RECONNECTING: XOLLER & EMILY JACKSON

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Reconnecting with friends from other cities is always a struggle; it might be because of scheduling conflicts or the fact that you now have new friends that are in your neighborhood. Los Angeles’ Xoller and NYC’s Emily Jackson took the time to reconnect during this pandemic and here is what they had to say.

Emily: When we met you were in a band called PROM. What inspired the Xoller project?  Is going solo something you always intended? 

Xoller: PROM was my main focus from 2012 – 2019, and I transitioned into making music as Xoller in 2018 after I moved from Brooklyn to LA. I lived in NYC for almost 9 years and felt very exhausted by it at the end. I had been making music in duos for a while (before PROM I was in a folk duo), and I had this itch to hear what it would sound like if I went out on my own. I had a lot of things to say when I moved to LA, and the first year and a half or so turned out to be a very transformative time for me. I was curious to create something different through the channel of a new character. The growing pains of that time were expressed through Xoller: songs about longing, new love, and changing yourself for someone else spilled out of me. I feel like I’m able to explore things from the safety of behind the face of that character, and Xoller allowed me to become more confident and patient with myself. Going solo helped me to step into my power.

Emily: Cheers to you for having an all female band.  Was that a conscious choice?  How did you guys link up?

Xoller: Whenever I look for people to play in my live band, I always seek out women first. I just love female creative energy in rehearsal and onstage; it makes me feel safe and supported. It’s almost spiritual when we get together, kind of like we’re creating magic.

My current bandmates and I all met at the same recurring concert event in LA, but on two different nights. Dylan (guitarist and backup vox) and I met there through our publicist, and we came back together a few months later and met Olya (keyboard and backup vox) who had also just moved from New York. It was clear we found each other at the right moment in our lives, and performing with them brings me an indescribable amount of joy.

Xoller: I love God-Sized Hole; what a vivid title. How does it feel to release a demo?

Emily: Thanks!  It feels really awesome actually.  I have always wanted to release a track like this.  I think because it’s admittedly a demo, it takes the pressure off of it needing to be this big polished spectacle, but I was worried it would be too boring or something.  Then there was this overwhelming response from people when I put it out that I never could have imagined, so it was a good lesson: you can’t control what other people will experience when they listen to your music, so you should always be doing what’s truest to your heart.

Xoller: What’s the (Logic, Ableton, etc.) project title of your most recent demo you’ve been working on? Not necessarily the name of the song – what you named the project before it became a composed thought?

Emily: WOLF MOON!  I took a little hiatus from writing and production to focus on my show last year, after I finished my EP (which is out later this summer.)  I had a very intense end to 2019/beginning of 2020, pre- quarantine.  A lot of things were happening in my personal and professional life that took a big toll on me emotionally.  WOLF MOON is about that time.  I’m excited about it because while it’s a deeply personal song, you can still dance to it.

Emily: You seem very comfortable collaborating with others while still being able to keep what I feel is YOUR unique sound.  How did you find your closest collaborators?  What’s a deciding factor in choosing to work with another person on your art? 

Xoller: That’s good to hear! Sometimes I wonder if the songs I’m putting out sound too different from one another. I’m pretty guarded about who I collaborate with, mostly when it comes to co-writing. I’m more adventurous with reaching out to producers to work on demos I’ve already written and polished, but I only co-write with a few people I trust. We need to have the same sonic palette, since I am pretty specific about what kind of synths and sparkles I use for the Xoller universe, but most importantly I need to feel comfortable that I can bring a weird ass idea to the table and won’t be laughed out of the room. I only have about 4 people I collaborate with regularly: Jack and Taylor who I met in LA through my publishing company, and my long-time collaborators Gabriel and Dave with whom I’ve finished 20+ songs over the years.

Xoller: What’s the best and worst thing about living in NYC right now?

Emily: The best thing right now about NYC is that “New York Tough” spirit everyone has been talking about really exists.  I feel like people are really rallying together in ways that are so thoughtful and kind, it’s a pretty incredible experience.  Even just the small gestures I’ve seen people make in my apartment building: my neighbor posted a sign that she is making free pizzas for anyone in the building who is out of work and might need food, even though she is out of work herself!!  The worst thing about NYC is probably the unknown of what life will look like after this.  With the city being a global hub and largely a gig economy, it’s hard to imagine what it will mean going forward.

Emily: Hit me with your quarantine hobby that’s not music related. 

Xoller: I’m verrrry into beverages. Bartending is my other job; I love making cocktails and experimenting with produce and herbs. I made an A+ jalapeño simple syrup recently and we rode the margarita train all the way into the sunset that day. I’ve been branching out with what I’m ordering from Highland Park Wine, who are excellent at over-the-phone recommendations, and nerding out over new wines. Recently I got a teapot and 10 new teas from my parents for my birthday, and it’s been riveting.

Emily: How has the pandemic impacted your trajectory as an artist- both positively and negatively?  When can we expect the next Xoller smash?

Xoller: Oh man, it’s affected me in both ways. My show at The Echo in March was postponed, which was a huge bummer because I was super excited about that one. Performing live is a very important part of keeping me healthy and creative, and I had planned to step up my game this year and put on some awesome shows, so it felt like a stab in the gut to realize that this year wasn’t going to go at all like I had hoped and planned. On the positive side, I finally have time to start learning guitar and work on my photo editing skills. I also have more time to write songs without putting pressure on myself for them to be immediate hits. I’ve definitely had issues keeping myself motivated, but it’s been freeing to experiment without putting time restrictions on myself to produce perfect ideas right away. Maybe I’ll even work on a demo for a few days, and just let it live on my computer forever. My next single is coming out in June!! My favorite lyric from it is “I know that it’s wrong, but won’t it be fun destroying something after so many tries.”

Xoller: What is your favorite thing you’ve eaten during quarantine (home cooked or takeout)?

Emily: I roasted a whole chicken with some roasted veggies and IT. WAS. AMAZING.  I’m not a big cook so it was a big gamble, but it worked out and I think that’s gonna be a go-to now.

Xoller: If your music was a type of condiment what would it be?

Emily: hmmm… great question…I’m gonna go with Mike’s Hot Honey.

CONNECT WITH XOLLER

INSTAGRAM // SPOTIFY // WEBSITE

CONNECT WITH EMILY JACKSON

INSTAGRAM // SPOTIFY // WEBSITE

photos & story / Xoller & Emily Jackson

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