Jillian Riscoe's songs are born out of "infinite possibilities of creation and self-expression" and "strength, overcoming negative situations and behaviors, empowerment, finding yourself." Riscoe has been a musician since the age of 7 and a songwriter since 11; this longevity and dedication to craft is evident in the arena-sized rock that has put her on the same stages as Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Lisa Loeb and Everclear, among others. After an extended absence from music, Riscoe has returned with new songs "Breaking Point" and the upcoming "Creatures of Habit." It's pleasure to share a new interview with Jillian Riscoe about this new music, the inspirations behind it, as well has her book, music and movie recommendations.
Please introduce yourself and describe your music for new listeners.
Hi, my name is Jillian Riscoe and I'm a pop/rock singer/songwriter from Kansas City, MO. I'd describe my music as soulful rock/dark pop.
Tell us about recording your latest songs, “Breaking Point” and “Creatures of Habit.” How did you push yourself creatively with these songs? What did you learn from the recording process that you’ll take to future projects?
"Breaking Point" is my new single that was just released - the first song I put out as a solo artist in 10 years (I was in a band for 7 in between.) It was a super special moment to be able to finally get new music of mine out into the world. My next single "Creatures of Habit" will be releasing digitally in January. Both of these songs were a collaboration between Avenue Record Co. and myself. The new material I'm releasing speaks on topics of strength, overcoming negative situations and behaviors, empowerment, finding yourself, and what the process of all that looks like. I fully believe that in life we have to go through trials and tribulations to become stronger and wiser. Music is my medium and always has been and I hope it speaks volumes to those listening. Creatively, I feel like I pushed myself by just getting these songs to come to life. I knew I was going to write and record again after the band broke up, it was just a matter of how/when/where. I'm definitely happy that I pushed myself to get them out into the universe. As far as what I learned in the recording process of these two singles, I knew this prior but it just was reaffirmed to me throughout the studio sessions, that while it is great to do things in a 'DIY approach,' the power of collaboration is a wonderful thing. Matt Richards at Avenue Record Co. really helped me bring these songs to life so always know that team work and collaborations are so key to making ideas truly come to life in the way they should!
Describe your writing process. Are you a heavy editor of your work, or is there a more spontaneous approach?
I edit slightly but never too much. Some really good advice that was given to me years ago by a fellow musician while I was working on an album was "don't change the song too much because then it becomes a whole other song." I feel that the emotions put into music can sometimes be slightly fleeting, writing and playing it out during the writing process and then doing a little bit of editing to get down what you truly are trying to say if needed, but you shouldn't ever try to re-write it out like it's an essay you need an A on for your teacher. Something fun about being a songwriter and a musician [is that] there are various structures in music yes, but no real rules. Everything is everyone's own free will and that's so beautiful.
You’ve been a musician since the age of 7. How long have you been writing songs? Who were some of your earliest influences?
I've been singing out in public performances since age 7, I wrote and recorded my first original song at age 11 (it was a country song about a long lost love essentially haha,) and I started playing guitar in middle school. Early influences vocally were definitely powerhouse vocalists like Kelly Clarkson. I listened to a lot of 50s/60s pop music growing up, along with some older country, and then mainstream pop and rock music. When I started songwriting in middle school the Christina Aguilera record Stripped (which was almost entirely cowritten with 4 Non Blondes lead singer Linda Perry) helped kick start my writing process back then.
What music currently inspires you?
Some artists/bands that helped inspire the new music I've been working on: Stevie Nicks, Meg Myers, Icon for Hire, Chris Cornell, Rivals, Hole. I love powerful, emotional front women, anything cinematic, rock driven, pop elements, a soulful/expressive vocal I love and am inspired by.
Jillian Riscoe's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
How to Make It in the New Music Business by Ari Herstand. I had the pleasure of meeting Ari at a music conference a couple years back. This guy knows what he is talking about. This book just came out with an updated second edition with so much good advice for a musician of any level. Use it as a holy grail of music business books if you will.
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Beautiful and inspirational. A simplistic, philosophical book to turn to when life gets tough.
Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks. Huge inspiration, Stevie is a rock goddess.
Sorry by Meg Myers. I was able to see Meg live in concert last year for my birthday - she has a powerful, raw intensity in her performances and her original music that I just admire and hope to portray through my performances as well.
Almost Famous. Cult classic movie for a musician. I love the way this film shows the connectivity that music gives to all of us -- it's the universal language. Music has always been that for me, it makes everything feel like magic. The quotes of "it's all happening," "you are home," and the scene of everyone upset with one another then singing "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John on the tour bus together just shows the magic and connectivity music brings and how I feel as not only a performer myself but a music fan as well.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 version). This movie makes me cry every single time but leaves me inspired. I love the motions this film takes you through. How it shows that if you're unhappy, you have the power to change whether it be a trait about yourself, a bad job, a relationship...anything...and that you have the power within to reach your goals, do something really great and special with yourself instead of getting caught leading a life of mediocrity. My favorite part has to be when Kristen Wiig's character magically shows up to a bar Ben Stiller's character is at and sings the song "Major Tom" at karaoke, helping nudge the character to face his fears, leading him on to his great adventure.