Jesabel’s latest song, “This Small Town,” is like a fine casserole that combines electronic pop-folk instrumentation with front porch storytelling. The song is based on her own experiences growing up in a small Georgian town. The detours involved in trying to understand or fit in somewhere you don’t quite belong. eager to get out of there. But now I’m eager to return. She may have lived far from home, including in Milan, Italy, Miami, Florida, and ultimately Jacksonville, Florida, but “This Small Town” will always be her place of origin. Check out the latest track & the Interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
JESABEL: I was born and raised in Georgia, but now call Jacksonville, FL home. My musical journey is a bit of an odd one. I was 27 when I finally sang in front of someone, my mom and husband included in that mix. I lost myself as a new mom at the time and fell into a major rut. I loved singing when I was alone, but the crippling fear prevented me from physically getting sound out when anyone was within earshot. I believe we grow when we’re uncomfortable, and I was desperate to climb out of my rut. So, I decided to conquer my fear by taking a voice lesson. I gained so, so much more. That first lesson, quickly turned into getting paid gigs, teaching myself to play guitar and writing songs. I’d stay up till 3 am learning new songs or writing. It all poured out of me almost like I found something I once knew in a past life. Music became my drug, a spiritual drug, and I’ve never been the same since.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
JESABEL: I can probably count on one hand the number of voice & guitar lessons I’ve had, so pretty much self-taught. I still can’t read music and most times have no clue what chord I’m playing, but my hands find a way and the songs keep coming. I’m kind of an all or nothing type person so this whole journey escalated pretty quickly despite my lack of a formal foundation.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘JESABEL’?
JESABEL: I was raised on Country music, but I sought out all genres from a young age and just listened to music I liked. Being from Georgia, I often say I’m raised on Garth and Luda. I spun it all. As a kid, I was pulled to artists like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and LeAnn Rimes. I’d skip around from playing Evanescence to Sublime to Frank Sinatra. In my early years, I was just wanted to hear it all, appreciate it all, not knowing or using it to gain musical influence for what was to come. It only makes sense though my eclectic appreciation plays a role now in my eclectic creations.
“JESABEL” is actually a mash up of my name Jessica Bell. As a 90’s kid, it was inevitable you had another Jessica in your class. Plus, the list of artists named “Jessica” is endless. Hence, I squashed my full name and there ya have it JESicA BELl: JESABEL.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
JESABEL: I tend to shorthand my style as “Soulful Twang.” My Southern accent inevitably comes out when I sing, but instrumentally, I tend to combine pop, soul, folk and country. I blend what I like best from each genre. Each song calls for different proportions of those genres so I just mix them like a musical cocktail to best suite that particular song’s message and vibe.
My hope is that listeners will take the time to dive into the lyrics in order to soak up the song’s message. I tend to bury soulful and deep messages there, but they’re packaged within a candy melody. An easy first listen, but there are layers there. I truly hope people take the time to peel back the layers to find the higher consciousness within.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
JESABEL: My musical journey has been such a soulful and spiritual experience which has inevitable spilled into my music as I typically write from soul-stirring spaces. My released songs to-date have been rooted in societal issues like social media’s lack of authenticity in my song “Just do You.” Sexism in my song “Carnival.” Anxiety struggles in my song “Forgiveness.” Self-Empowerment of walking away in “Every Excuse.” My new release “This Small Town” even dives into the upside-down societal quirks of a Southern small town.
I am inspired by diving deep, but I do want to point out that I also create songs that aren’t always rooted in such heavy topics. I have a playful, light-hearted side I like to let run free as well. I don’t ever want to limit or type-cast my songs into only carrying heavy messages as life and people are more complex than that. I think being truthful and present with your writing is what’s most important. We all have multiple sides to ourselves. I hope to always ebb and flow expressing all of those varying sides truthfully.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
JESABEL: This is such a good, profound question. Honestly, one that I’m not sure I’m able to fully answer at this point in my career or will ever be able to answer for that matter. I’m at a place as a new artist creating and writing from the depths of my soul, hoping it reaches or touches people. I’ve learned that we typically aren’t aware of our reach or impact on others. We kind of blindly release our stories through song never knowing their full impact or resonance with a person. It’s easy for us in modern times to get caught up in the numbers…of followers, likes, Spotify listeners, etc that we forget the magnitude and difference reaching one person really has and means. I hope I continue to remind myself of that throughout my musical career and just in life too.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
JESABEL: Each song is born differently. I love words, so I typically start with lyrics and narrative. But sometimes the lyrics and melody come at the same time. Sometimes one before the other, and on a rare occasion the chords, lyrics and melody come simultaneously. I usually start with what I have to say though and the rest unfolds. It’s almost like the songs already written in my head I just have to find the language to transpose it externally. A puzzle to solve. My voice recorder app certainly is never too far in order to capture that fleeting thought or melody.
Most of my songs are completely drafted by me and then I send a rough demo to my Co-writer/Producer, Jonathan Grant Berlin. We then collaborate and evolve the pieces from there. Editing, re-writing, re-structuring, nothing’s off the table. He’s incredibly talented and elevates each composition. It’s amazing to create and partner with someone that’s able to pluck vague concepts from your head and bring them to life.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
JESABEL: I’d say the dark rut I fell into as a new mother, but it’s also the catalyst that led me to music so I’m immensely grateful. It was a very lost moment in my timeline. It didn’t feel quite like postnatal depression, but more like I lost my identity. My personal spark. I’ve always been a creative being. I had a previous career as a fashion model. Even while I was pregnant, I learned to sew and designed a nursery head-to-toe. Always expressing myself through clothing or some means. But once I had my son, I simultaneously shelved any creative outlets. I loved motherhood and poured every ounce of myself into it, but I no longer expressed myself, so I in turn lost myself. It’s a scary thing when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize who you see. It’s scary when you don’t feel at home within yourself. This was the first time in my life I felt that way and hopefully the last.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
JESABEL: My proudest still goes back to the start. To taking that leap of faith signing up and showing up for that first voice lesson. To not allowing fear to prevent me from doing something I suppressed wanting to do.
I share my story often. Talk to folks at live shows. It’s overwhelming how many people relate. How many retirees have shared their desire to learn an instrument but feel it’s too late. I get the gift of being the one there smiling, reminding them it’s never too late for anything. It’s powerful every time.