songwriter, producer or collaborator. And even a loyal fan of all her musical heroes.
Jaidene Veda! You do it all… Singer, songwriter, producer, sound designer, visual artist, filmmaker, photographer! Which of these artistic hats is your most favorite to wear. Especially as you work on so many different creative projects?
“I thoroughly enjoy exploring it all. But as a female in the business and especially as a self-promoter, I’ve always found it imperative to show my work from all sides.
I’m not shy if it’s about hard work. And it’s also why I pursued an audio education from the start. I favour being a producer now because I can create on my own at any time.
I’m most excited about facilitating projects from conceptualization to execution. But also because I believe the role means bringing people together, I’m blessed to work with many of the best producers, vocalists and Jazz players in and out of the House Music community. Collaborating is always where the magic happens…”
So in terms of creating, are you developing projects from dawn until the wee hours? And how do you stay inspired? Do you ever hit a wall?
“I know many artists who relate to being midnight owls. And I can be very productive while I have very few distractions as the world has gone to sleep. As for writer’s block, yes, it’s terribly humbling, but it makes you appreciate deeply when inspiration flows again. I tend to find it by escaping with films, my favourite comedians, reading books, playing the piano. Or even pure silence for a while…”
Your music always has such strong visual accompaniments through your videos, album covers, and additional photography. Which visual artists most influence you?
“Björk first and foremost is a groundbreaking muse. She set the ultimate bar for me since ‘Debut’. I love Michel Gondry and Floria Sigismondi, both of whom I discovered through Björk’s music videos at first. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ‘Amelie’ is an all time favourite. And Zhang Yimou’s ‘Hero’ is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.”
So speaking of ‘Hero’, who are Jaidene Veda’s musical heroes? Who are you listening to when you are not working on the music of Jaidene Veda? And how do you find new music, new artists?
“Björk, Sade, and Me’shell Ndegeocello ended up molding me most. But the Naked Music era is what swept me into House Music and a recording career after that.
Notably, Ásgeir is a favourite new Icelandic artist. And newer bedroom voices like Lianne La Havas, Corinne Bailey Rae or even Indie Pop break out, Maggie Rogers, are so enjoyable. Nils Frahm and Tycho are on repeat when I want an instrumental break! My big brother has pretty much maintained a lifelong role of schooling me with music. I don’t think that will ever change…”
So in terms of your songwriting process, do you start with the music or with the lyrics? Or do both seem to blossom simultaneously?
“Hearing anything for the first time is when I feel spoken to; I’ll start singing immediately. I really try to honour natural chemistry from the beginning of a collaboration by recording scratch takes and locking down a blueprint. Even though it’s freestyling and unintelligible phrasing. But later in the process I’ll massage lyrics to fit those initial sounds. Even down to the vowels and syllables.
Sonics matter most to me. My poetry and prose is simply another layer of storytelling. We all know (if we’re lucky to be in music this long) that the music is so much bigger than all of us. We always need to be listening…”
Your newest project, which is your fourth full-length album saw the light back in June 2017. What is the significance of the album title ‘Heart of Gold?’ How does the title represent Jaidene Veda today?
“The majority of my music comes down to matters of the heart. My very first release, ‘Pisces Pendulum’, was a break-up album. I was in my early 20’s still, where we tend to be emotionally invested in what has hurt us. I didn’t want to do that again. So while going through a major relationship shift in my mid 30’s, I only wanted to speak on it if it involved healing as opposed to venting.
I liked the concept of a “wake up” album and waited a very long time to write and record. Once I was in a space where I had something positive to offer to the music again, I hoped people would recognize light, or feel heart. And I love the saying “feeling golden. I suppose that a “Heart of Gold” keeps on giving of itself, no matter that it’s capable of being broken.”
I love that concept: a wake-up album! This relates to questions from friend, fellow journalist and music lover, Nyasha Themba Dhliwayo, based in South Africa. Nyasha asks… “What kind of emotional space were you in when you created this album? Most of the songs on the album are deeply personal, intimate, and almost vulnerable. Such vulnerability surely must have had you feeling “naked” at certain stages… What gave you the emotional fortitude not to ‘cover up’ and persevere in sharing such sentiments of vulnerability?”
“Just the fact that I’m never afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve. People always speak on how sensual and deep House Music is, it makes you want to leave your heart on the dance floor. It’s the same for me on the microphone. Music heals me, so it makes me genuinely hope to heal others.”
And you are always evolving from project to project and taking risks. What risks did you take on ‘Heart of Gold?’? What may have surprised your long-time fans?
“The generosity of the Indiegogo donors allowed me to pursue my biggest dreams to date. Mostly incorporating more live elements.
At times it felt like a massive creative risk, while inviting so many more voices, instruments, and schedules to the process. Artists and logistics are an intense combination! Hands down, the full string section was the “pinch me” moment. But beyond the alternate rendition of the title track which they performed, John Bews (the composer) and I, also dedicated time to doing a Björk cover. My first official of the likes! ‘All Is Full Of Love’. That felt deeply full circle; I hoped they felt that too.”
This brings us to your collaborations with other artists, musicians, and producers. Can you discuss some of your ‘Heart Of Gold’ collaborations?
“Yes, I’ve always been lucky to work with a massive team on albums. After so many solo projects, it only feels right to showcase voices other than my own. Sincere shoutout of thanks to Ursula Rucker, Hosanna Littlebird, Lady C, Sio, and Bailey.
I have to admit that my most fragile moments trying to keep the album positive while it was birthed from a painful event, were lifted all thanks to them and their talents. Some sang my words for me, some wrote and performed their words with me. It fundamentally enabled me to remove myself from my own experience. I’ve never felt so much joy in the process, especially ‘Criminal’. Sio saved the most difficult song on the album. I’m such a fan of that talented, young soultress. She blessed the album, like all the rest.”
One of your other collaborators, the very talented producer N’Dinga Gaba, has this to say about you… “Collaborating with Jaidene Veda has been one of the best experiences musically I’ve had in my career. She is incredibly talented, detail-oriented, and supremely professional. When working with Jaidene, I find now that sometimes in song, less is definitely more. Her voice has such a unique tone that you don’t want to crowd it with anything else, just let it shine. So I have definitely taken that approach on a bit more in my other productions. I hope to continue working with Jaidene!”
“Wow, I’m truly flattered by all of that, but I genuinely feel the same about him as a muse. He touches on “less is more”. And I have to say how profound my appreciation is for producers who understand my instrument and help me highlight intimacy.
Lyrics and moods are all I have to add to such big and booming music. But we also share a really dynamic range of influences from the Grunge era to Naked Music, which we nerd out about together constantly. So we definitely have a lot more work to share with you all and soon! I’m blessed to have a musical partner like N’Dinga Gaba, one of the best in the business that I’ve met too.”
Yes, looking forward to more coming from you and N’Dinga Gaba! So moving from the artistic elements to the business side. What are the challenges you face today with your independent label, JaiVeda Productions? And what advice would 2018 Jaidene Veda give to the younger Jaidene regarding the business of music?
“Everything has shifted immeasurably in this digital era, but perhaps a reminder of impermanence. “Namaste!” As for advice, I think just being prepared to meet all your musical heroes and continually learning that they’re all just human (and the most talented are always the most humble).
Almost 20 years into my recording career, I’ve maintained the position of being “a fan”. And some people have suggested that I should grow out of that. I fully disagree. I don’t ever want to be seen as anything but a true fan of the music first.”
So Jaidene, as both a fan and an artist, who would you absolutely love to collaborate with that you have not yet?
“I’ve actually been saying Meshell Ndegeocello out loud to people of late. Just to dream big! King Britt, Goldie and Tricky are producers I’ve always wished to work with, or to sing and write with people like Stuart Matthewman, whom I’ve had the gift of meeting a few times now. I adore that Aya and him work together often, because ‘Sweeter Love’ by ‘Blue Six’ is the definition of House Music to me…”
Oh yes, that song is very nostalgic for so many of us. And dare I ask, are you already thinking about your next album or other music project?
“Ha! Not quite. ‘Heart Of Gold’ was such a massive undertaking. Four albums later, songwriting surely doesn’t pour out of me of late. I will always collaborate though.”
What do you see as the future of House Music especially in light of digital music, streaming sites, and yes, piracy?
“I hope to God that people keep valuing music, or else the vast majority of us will simply not have any means to keep creating it. That is to say that production of tangible projects or quality will continue to waver. But I think that club culture, DJ’s, dance floors, community will religiously remain. “It’s a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing.””
It’s all about valuing the music we love. And how can we continue to value your contributions– where can we purchase “Heart of Gold?”
“‘Heart of Gold’ vinyl, CD & digital album are available from on Bandcamp…”
Jaidene Veda! Thank you so much for your time and your honest reflections. ‘Heart Of Gold’ is truly a treasure-trove of musical gems!
“Sincere thanks to you, Amanda, for such a heartfelt exchange and your invaluable support with this project…”
So in parting, can you share some lyrics from the album that reflect where you are in your life right now?
“I wish you a sun kissed life, I wish you dream filled nights, I want that for you, I want that for all of you” (from ‘Sun Kissed Life’, by producer St.Jovis, SA).
Words: Amanda Frontany
Interview: Jaidene Veda – Heart Of Gold
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