Arts & Entertainment

Press Pass: Jill Sobule

presspass2Music is an expressive medium, and (home) songwriter Jill Sobule takes full advantage of it. Over the course of her 24-year career, Sobule has penned tunes on topics ranging from the death penalty to the French Resistance, using a satirical approach to address sometimes touchy topics. Best known for her mid-90s song, “I Kissed a Girl,” Sobule has enjoyed a lasting career, though it hasn’t always been easy. She’s been dropped from two different labels and watched as two others went bankrupt. With the record industry in flux, Sobule turned to a more stable source of funds: her fans.

presspass2Music is an expressive medium, and (home) songwriter Jill Sobule takes full advantage of it. Over the course of her 24-year career, Sobule has penned tunes on topics ranging from the death penalty to the French Resistance, using a satirical approach to address sometimes touchy topics. Best known for her mid-90s song, “I Kissed a Girl,” Sobule has enjoyed a lasting career, though it hasn’t always been easy. She’s been dropped from two different labels and watched as two others went bankrupt. With the record industry in flux, Sobule turned to a more stable source of funds: her fans.

Her latest release, California Years, was independently financed, with Sobule soliciting fans to pre-pay for the album and donate money to her website (jillsnextrecord.com) to make the record happen. Within mere month’s she’d raised nearly $90K.

As she prepares to play Jammin’ Java on Oct. 20, the News-Press threw a few questions at her. Here’s what she had to say:

Mike Hume: You’re sort of known for using satire in a lot of your songs. When did you first start incorporating that into your songwriting?

Jill Sobule: It took a few years of performing and recording (after my first record) to actually feel comfortable putting my actual personality into my songs. I acted as depressed shoe gazer before. I thought that was cool.

MH: Does satire allow you to address serious topics in an easier way than just tackling things head on?

JS: Oh, I think so. I think satire can be more effective than lecturing, and certainly more enjoyable.  As a kid, I loved how John Prine and Randy Newman would mix bittersweet melody and lyric with humor.

MH: It seems like you’ve been pretty fearless in the topics you’ve written on. Are there any subjects you consider to be off limits or just wouldn’t want to touch?

JS: Hmmm, I suppose there are things I could tell about exes that I’m still friends with, or family. But I see no reason in hurting anyone. Especially if they still take me out to dinner.

MH: What gave you the idea to solicit fans ahead of time to produce California Years?

JS: Well, after being on four labels, I felt I had to try something new. I had seen a couple of generic sites where you could donate, but it offered nothing in return. They were faceless. Again, I thought you needed to bring in personality and offer something in return. Thus, I came up with Jillsnextrecord.com (with the help of Tony Camus, my webmaster). This was before [artist funding platform] Kickstarter. They actually talked to me about how I did it before they launched.

MH: What was your reaction to the support and the amount of time it took you to raise the money?

JS: I was really taken by surprise. For all I knew, it could have just been my mom and her Mah Jong friends. I was and still am so grateful and indebted to the fans.

MH: An open ended question to close on: What is it about your music that you enjoy the most?

JS: Well, life is not dull and always surprising – surprising is the word of the year for me. For example, last time I was in D.C. (just a week or so ago), I played Fatcats at a benefit for “Dear New Orleans.” I found myself onstage singing “Down by the Riverside” with Hank Shockley (of Public Enemy fame), Mike Mills, the horn band, Bonerama, the Flobots and OKGo. Also as a solo artist, I get bored with myself, so I love meeting and collaborating with other musicians that I respect.

• For more on Jill Sobule, visit jillsobule.com.