Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Josaleigh Pollett! Together we discussed nature, brussel sprouts, their most recent release “The Nothing Answered Back”, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
And I am grateful to be here! I am doing well! It has been a beautiful and busy week here in Salt Lake City and I’m happy to be nearing the end of it.
2. Mustard wonders what your relationship with music was growing up?
Music has been a huge part of my existence since day one. Both of my parents are fueled by music and my dad was always in a band while growing up. I was always fighting with the tv volume while drums blasted in the next room. I expressed myself through what music I heard and the emotions it helped me feel for as long as I can remember. I also remember being very young and thinking that being on a stage and singing how you feel was the bravest and purest thing a human could do. When I started to have my own complex feelings and emotions as a human, it wasn’t even a question that I would express those feelings through writing music, and that has stayed true for my whole life.
3. When you were younger you imagined yourself as a big, vast body of water. Could you share more about your connection with the ocean? Was there a specific body of water that inspired you?
I‘m not exactly sure why or when I started feeling such a connection to the ocean. We used to take a lot of trips to the pacific when I was younger, and I remember feeling so at home standing on the Oregon coast and looking out at the endless ocean, moody with clouds and raging feelings. As I got older and started to experience the bigness of being alive, standing by the ocean and rivers and Great Salt Lake while working through feelings and thoughts all felt like ways to connect to myself, and water has been a main character in my writing ever since. It wasn’t until recently that I stopped relating so much to the ocean and started relating more to the people around me.
4. Who (or what) influences you?
Musically, artists I have always looked up to have been Neko Case, Jason Molina, Sharon Van Etten, and Jenn Wasner. Sometimes you hear something that is beautiful but mysterious – but those artists never felt too mysterious to me. Their lyrics always made so much sense and made me feel a little less alone throughout my life. Generally I am influenced to write new music when I have big, big feelings I don’t know what to do with. Joyful days, pleasant walks, sad news, riding my bike, laying on the floor, and pulling weeds tend to inspire me a lot these days.
5. What is your songwriting process?
I feel like it goes through cycles and changes a lot. I used to think that I could only write when my life was falling apart – that it had to come from a dark place of trauma. I think I learned that writing was too important to base it on something so inconsistent, and now I try to find inspiration in the day-to-day feelings. The beauty in comfort and repetition and rely on the devastation less and less. I try to take it in seasons – a season where I am writing a lot and processing the world around me that way. Notebooks on notebooks of lyrics and thoughts. Then I have an editing/construction cycle where I try to create melodies and piece lyrics and thoughts together. Then a sonic cycle, which lately consists of working with my bandmate/producer/best friend Jordan Watko. We work through the feelings and lyrics that I’ve created, and he builds audible worlds to deliver them in, and then we edit and explore those sounds together
6. According to Totally Real Records, you are trying to break our hearts. Can you confirm this?
My intention with writing these songs will never be to break – only to relate and hold and hopefully help others in their journeys to put themselves back together. The impact, however, is out of my control
7. Spicy marinated brussel sprouts have a death-hold on you. Do the authorities need to be contacted?
ACAB, even the brussels sprouts ones.
8. 2012 saw the release of your album “Salt.” What was it like to put this album together?
Salt was recorded in a duplex with pretty skylights across the street from where I went to college on a macbook with garageband and a usb mic. I was learning how to record my own voice and playing with harmonies, and exploring the sounds of a fish tank and kitties wrestling in the background. I was working in a coffee shop and in a ski shop and in a record store and going to school full time, and most of it was recorded between the hours of 3-5am. It was not mixed or mastered or anything like that. I’m glad a document of those big feelings I had at 18 exists like that.
9. The album cover features you laying in a sunflower field. Nature is a common theme throughout your music. Could you tell us more about your relationship with nature? What does nature symbolize throughout your music?
I spent a good amount of time with my dad exploring rivers and protesting the destruction of forests and old trees as a very young person, and a good amount of time with my archaeologist mom in the Utah deserts learning about pre-historic artifacts and how to pee outside. I’ve been anxious about climate destruction for as long as I can remember. I think about how incredible and beautiful and lucky it is to exist at the same time as all of these great big rocks and fields and trees and bugs and flowers and how weird it is to be able to feel things like heartbreak and longing and grief simultaneously. Nature is so cool. I just can’t help but think about it constantly and how silly it is to also be consumed by own problems every day while all these amazingly old features exist around us.
10. You consider “No Woman Is The Sea” your divorce record and it provided you a new voice. How did it feel to release a record such as this out into the world?
It was really scary. It felt like the most vulnerable I’d been with my writing up until that point. It was the first time I sat down and wrote a whole record all at once. Before that, it’d always been collections of songs over several years, but NWITS was written in about 2 months after my divorce and right after I got my first electric guitar. I felt angry and loud for the first time in my life. I had a lot to yell about. I’m so glad I did.
11. Three years later you released an anniversary version of the record through Lavender Vinyl. What is it like to have this album on cassette tape? Can we expect any future releases of yours to be on cassette or vinyl?
Having the cassette is so cool. As a 90’s baby, a lot of the music I listened to was on cassettes in my dad’s truck and on my little boombox at home while I played with barbies. Having a cassette feels so nostalgic and wonderful. You can expect my newest record to be out later this year on vinyl as well, and possibly cassette! They’re so fun to make, and the folks at Lavender Vinyl have been helping me produce tangible versions of my art for several years now. I feel very lucky to know them.
12. Could you share more about your most recent release “The Nothing Answered Back?”
In the summer of 2021, I was just getting out of a difficult situation where I found myself heartbroken and without a place to call home for a while. When I got out of it, I was living alone and had my own space and was trying to put the pieces back together for most of that year. I was taking multiple walks with my dogs every day. After going through so much, I was feeling so frustrated by how numb I felt all the time. I was coming off of antidepressants because they made me feel so apathetic. I felt like I only had the choice to feel devastated or nothing, and for a while I chose nothing. And then I was getting frustrated by feeling so much nothing all the time. And then on a walk one day I saw a little muskrat on the side of the road. It was alive that day and I was able to get so close. The next day, it had died, and I watched its little body slowly decompose in that spot during my walks for the next several months. Little by little, I started to feel things again. I started to see the nothingness fade away and the sadness (and also the joy) come back. The Nothing Answered Back is about the fear of things staying in that space of apathy.
13. Mustard loves the artwork for “The Nothing Answered Back.” Did you design it? Can the language on the album art be translated?
The art is actually the album cover for In The Garden, By The Weeds! It was designed by Helvetica Blanc, an incredible artist I have admired for several years. Each LP comes with a magical rune decoder ring. I wish.
14. What can fans expect from your upcoming album releasing on July 14th?
My hope is that if they’ve liked the singles of “cinderblocks” and “The Nothing Answered Back,” they will find a lot more stuff they really like. There are moments of hope and of loss and of doubt and of insecurity, but I hope they are there in relatable ways that help the listener feel a little less alone. We’ve all been through a lot over these last few years. I know personally, sometimes I want music that acknowledges the heaviness of it all without adding to the gravity. Just something that lets me sit in the feeling without giving in to it. I hope I’ve made something like that.
15. Do you have any upcoming shows?
Right now my only show is the album release show on July 14th at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City with Cop Kid and Rachael Jenkins. I can’t wait.
16. Where can readers listen to your music?
I’m all over! Bandcamp and spotify and apple music and youtube and I’m pretty annoying on twitter with updates. Josaleigh Pollett or @brosaleigh everywhere