A local singer-songwriter is fulfilling her birthday wish this week — to release her debut album before turning 21.
Five days before her 21st birthday, Jerusha White from Fort St. James is launching her first full-length album The Other Woman with a celebration at Nechako Valley Secondary’s Integris Community Theatre on Dec. 17.
Started two years ago, it’s a production that first took the singer-songwriter to recording studios in Vancouver, then Edmonton, and finally Victoria, said White’s mother Loretta Turgeon.
“We went through a learning process to get the quality,” Turgeon said, adding that all studios have a part in the process to bring the musicianship of the recordings up, such as varying the volume in certain sections to bring out the emotions and attractions in each song.
“We want to represent northern Canada with quality,” she said. “Up here they know her but the rest of the world doesn’t, and we want to say that up here in the north we have quality talent, the desire to know quality and get what we want.”
She added, “We want to put out something the world will appreciate and like.”
With the help of local contractors and professionals who have donated their professional time, the album’s production was financially supported with hard work through the provincial government’s Small Scale Salvage Program, as the family harvested and sold dead wood in small patches inaccessible to larger logging companies, Turgeon explained.
White has performed in various events throughout the region, including the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George where she was the starting performer of the event’s closing ceremony.
Though originally a one-song appearance, the organizers enjoyed her performance and asked for two songs instead, with a 45-minute performance after the ceremony and the desire to contact White for future events, Turgeon said.
Q: Vivian Chui
A: Jerusha White
Q: Can you tell me about your songwriting process?
A: Songwriting is a very different thing for everybody who writes music. You can either write from personal experience or write from third person, or write from things you might imagine. You can write from any perspective.
A lot of the time songwriters write from personal experience. I can’t do this because it’s too personal for me.
I grew up with a musical theatre and classical background. For me it’s easier and I feel more connected as a musician if I’m getting into character and I’m portraying a character, rather than trying to channel my own energy.
Obviously when you’re portraying a character you put your own energy, feelings, and emotions into this character, and you give everything you got, 110 per cent. I find for me, when it’s my own memories, my own pain sometimes, it’s painful, and the the last thing I want to do on stage is to break down into tears.
I want to give a full performance, give my best shot, and I’m not able to do that if I’m constantly worried about if I’m going to cry.
I try to write more from third person and I write a lot about things I see, my colleagues and peers’ experiences and how they feel and what they say, what if someone wrote a song about this.
It’s really quite different and it’s not many people who do this kind of writing. it’s very tedious if you will, you have to constantly go outside the box and think, hey, what would I say if that was me.
Q: How did you learn how to write songs?
A: I have been writing since I was eight years old. I have pieces of music laying everywhere, songs laying everywhere, sometimes they work out sometimes they don’t, sometimes you save them for later.
I’ve always written the same way, this third person, and not writing from personal experience
One song in the album in first person is called “I want it all.” I wanted to venture into that and see what it’s like, and try it; it is quite common. If everyone’s doing it, I want to give it a shot and see if it’s any different and what happens.
It was a very difficult thing to do. I was crying, I was upset; it was a really painful process actually. It really solidified my belief that that writing style is not for me. I am not able to get into character; I am not able to deliver as much. As an artist, it’s a big thing for me, delivering 110 per cent all of the time.
Q: What instrument do you use to write?
A: I don’t really use any instrument when I’m writing. Usually when I’m writing I’ll have lyrics or a line running around my head for a couple of days. It’ll be sitting there at the back of my mind and I can’t get it out so, I usually write it down and stretch it out and find what it’s trying to say.
The song usually writes itself; it comes out. I haven’t ever had to push through a writer’s block; I haven’t experience this yet. But for now, I’ve been really blessed and lucky and I’ve been able to just let the music come out.
It’s usually the lyrics first and then sit down at a piano and piece out the melody and let the melody show me where it wants. I’m a big believer that music writes itself. A lot of people like to plan every single note and really be quite involved with the music. I find that it works for me better if I let the music show me where it wants to go.
As far as the writing goes, the music writes itself and I’m just a tool to let it out.
For every song I write I also find a model song. That means it has a similar melody, feel, groove, or beat, something that is the same, so that I have something to base my pattern off of. I hear them and I go, oh, that beat, I like this beat, I want to use it. I will use something similar or I’ll come up with something that feels the same.
I find that to be one of the best things about music. Not only does music gives you this feeling, but when you listen to a song that you like, you feel warm like you just ate something that you like, or you’re happy inside, but it brings emotion out. And what I love the most is that I have the ability to listen to this music, any music, hear the emotion, and feel that I can use this emotion to express something else.
Music is so versatile; it’s really relatable to everything and everyone.
Q: What are your songs about?
A: There’s a lot about love; it’s very relevant. I don’t write from experience, so a lot of my friends stories such as so-and-so’s boyfriend did this, this person having to like this guy but he doesn’t like her back, and this is how she feels about it.
There’s one song [in the album] called “Echoes”, co-written with Greg Ventin, the lead of Rosewood’s Diary. A dear friend, a fantastic writer, an amazing musician. We co-wrote this song and it’s interesting because it’s not really about anything love-related, it’s more self-reflection.
To co-write that with Greg was a really cool experience, so comfortable.
Q: So this album took two years to produce?
A: I’m very picky. If something’s not exactly how I want it, or if it’s not up to par, I’ll dig my heals and say, look, this has to get fixed until I’m happy about it.
Because it’s a debut album, I want it to be so that if I listen to it in a year or so, I’m not going to say I wish I could have changed this or done that.
Obviously there’ll always be these things that come up and as you grow as an artist, you get better and better. I feel like if I hadn’t taken the time, I think it would have been a really big letdown for myself, because I wouldn’t have had time to grow.
Voice is a funny thing; it changes as you grow, especially as a woman your voice doesn’t stop growing until you’re 21, I believe. It changes week by week, one week you might have a really high voice, one week a really low voice.
I want to be able to work with this changing in the voice. When I listen to the track now, compared to the track in the beginning, I sounded like a totally different person to myself. I’ve learned so much; I’ve grown so much. I’m really happy that I took the time.
One of the things, more than anything I would like to say, is the amount of gratitude for everyone that has helped me along this amazing experience. I would not be here without everyone. I would still be sitting in my room writing to myself, and singing to myself. You really are nothing without the people around you, and you learn that so fast in this business.
Q: So we’ll see you on Thursday at the CD release party?
A: I’m so excited, so nervous, I’ve done tons of performances for sure, but for me, it doesn’t seem to matter. I just feel this fresh new feeling all the time.
Every performance I get nervous, every performance I get excited, every time I go on stage I feel like it’s the first time.
I enjoy that it’s fresh all the time because I feel like the day I go on stage I feel like I’ve done this before, I shouldn’t do it anymore because you lose that *gasp* it’s this intake of air when you grab your mic, the moment the light hits you, the “whoa, okay, I’m here, man!”
I think that’s what keeps me going partially. It’s this rush, the adrenaline before performing. It’s the worst drug in the world because I can’t get rid of it.