Jaz James performed at mmhmmm at The Standard, Hollywood last year and we loved her so much we decided to bring her back for a bi-weekly residency starting Thursday, January 10th. She released her first EP and music video (produced and engineered by Scott Smith who also produced Grizzly Bear, Weezer, and Jose Gonzales) on her label, Playtime Recording, in the spring of this year. We sat her down to talk about her inspirations, superstitions and love of Los Angeles.
STANDARD CULTURE: Do you get nervous before a performance? If so, do you have any pre-show rituals that help to calm your nerves?
JAZ JAMES: I always get nervous before a performance unfortunately. Haven't figured that one out yet. I'll do affirmations. Sometimes I put crystals in my pocket, sometimes I have a beer, it varies. But when I get on stage, nerves turn into excitement and its worked out from there.
When and why did you start performing?
JJ: I feel like I really starting performing when I did my first performance ever with songs that I wrote last year at El Cid. I'd done tons of performances before, but once I sung what I had created, that's when I felt I was really performing.
We understand that you had a career as a pop artist in France. What was it that incited your interest in taking on this project of performing jazz with a jazz band?
JJ: I'm a pop singer and songwriter, but I always had a deep love and resonance with jazz music. I love the soul and freedom in it and I wanted to incorporate that into my pop sound by bringing in jazz musicians. I wanted to stretch the pop boundaries and jazz was the way I found to do it.
Is there anything about living in Los Angeles that inspires you musically? If so, what is it?
JJ: Los Angeles is so inspiring musically. Being such a melting pot of a city, you can get so many different styles and genres of music here. It's a lively place to be at the moment.
When you are in session with the jazz band, how do you know that you are having a good session?
JJ: The great thing about getting in a session with jazz musicians is it's always going to be good. I mean it. They are so spontaneous and creative that every moment is magic. Most notes are unplanned and there is a real freshness in that.
Which jazz musicians do you most admire? Why?
JJ: Way too many jazz musicians inspire me to list but Billie Holiday is definitely the first singer that I admired. She is the reason I started listening to jazz. I fell in love with her voice and style. She lead the way for me to discovering jazz and some of my favorite players like Lester Young, Miles Davis, Ramsey Lewis, Jimmy Smith,.. the list goes on and on...