As the singer-songwriter music modal continues to grow exponentially, it is with a spark of irony that we find ourselves at a loss with discovering something different. Jessica Pratt, however, is the clear exception.
Pratt emerged modestly with her 2012 debut, an eclectic collection of acoustic folk numbers that boasted a slightly off-kilter mood. Fitted with soft finger picked melodies and the kind of double tracked harmonies that can only lead one to introspection, Pratt found space to breathe. Her sound lay somewhere between our soulful hippy-era forefathers – Simon & Garfunkel, CSN, Joni Mitchell – and another place far from here.
Growing from the same seed, Pratt’s music is testament to the idea that using the same tools won’t always lead to the same result. Even more appealing is her tendency to keep her music stripped away, limited instrumentally but seemingly grand and euphoric upon a first listen. She presents the kind of minimalism that speaks volumes, personally or more outwardly, about the world perceived around her.
Photography by Dola Baroni
Pratt recounts an early musical experience, “a strange cross-country family trip” at age 9. As she notes, “my mind must have been starved for stimuli, because while passing through some of the mid-west’s more uneventful highways I had intense experiences hearing Jimi Hendrix’s Foxy Lady and the Beatles’ Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.”
This was not surprising to hear. Her song-selection chosen for our Cone Presents artist playlist reveals her intrigue in iconic and surreal compositions, leaning often on acoustics and harmony more than anything else. Buffalo Springfield harnessed this gift, along with close companions David Crosby and CSN. Brian Eno and King Crimson represent the more experimental side of the same coin, with mood and effect sitting high on the priority list.
“I always wrote little poems, mostly in a verse/chorus structure, for some reason. I’d always sung a lot, from as early as I can remember. But when I learned how to play some basic chords at 15, I began pairing those little things with simple melodies and it was very natural for me.”
On Your Own Love Again (Released in 2015 on Drag City Records) was her follow up record, written and produced in the confines of her own home. The time in-between releases marked a dramatic shift in the foundations of Pratt’s life: the death of her mother, the ending of long love, and an up-and-leave departure from San Francisco. She took to a tiny room to complete the album, living off the money she had pieced together before leaving.
Coinciding with a move to Los Angeles, Pratt, armed with a Tascam multi-track recorder and a notepad, penned some of her most intimate melodies to date. Whilst still sounding honest and minimal, they carry the confidence and bravery that comes with musical maturity.
“Lyrics, maybe for a lot of people, but definitely for me, are half ‘feel’ and half direct, thoughtful word combinations.”
‘Moon dude, you can try the weight of your pulley now
In outer space and time
You can cast a gaze on our planet lines, ta-da
You’re on the outside, you’re looking in
To the escalators humming
They are pulling you from nothing but your loneliness’
Often quite personal in dealing with themes of loneliness, love and the grand perspective of life, Pratt draws us in with her imagery and honesty. Many lyrics appear throughout the record that utilise ode and anecdote to note an emotional comparison.
‘I know you’re searching all the time, in the corners of your mind…but, boy, don’t you want me now?’
With these kinds of sentiments it is possible that Pratt is pitching to those that have experienced similar heartache – or simply those that ponder their placement in this universe, considering our emotion and feeling can feel so isolating at times. The writing of record number 2 saw her at a loss with exploring a new city, spending bulk time in isolation which caused her mind to almost ‘eat itself’ after awhile.
“I may, sometime, graduate to a point where I can explore studio recording more effectively, but for now I prefer the solitude and control of a home recording situation.”
With the beginnings of a semi-global tour about the kick off (performing alongside Panda Bear) there is no telling where Pratt will head. If she’s anything like her music (which she undoubtedly is) it will not be predictable. This is a refreshing thought. It’s not everyday that one encounters an artist that they are willing to invest in, and also respect when they decide to explore new territory. We have stepped into a new era of folk musicians – lyrical prose that doesn’t follow the straight and narrow, but rather stretches for the sky and beyond – but we’ll be sure to keep our ear to the ground for Pratt’s next move.