In a little play called Hamlet (maybe you’ve heard of it), Shakespeare writes: “To thine own self be true.” It’s a pretty sentiment, and I’d like to believe that any remotely self-aware human being at least tries to subscribe to this piece of advice. But, sometimes, it’s really hard to gauge to what degree our attempts at authenticity prove successful. I mean, how do you measure that? How can you be sure?
About six months ago, I interviewed singer-songwriter (and general kick-ass lady), Courtney Jaye. Jaye’s personal journey as an artist has been – how shall I put this? – tough as shit. She’s a gorgeous woman (seriously, hot to trot), her voice is clear as a bell, and yet, she once faced what so many musicians do: industry professionals stiff-arming her to become something she’s not.
The bitter truth is that her label dropped her, and at that point, she had to ask herself what she really wanted to make of her music career. Her thoughts and wishes continued to bend toward Hawaii, where she lived as a young adult. It wasn’t that she wanted to return physically, but musically.
After moving to Nashville in 2007, Jaye realized that the traditional Hawaiian music by which she was inspired was simply an “extension” of country music, a genre obviously a little more popular than island sound. When she met fellow singer-songwriter, Thad Cockrell, he urged her to explore her then untapped vision, a tropical cocktail roughly dubbed as “Hawaiian-alt-country-pop.”
Jaye released The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye at the beginning of 2010, and the album proves that the aforementioned string of mismatched adjectives really does make sense. After scrapping her first stab at a career as a professional artist, Jaye’s experienced a rebirth; she’s come into her own. And it shows; critics find the record refreshing and new. Jaye explains, “The reactions seem to be that it doesn’t sound like anything else out there, and to me, that is a supreme compliment.”
I wholeheartedly concur that Exotic Sounds is nothing like I’ve heard before. And, honestly, when is the last time, as a music fan, you could claim that? Current fads tend to choke burgeoning bands into submission, and decades-old sounds are invariably recycled. Jaye not only figured out a way to stay true to herself, but to also pioneer an innovative sound that literally no one else is doing.
In the end, she explains, “Exotic Sounds is really about my journey of finding truth within myself at an incredibly challenging time of my life. It’s about living honestly and no longer being afraid of expressing my emotions openly through song. I make no apologies for this record, its sound and content. It’s the first time that I can really say that, and it feels good.”
Jaye’s deliberately authentic decisions have reaped transcending personal and professional success. Lately, she’s experiencing a major boost of confidence. Says Jaye, “I feel as if I am at a place in my life where I am ready to explore that swagger and attitude to it’s fullest – whether it comes out rhythmically, lyrically, or in the way I sing a song, or from a particular guitar tone or instrument…”
Swagger, my friends, is a measuring stick that speaks for itself. Shakespeare knew what was up all along.
The Exotic Sounds of Courtney Jaye (2010)
She said it: “It has only been since I have come into my own with a more honest message and authentic sound that people have gravitated to it, offering their support. Mostly because a lot of them know what I had to go through to arrive here. So to now feel the open arms and support from all of these incredibly talented people, that I too admire and respect, is truly lovely, but most importantly is the gentle confirmation that after years of searching, I’m finally in the right place.”