Songwriter Jessamine Barham begins with poetry, inspired by personal experiences and influenced by the folksy pop of female musical icons that came before her. The melodies come after the lyricism to aid the emotional impact of her tunes.
Just last month, Barham released her sophomore album, Marching On. While the creation of the album began a couple years ago, Barham faced the challenge of wrapping up production during the pandemic, replacing recording studios with the safety of a friend’s home studio. Although the majority of the tracks were written before quarantine, the album’s dark mood feels topical in dark times.
Still, Marching On carries listeners through a range of emotions, from the vengeance of “Royalty” to the hope of the album’s title track. The songwriter’s latest project is an honest and raw reminder of life’s ups and downs, and the power we have to remain resilient.
“Marching On,” the album’s last, and title, track begins with an organic a capella before sweet instrumentation follows her angelic voice. After a whirlwind of universal griefs, Barham tells listeners to “just keep marching on,” to move through the world with strength and courage.
As an artist facing the challenges of sexism in the competitive music industry, a global plague and the trial of vulnerability expressed through music, Barham is a role model for what she preaches. Continuously making music through a time that can tend to feel taxing and uninspiring, Barham hopes to give listeners comfort in knowing that they are not alone, reminding fans that we are all part of a greater community working through life together.
Here at Music Mecca, we got the chance to chat with Barham about her writing process, the production of her latest album, the new projects she is working on and much more.
So how did you first get into making music?
I’ve loved music my whole life, but I didn’t start writing original music until 2015. I was inspired by the rock bands Evanescence and Within Temptation at the time to write my own songs. My singing teacher Natasha Kozaily furthered my interest in writing music. In 2017, we recorded some of the songs I had written in 2015 and in 2018 I came out with my first album Out of the Shadows.
How would you describe your musical style for new listeners?
I would describe my music as a mixture of baroque pop and folk. My music has a strong classical influence from symphonic metal and the baroque pop artist Regina Spektor. It also has a folk influence from artists like Birdy and Blackmore’s Night.
Who are some of your inspirations or musical idols?
My musical inspirations for my first album Out of the Shadows were a mixture of gothic and symphonic metal bands such as Evanescence, Within Temptation, and Epica and indie folk pop singers like Aurora and Birdy. My second album, Marching On, has a similar mixture of influences. Tracks like “Denial” and “Royalty” are dark and dramatic and were inspired by symphonic metal. On the other hand, tracks like “A Thousand Stars” was inspired by the singer Aurora’s ethereal music and “Marching On” was inspired by the folk music of Birdy and Joni Mitchell.
What does your writing process look like?
I usually write my lyrics first and then come up with a melody. When writing songs, I like to either tell a story or convey a message. I want to make the listeners think when they hear my music. I write emotional lyrics that are not only therapy for myself, but for others as well.
Are there any favorite moments you have from your time performing or creating music?
I have fond memories of recording my first album Out of the Shadows with my singing teacher Natasha Kozaily. It was my first time recording music. She and I recorded some of the songs in a studio near my college and the rest of the songs in her friend Chad’s home studio. That was when I really learned about how music is recorded and all the work that goes into it.
You just released your new album, Marching On, on Oct. 5. Can you talk a little bit about the process of creating that album?
The recording process for that album began in 2018. “A Thousand Stars” and “Royalty” were the first songs I recorded. I released “A Thousand Stars” in December 2019. In 2019, I started recording Denial, which I released as a single in January 2020. Marching On was part of my original plan for this album. However, during quarantine, I wrote a new song “Chasing a Dream” that I thought would be a nice intro to the album. “Chasing a Dream” and “Marching On” were recorded during the quarantine period and my album was finished by the end of September 2020.
Who else was involved in the album’s production?
Alex Arango, one of the teachers at Kalabash School, helped me record all five songs for Marching On. He played the piano in “Chasing a Dream” and “Marching On” and helped with other instrumentation such as drums, guitars, and violins.
What was the inspiration behind this album?
The five songs on Marching On were all inspired by different things. “Chasing a Dream” I wrote about someone who spent their life wishing for things they could never achieve. I wrote “Marching On” as an inspirational song to not lose hope when I was feeling down. “Denial” was a song I wrote about a personal experience I had with feeling betrayed. “Royalty” was inspired by Within Temptation’s song “Deceiver of Fools” about a corrupt person in power. I wanted to write a more gentle lullaby-like song and so that’s how “A Thousand Stars” came about.
The title track on your latest album begins, “The world is falling apart,” which feels quite topical. How do you think that the current state of the world impacts your music?
The interesting thing is that I wrote “Marching On” before the pandemic. However, listening to this song now, it definitely reminds me of what is going on now in the world. Amelia Vandergast at A & R Factory even stated that my song, “Compassionately addresses the very real fact that globally, we’re suffering from a loss of faith. Not just in a religious sense, but a loss of faith in our futures, ourselves, our leaders.”
The current state of the world impacted “Marching On”, “Chasing a Dream”, and the songs I’m recording currently. I used to meet in person to record my music. However, now the music recording is done from home. Alex Arango, one of the teachers at Kalabash, records the piano instrumentals at his home on Garageband, sends it to me, and I sing the vocals over the instrumental.
What are some of the greatest challenges of being a young woman in the music industry?
One of the greatest challenges for me as a female musician is when people say my music is dark or sad. A lot of the female singers who inspired me make dark, emotional music. I’ve always liked that aesthetic, but I’ve noticed that there tends to be a stigma about women expressing emotions like sadness, frustration, or anger. Another reason certain songs of mine are dark and sad is because there are times in my life where I’ve felt excluded and lonely. I feel like music is a good way to express those emotions.
Is there a message you’d like to get across to listeners through your music? How would you like your music to impact listeners?
The message I’d like my listeners to know is that even when you feel isolated and ignored by other people, not to give up. Continue seeking connection. Don’t lose hope or think that everyone will disappoint you. I hope my music impacts listeners to not let their struggles consume them and even when all seems hopeless to keep trying to improve their situations.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self not to worry about negative opinions. When I was younger, I was afraid to be myself because I was worried about being judged by others. I now feel more confident with who I am and am okay with being different.
Are there any new projects that you’re currently working on, or would like to begin? What can we expect from Jessamine Barham in the next 5 years?
I’m currently working on recording my third EP Light in the Darkness. Two of the tracks Ghosts from the Past and A New Dawn have already been recorded. The other two tracks Living a Lie and Only a Dream are up next. I hope to release this EP sometime next year. I have three other songs I would like to release on another EP down the line. In the next five years, I hope to be more established in my music career and would also like to make music videos of some of my songs.