Motivated by the hustle-and-bustle of her New York City roots, Jay Miners describes herself as a “songwriter who sings her own songs.” As can be heard on her new album, In Betweens, Miners’ voice has been described by listeners as being delicate, dreamlike, and ethereal.
She grew up playing classical piano, but fell in love with songwriting at the age of fourteen. Inspired by her parents’ classic, old-soul records, which included Fleetwood Mac, Simon & Garfunkel, and Joni Mitchell among others, Miners writes music regarding practical themes such as human relationships with technology, identity, and coming of age perspectives.
Regarding her relationship with the Big Apple, Miners says, “I love living in New York: there’s a way it makes you feel both lost and inspired at the same time…you feel like you always need to be doing something more.”
Miners is a regular performer at iconic NYC venues such as Rockwood Music Hall and Bowery Electric. Besides being a musician, she is also the Co-Founder and Show Director at Keepsake House, a listening room for independent artists such as herself.
We had the pleasure to chat with Miners about In Betweens, her inspirations, upcoming plans, and more.
So where did you grow up, and who or what got you into writing and playing music?
I was born in Queens and grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. My parents listened to everything from Simon & Garfunkel to Heart to Joe Bonamossa to Cantonese pop. I grew up playing piano, but I’m a pretty introverted and introspective person, so I often kept to myself and created stories and scribbled down thoughts. For the longest time, writing music was a way to self-express but later became a career choice. I love sharing my work through recorded songs and performance, even when that isn’t always the most natural place for me — there’s something special and less lonely about sharing your work and knowing someone else is listening, relating, and responding.
How would you describe your sound and style to those wondering what Jay Miners is all about?
I’m a storyteller at heart, and music is my medium to share those ideas, experiences, and observations. I’ve always gravitated towards the folk and singer/songwriter scene, but I don’t love being restricted by genres or styles because my belief is that every song has its own story to tell. When we were making In Betweens, we wanted to be sure each song had its own unique world around it. I hope that commitment to storytelling is and continues to be a thread in my work, but I also hope I’ll continue to explore many of the different sounds and styles as I continue to grow as an artist.
What does a day in the life of your songwriting process look like?
Like any kind of creative work, my process is always adapting or changing. It generally starts with a lyrical idea or seed, often from my observations of the world or my own experiences, but a chord progression or melodic motif will almost always kick the songwriting process off. Then I’ll build words around those things. Recently, I’ve been picking up different instruments (I’m currently learning the bass!) and will experiment with laying a track down and building the song without my “comfort” instruments (which are usually the piano or guitar).
Speaking of, I was hoping you could talk about your upcoming album, In Betweens. What’s the inspiration and influence behind it? Any common themes or motifs?
In Betweens is a compilation of all the songs I’ve released in the past two years. I’m really proud of this collection of songs because I truly feel like it represents my voice as an artist and the kind of work I’ve wanted to make. The title of the album came from the idea of “space” — needing space, moving on from spaces that are no longer serving us, making room for spaces we want to be in and take up. Many of the songs embody that theme.
Where was it recorded and who helped bring it to life?
The album was recorded at Degraw Sound in Brooklyn, and the entire project was brought to life with my friend and producer, Harper James. Harper is absolutely amazing and one of my favorite people ever to work with. His priority is always making a great record that is true to the composition and artist. He is a dear friend, and I’m so lucky we crossed paths.
How do you know when you have a quality song ready to be cut and distributed?
I hope this doesn’t come across as a sell-out answer, but I think as an artist you just know when a song is ready to be released into the world.
I’ve had moments in the studio with Harper when we both look at each other and ask, “Are we calling it?” And we both nod and sit and listen to the final track and soak it in. Every song on the record had this moment, where we realized we were done and could not add anything to make the song more of what it wanted to be. For this album in particular, I wanted each track to have space to breathe, so we were careful not to introduce too many arrangement ideas or elements. For me, if the final song feels like it brings out the central message in an honest way that feels true to both me and the song itself, then it’s completed and ready to be out into the world.
While it may be like picking a favorite child, what song or two on the album means the most to you or that you’re most excited to share with the public?
That’s super hard! Right now, I think Meet Me in Space is my favorite child. I have a soft spot for last tracks, I love the arrangement of that one, and the meaning of the song is super special to me. Also, Snow Prints is really dear to me because our arrangement was very purposeful. The song is an ode to Asian American women leaders, and we were very conscious of how we could bring out that meaning through the song, so we added collective vocal harmonies and “marching” drums. I’m really proud of that one.
Did you find the past year and a half to help or hinder your creative process and artistic drive?
I would say neither. For a while, life and finding creativity felt stagnant. But with any experience, you come out of it knowing something more about yourself and your art. I learned what it means to slow down, take in the moments, and catch inspiration through actually living life and not numbly “hustling.” I learned that your relationship with your art is kind of like a relationship with someone you love: you need to nurture it and be kind to it but also give the push and encouragement it needs to be its fullest. So actually, can I change my answer? Maybe in the end, it helped my creative process: I came out of the last 1.5 years stronger, more determined, and more sure of myself than before. I hope that’s the case every year.
If you could describe your lifestyle as a musician and artist in one word, what would it be?
Open. I think if you asked me a few years ago, I would have responded with a calculated goal list and a clear-cut version of what kind of success I’m reaching towards. I still have goals of course, but I want the road I’m on to be open and free of restrictions, both creatively and career-wise.
What might fans expect from Jay Miners as we barrel through the rest of 2021 and into the New Year?
I really hope I get to play more shows in NYC or other cities. (Nashville!) I have an upcoming show this Thursday 10/14 at 7pm at East Berlin to celebrate the release of the album, but I’d love to continue exploring and performing this album on stage, since so much of it was created remotely. Other than that, I’m planning on crawling into a songwriting hole and hope to come out of it with some fresh new songs. Follow me on Patreon and Instagram for new things!