08 - jarod mahon aka emerson snowe
Following his recent performance at Oxford Art Factory, photographer Lilli Boisselet and singer-songwriter Emerson Snowe (Jarrod Mahon) talk life after winning the Levi’s Music Prize at Bigsound 2018 and his pre-show Patti Smith ritual.
Lilli - Can you talk about your songwriting process …
Jarrod - Everything with this project has been trusting my first instincts … When I first started writing was when I stopped drinking three years ago – that first week was the first EP that just came out now. I have about 350 tracks privately on Soundcloud right now. It was when I was listening to a lot of French pop and using that nylon guitar, everything is so simple with that, and the melodies are like lullaby melodies with repetition, and the repetition of the drums … I’m just obsessed with documenting, so all these songs are like diaries, journal entries … Being a solo performer – being independent, having no pressure from a band, or anyone else – it’s so cool because I think I’m already doing this, I’m already doing these diary entries, so when people come on board and say they’re psyched by it, I think, “Well I have to keep going, I have to do this”.
L - How do you feel when you’re about to walk on stage?
J - Well, with these recent shows, and in the UK, they’re the first headlining shows I’ve ever done, it’s a very different feeling. Because as support, the crowds already there, sometimes, sometimes not. But with these it’s a whole new process beforehand – with these shows, for the last two and a half years, I’ve always listened to Horses by Patti Smith before I go on every time. I’ve slacked off a couple of times and I can tell when I don’t do it, I’m not in that mindset. Because when I first started writing those years ago, I was listening to a lot of Patti Smith and was reading Just Kids, and that was what pushed me to do everything. To create just to create, and to document just to document, rather than to wait around for something to happen (which is what I was doing for years).
If it wasn’t for that book, and for stopping drinking, and those two things to happen at the exact same time, none of this would be a thing. And if it wasn’t for the support around me, none of this would exist at all. So listening to Patti before going on stage, it’s like going back to the headspace of the first times. Getting halfway through the book and looking forward to reading the rest of it. It feels like when I first moved to a city for the first time, the possibility. It’s the ritual.
It’s coming up to three years being sober, it’s amazing to think none of this would have happened.
L - What are your favourite lyrics you’ve ever written?
J - I think, the lyrics in ‘Our Home’, I’ve just always been so psyched on it. ‘Our home is a place, that we get to sit back and think of all the fun we’ve done, and sadness is a process, if you think about it lightly, you can only fight it on your own. And sometimes I think about how good it’s going to get, and sometimes that seems to work. But finding a lover, learn to care for one another, now that’s the sweetest thing you can get.’ I’m so psyched for that, that’s exactly how I feel and it’s so good to get it out. Now the biggest thing, the most important thing for me is just the human interaction. Because you can’t feel psyched on everything you’re doing all of the time. That’s something I’ve had to learn, it’s just normal, things can be overwhelming, and that’s ok. It’s hard, sometimes I can say certain things and it’s super positive, and then tomorrow, I’ll be in a negative headspace. And it can be frustrating, when someone tries to preach to you when you’re not in that headspace. Now with Instagram, you can have followers from Saudi Arabia and they’re saying how much they love your work. And somehow, you’re in their life now, this art, this documentation that we’ve created. And that’s such a crazy thing.
L - Who do you usually write songs for?
J - Partners, all the time. Always for one other person. Now, I’ve realised I always say ‘I’ and ‘You’, I never say genders, which I never thought of before. But there’s a new song called ‘You’re my boy, baby’, but there’s never a gender side to anything, it’s always very person to person, which is something I strived for when I first started writing, just to connect on a human level. Everything has sentimental value to me, whether its good and bad, it’s all sentimental.