Name: Someone (aka Tessa Rose Jackson)
Occupation: Musician, producer & visual artist
Nationality: Dutch / British
Current release: Tessa Rose Jackson's first album as Someone, Shapeshifter, is out now via Tiny Tiger Records (Warner/ADA). Order from Someone's Shop.
If you enjoyed this interview with Tessa Rose Jackson, visit her official website for more information. She is also on Facebook, and Instagram.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I draw inspiration from lots of different things. Often, films inspire me greatly. I am a huge movie lover and just a simple image or moment in a film scene can spark an idea for a song with me.
But then, diving into the song writing process itself, the words that end up forming the song are often very autobiographical. That’s something that happens totally subconsciously, in fact.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualization' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I do see songwriting as a muscle you can train. I have pulled myself through a writer’s block in the past, and the biggest lesson I took from that was: no rules. And so when I write, I let myself be totally free of expectation and planning.
The only thing that does help me structure my songwriting, is a visualization of the story and realm of the song. I have a certain imagery that pops up when a song is being formed, and that helps me guide the process.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
Not at all! Some songs pour out in one fell swoop, others take weeks, even months of honing and tweaking. One thing that often helps to get my creativity going is finding a movie scene I love, and putting that on on my computer screen as I noodle around on the guitar. Just to get myself in the flow, it gets me out of my own head sometimes.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
Coffee. My one vice. A good cup of coffee is the absolute best way for me to spark my creative energy.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Like I said before, each song is different.
What often comes first is a certain chord progression either on the guitar, or on a synth. Or a bass. And then, actually, the next thing that comes is a storyline. Or an image. Something that gives me context to fill the song out with words.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
This is what I love about songwriting. Usually, when I’m writing I’m working out a melody and using kind of mumble, nonsense words until it sits right. However, during this process, often whole sentences flow out of me, totally subconsciously, and those are the most truthful nuggets ever.
Sometimes they catch me off-guard and I’m like: “Oh. Did I just say that? Okay, I guess that’s how I feel.”
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I always love lyrics that combine specific imagery and wording with a kind of abstraction. Just enough detail and careful choice of words to really convey a unique situation or feeling, but enough room for interpretation, allowing the listener to project their own truth, their only story onto the song.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Oh, that’s my favourite part of the whole process. I usually produce as I write, and once the skeleton of the song is there, I just go to town in the studio. Like a kid in a playground, I’m like: “Ooh, wait. Guitar. No! Wait. Mellotron. I hear Mellotron.” So much energy.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
Oh, no I agree with that. I follow the flow of the song. That’s what keeps it interesting, what makes it fun. Trying to push a song in a direction it just doesn’t want to go is pointless, and a wasted opportunity to surprise yourself!
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
For me, it’s a place where there is no sense of time, no distraction and no over-complication. It’s like open water, you’re free to go anywhere, dive under, follow a current and see where it takes you. It’s a magical, addictive place.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
It just clicks for me, at some point. I create a lot, and so I’m not incredibly precious about it. For me, if the song feels like it sits together well, like the emotion is being channelled and the production has a cohesiveness to it, it’s done. When I listen to it and I can just relax and let it be, then I’m ready to let it go.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you're satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?
There’s no moment in which a song is as precious to you as the moment you’ve just worked on it. It’s a wonderful aspect of being a musician, but it can cloud your judgement. I’ve learned that over the years.
Taking a few days to let it breath, to detach from it just enough to be able to listen to it with a fresh pair of ears is absolutely key.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
I produce everything myself. That’s one of my favourite parts of the process, figuring out the sonic words in which the song will live, it’s like painting. What colours to use, the use of light. That’s all production to me, it’s such an important and rich part of developing a song.
Mixing and mastering is something I like to leave up to others.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
To be honest, I never really experience that because I’m always moving on to the next thing, creatively. When an album is done, I’m all about putting together a live show for it. Or already starting work on the next album. It’s a freedom I’ve taken years to achieve, but it’s a wonderful way of managing creativity and making sure you don’t slip into one of those creative pot-holes!
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
The incredible thing about music is that it allows us to communicate things that we might not often feel the strength to do, or even realize we wanted to. Sometimes, I catch myself singing a lyric to somebody in the audience and realizing: “Wow. I would never have dared speak these words out loud to you.”
But when I sing them, somehow they can flow freely. It’s incredibly liberating.