The introductory single to Jaz Paterson‘s upcoming EP is titled Lonely – and given the detached lockdown times we’ve all been going through, it has poignancy aplenty. Pairing her very current pop vocal stylings with some ear-catching retro synth and drum sounds, courtesy of Christchurch producer Will McGillivray (Nomad), it’s actually her reflection on the isolation that’s part and parcel of life as a gigging solo musician. Richard Thorne talked with the ‘new’ Ōtautahi-based introspective pop artist. Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.
Jaz Paterson was just out of school and living at home in Geraldine when she released an EP called ‘Day One’, demonstrating a clear intent to make her way in the world as a singer-songwriter. That was 2013 and now, some eight years after, she has returned with what the accompanying press describes as her debut single. Lonely is a personally revealing first taste of her second EP, ‘Ache’, due this November. That intent evidently remains, although as the now 25-year old alternative pop artist has found out, it can be a long and winding road to find musical satisfaction.
“I released the first EP when I was 17, then moved up to Christchurch when I was 18. Then when I was 20 I started working with a producer for the best part of a year – until that relationship and project fell through. I had invested so much into the recording project, financially and time, and when that fell apart I just felt I needed to do something predictable and completely different for a while, so I pursued a counselling career.”
After three years of tertiary study, she earned a Bachelor of Counselling degree, and subsequently worked as a counsellor up until 2020, when that bug to be a musician almost mysteriously returned.
“It was on my birthday last year that I started wondering what I was doing. I missed writing, I missed recording, I missed it all so much that I decided to quit my job. It’s been a really crazy process!”
Connecting through an engagement with Christchurch’s Sole Music Academy, Jaz teamed up with Nomad lead singer-turned producer Will McGillivray [Madeleine Howard, Nat & Jono] to record new tracks when they received a New Music Development funding grant from NZ On Air.
“In the process of recording my first EP, I think I worked with a different producer and in a different studio for each song – that was just working around the funding I had at the time. There’s been a big shift from me being a really shy, naïve teenage kid, working with a variety of great musicians I looked up to and respected, to now working with Will McGillivray and having a much more collaborative process with him, one where we both have the confidence to express our ideas.”
Lonely is a song about the solitary life of being a solo working musician; about driving alone to a gig, dressing up and singing to strangers, then packing down to heading home, all while your best mates are out having fun and being sociable.
“I don’t think it was about one specific event, more a combination of several events that felt quite similar. There is one gig I have in mind, where all my friends were doing something else, I was driving there in the dark, with all the pre-gig nerves, and I thought, ‘Why am I doing this. This is really hard, and a lot more lonely than I thought it was going to be, to be honest.’
“In a general sense, a part of me feels that choosing to be a musician I am choosing a certain kind of lifestyle. I am choosing a lifestyle that does lend itself to meeting lots of amazing people but also lends itself to being a bit isolating at times – even though it doesn’t look like that. I’m thankful, but simultaneously feeling lonely and not wanting to admit that to myself.”
With that clear description of the song’s narrative and her strong, drawing, natural vocal delivery, Lonely seems the kind of song that pretty much wrote itself.
“Yeah, yeah it did,” reflects Jaz happily. “I wrote the bulk of it in my room. Will had shown me how to use Logic so I had started to play around with different loops and beats, and I think it was the first song that did kind of write itself. And it was the first song I had started writing and felt like, ‘This is the kind of sound and style that I want to start exploring with my producer.’
“I wrote it, and woke up the next day and listened to it and felt that finally, I had found something that really fits me as an artist. I had tried a whole bunch of things but this fits me well. So it was nice to put that one out as the first single. Most of the songs on the EP are not sad, but the material is dark. It’s more introspective pop.”
The single opens with the lyrics: ‘All I wanna do is write sad songs / In my head it’s just me, and it gets lonely.’ A quite universal tale for sure, but for all that, Lonely carries a sense of revealing Jaz Paterson more personally as an artist.
“Ohh, surely everyone feels lonely? But I’ve always felt embarrassed to talk about it. Like, ‘Although I’ve got great friends and family around me I somehow still feel lonely…’ It shouldn’t be shameful, but talking about loneliness does feel like a vulnerable, almost shameful thing.
“The other two songs I’ve picked as singles are a little bit more radio-friendly, so the choice is partly strategic, but also Lonely is a nice introduction to me as an artist. It’s like a gentle little release, but also that the concept is a big part of the EP, and a really important part of my life at the moment.”
Jaz Paterson’s next single and EP title track, Ache, is due out on November 24.