In our 110th instalment of “Stumbled Upon”, we meet New York’s Jo Kroger, chat about collaborating with Dalton Deschain, her diverse influences and her new EP, The Simplest.
Members & their roles:
Jo Kroger, vocals, guitars, writing (frequent collaborator and producer on this release, Dalton Deschain)
What music or artists inspired you?
I’m usually VERY inspired by many artists that I sound nothing like. St. Vincent, Kendrick Lamar, Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie make me light up, but inspirations I think are much more reflective of my sound are Beth Orton, Cate LeBon and Cat Power. I also love Nickel Creek and was thrilled when I saw them reunited last year. But honestly, my biggest influences are the songwriters I play with on a regular basis around New York and on the road. They’re the ones I hear the most, so they’re the ones in my head the most.
How did things get started?
My background was filled with music, from family to church to school, but it was towards the end of high school that I formed my first band with my brother and some friends. I started songwriting around sixteen, but it wasn’t until I left my first post-college nanny job that I got hooked up with a bunch of songwriters in NYC and started playing out all the time.
I was lucky to meet up with my amazing friend and great songwriter Niall Connolly, who hosted a bazillion open mics and booked a few venues. He really encouraged me and pushed me at all the right moments. After I’d played shows around NY and surrounding states for about a year, it was time to record. From there it was just recording and booking and playing. The other catalyst was meeting up with my aunt’s friend and country legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore (of the Lubbock, TX band The Flatlanders), who inspired me more than I can say to take my writing seriously and get out there. I’m not country myself, but good songwriting is inspiring, no matter the genre. I had this very pretentious rule for myself as a teenager that if I wanted to consider myself a musician, I had to like something from every genre. It made for an interesting music education.
How would you best describe your live show?
Intimate, melodic pop-folk heartbreak.
What shows do you have coming up?
Keep an eye on Facebook for more dates.
Tell us about your latest release:
I recently released the title single from my upcoming EP, The Simplest. The most fun thing about the production was deciding we wanted it to sound like a classic rock song that was a split second away from falling apart at the seams. It’s got this really poppy NY/CA themed hook, but the song is actually about that feeling of being sure that once you put effort into something, whether its work or love or art, it will fall apart in your hands. The fear of a sort of opposite-Midas-touch.
The whole EP follows those themes of being disheartened but hoping for the best on the other side. Songwriting-wise it picks right up from my last, folkier album, but is sonically more playful while being lyrically more raw and devastating. After the recording was finished, but before it was released, we had a huge loss in my family and that whole getting-knocked-down-and-pushing-through-anyway theme continues to be very biographically reflective.
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