Last time NZ Musician featured Fleur Jack she was diarising her low budget, quickfire 2011 tour around North America. After nearly six years at Kiwi FM, the IAN show host has earned a considerable reputation for her dedication to supporting the emerging and less visible parts of the NZ music scene. The good news is she now has her own new country/folk album, ‘Ghosts of Cimarron’, to promote. The bad news is that while away she caught the U.S. bug, and will soon be heading back there with the intention of making Seattle her home. Richard Thorne caught up with Fleur between radio shows and future packing.
For the last year or so Fleur Jack has added a live music show called, The Lounge, to her Kiwi FM workload, which notably also includes the five-nights-a-week IAN (‘independent, alternative and new’) show. She’s done 30 or 40 Lounge episodes and laughs in telling me she has always wanted to play on the show – but can’t – she’s the host. She doesn’t ever play her own music on her IAN shows either, and obviously doesn’t interview herself.
“I think that people assume that because I am with Kiwi FM, and write for magazines and so on, that that would be a foot up, but it hasn’t been. It hasn’t made it any easier!”
After several years with dangerously rocking threesome The Twitch, a brief fling as the three-songwriter-experience Pavlova & the Jandals, she now has countrified album of her own, under the name Fleur Jack and the Jandals. ‘Underground’, a word she uses frequently about her radio show content, suitably describes each of her musical projects to date, despite her considerable contribution to the local music industry.
“I’ve had so many people say to me, ‘You really should be pushing your music through these channels’, and I have thought about that long and hard, and agree I really should – and still I don’t.”
She’s not complaining about it at all, just explaining that she does sometimes have reason to be confused about just which she is, “… industry or muso”.
As much as her anti-self promotion stance reflects an admirable integrity, it also sits at odds to the extreme diligence Fleur has long exhibited in exploiting other opportunities for promotion, for creating fanbases, communicating with fans and sourcing funding. She is a relentless user of online resources like Facebook and Twitter for the purpose of gaining email addresses and communicating with fans.
Then there’s Sellaband, the friend/fan-funded recording site that she worked to raise $14,000 to pay for her recently released album. Through global funding platform Indiegogo she raised almost $2,500 to cover her month-long solo tour of the States, last September. (See ‘On Foreign Soil’ NZM Oct/Nov 2011.) The deal was that any donors got an album.
“If I was to be an accountant about it, actually it was another way to sell albums. But then, if someone in the Netherlands gives you $20 – it costs $10 to make it and $10 to ship the album there – so it’s not really a way to make money!
“The Sellaband income all went on recording and printing the album. The one thing I didn’t work into the budget was the shipping. So I ended up spending about $800 of my own money – but essentially that is the only money I spent on it, and now I have that extra fanbase all around the world.”
It was an earlier U.S. trip that inspired the songs on ‘Ghosts of Cimarron’ and it carries a distinctly American country sound. The title track, about Jesse James and a deadly motel in New Mexico, is the most overt, along with Trinidad, a reminiscence about the small town her grandparents live in.
“I had those two songs and wanted to theme the album around them, but there are things in there that aren’t of that Americana vibe. It’s the strumming and the chicken beat in the drums that give it that country flavour – and Americans love it! The songs I’ve written since this album are all really folky, they’re not alt-country at all. They are all fingerpicking and really folk sounding.”
Fleur Jack & the Jandals grew out of another project she initiated, Pavlova and the Jandals.
“The idea of that was three songwriters collaborating to write, record and do a tour and then the project would be done. That all happened in 2010. Before then I’d always written for The Twitch. When I started writing folky acoustic stuff I didn’t have an outlet for those songs, which is why I set up that project. By the end of it I’d really started writing more and more songs in that vein, and I’d started the Sellaband thing too.
“By the end of Pavlova and the Jandals I pretty much already had the money to go and record a solo album with. So I just nabbed the rhythm section and guitarist [Simon Ross on bass, Scott Wotherspoon drums plus Joel Vinsen] and said I needed a recording band for that.
‘The Ghost of Cimarron’ has been released via Amplifier and iTunes, with the elegantly presented hard copies available only at gigs. As an ‘underground’ act, she’s concluded there’s no mileage in selling through NZ shops, maybe not much more mileage in NZ generally. Come June Fleur will be leaving the safety and security of Auckland for the uncertainty and excitement of Seattle, with the intention of making the U.S. her future home and playground. There is, of course, a love interest factor as well.
“I’ve always wanted to do music full time and I think that’s a big part of the reason why I’m going to move to the States – to do it. Here I’m secure. I’ve had this full-time job at Kiwi for nearly six years – and I’ve loved every minute of it – but that’s not what I want to do.
“I would love to be able to survive on playing gigs, travelling from town to town, playing all night then waking up in some crazy town that inspires me to write another song.
“It’s cliche to say I want to live the dream, but if I stay in NZ I can’t play as much as I’d like to. And as well there are too many opportunities for me to work in the industry. If I move over there I won’t have a radio station saying, ‘Come and work for us’, won’t have a magazine asking me to write. I don’t have any connections – just being a musician. I want to do music and I’d be stupid not to give it the chance.”