The Resilient Artist: An Interview with Jayme Orr

Name: Jayme Orr

From: Wixom, MI

Age: 24

Instrument: Voice/Guitar  

Job: Singer/Songwriter

Favorite Brew: Bells Two Hearted Ale

Carrie Rexroat: How did you get started with music?

Jayme Orr: I started singing in talent shows when I was in kindergarten, then got into choir in fourth grade. I continued with choir through middle school and high school. When I was a Junior in high school I joined my first band with some other guys that I went to school with. We wrote our own music, and I just loved the whole process of it, so that’s mostly what catapulted it for me. But, after high school we were all so busy all the time that it was really hard for us to get together, and musically I wanted to go in a different direction. I wasn’t really feeling being in a Metal band anymore, I wanted to go into a more pop vibe, a little more mainstream. I actually didn’t do music for about 2 or 3 years, but after 3 years I picked up the guitar because I couldn’t handle it anymore; I needed to play, I needed to write music. I started learning a ton of songs, then I started gigging the past year and a half, hopped into the studio a year ago, and here we are! So it really hasn’t been that long that I’ve been doing this professionally.

CR: Awesome! What was the reason for the period in which you weren’t doing music?

JO: I just wasn’t really in an environment for music. I wasn’t friends with people who were involved with music, and I was in school and was working a lot. I just let a lot of stuff get in the way, and the hardest part was that I was in a relationship with someone who wasn’t very supportive of a dream like being a musician. It was definitely a rough time for me, I was so bummed not doing music then, you know what I mean? I’d totally lost a part of myself during all of that, but it was a growing experience; I did a lot maturing. I also got my heart broken but I wrote some sweet songs about it *laughter*!

CR: Was getting your heart broken an experience that inspired your new single?

JO: Yes, definitely. “Love is a War” is a song I wrote right at the tail end of that relationship.

CR: Gotcha. So, in comparison to the past three years of being a musician and then comparing it to that time in your life where you weren’t doing music, what has music provided to your life?

JO: Well, during that time I just didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing, so there were a lot of moments where I had a lot of resentment towards music. I mean there was a point where I didn’t even want to do karaoke because I’d gotten so detached from it all. The worst part about it is that I knew exactly why, I knew that I didn’t feel like myself because I wasn’t doing music, but I didn’t feel confident enough to change that.

CR: That’s something I’d like to talk about. There can be a lot of fear involved with what we do, so how has fear played into your pursuit of a music career?

JO: Fear is a huge thing to overcome when you’re so to speak, “following your dreams”. But even though I was afraid during the time that I wasn’t doing music, there was still a part of me in the back of my mind that was like, “girl, what are you doing, get out there”. But, it is scary, especially as a singer/songwriter. Every time I sit down to write lyrics I ask myself, “is this something I really want to share” because bearing your soul is intense. I also made a lot of excuses back in the day, not having the money, the time, the support I feel I need, but fear and excuses will crush everything. But, probably a year ago, I woke up one day, called my friend Josh who works at the studio and I just said, “OK let’s do it”. He’d been trying to get me to come in there for like, four years. It was interesting, I just woke up one day and was ready, my drive to finally just do it overpowered any fear I had. At that point I owed it to myself to do what I said I was always going to do.

CR: That’s awesome. Something you just made me more conscious about is writing lyrics and how personal of a thing that is. I’m not a songwriter, but I can imagine how difficult it is to as you said, “bear your soul”, especially in regards to really painful experiences.

JO: Yeah, but it’s also like therapy, you know? On the flip side if I didn’t write songs I’d go crazy, and for a period of time I did *laughter*

CR: Absolutely. Being that we’re kind of on the subject, how would you define vulnerability and how much of it is a part of your experience as a musician?  

JO: Vulnerability has changed a lot for me, especially with the video going viral and getting a lot of attention. I used to feel vulnerable being in the studio and bearing my soul or whatever, but now I feel vulnerable that lots and lots of people know who I am; I have lots of people looking up to me now. I’m getting fan letters and messages through Facebook and Twitter, and a lot of young girls are saying that they look up to me, that they resonated with my song. So, whereas I used to feel vulnerable sharing my heart, now that I’ve seen that I’m not the only one, that there are lots of other people who can identify with what I’m talking about in my song, I don’t feel vulnerable sharing that now. What I do feel vulnerable about now is that I’m kind of out there for people to cast their judgements, and that is a different kind of vulnerability that I’ve never experienced before. The internet is a scary place *laughter*

CR: Oh it is *laughter* I can’t imagine to the level in which you’re probably experiencing it though, that must be really tough.

JO: Well, the majority of the response I’ve been getting to the video is that people really felt that it was genuine. Some say that that’s why it went viral, that’s why so many people like it because I seemed genuine in my emotional reaction. But of course not everyone thinks that *laughter* there’s lots of conspiracy theorists out there, but I assure you it was genuine. Luckily there are lots of people out there that appreciate authenticity, and I honestly am glad that it all started this way for me because I do want to be authentic, I do want to be a genuine person. It’s just so cool how this has all happened *laughter*

CR: I’m happy for you too! It must be hard to walk that line between putting on a brave face when you feel so scared or vulnerable but also show genuine parts of yourself, at least enough that people can relate to.

JO: Yeah, because you don’t want to give your audience so much of your personal self.

CR: Yeah. Well, having watched the video I feel that it was very genuine. Obviously it’s not my place to tell you that, but I related to it because any of the things that I’ve been proud of in my own life so far, I’ve looked that way, I’ve felt that way, I’ve said those things.

JO: *laughter* I made a lot of faces, that’s for sure.

CR: Well, but it was relatable, it was very genuine. If people say otherwise I think they’re just being haters.

JO: Right, but because there are people out there who do stunts like that where it is painfully obvious that they are trying to go viral I get it, I understand why people are saying that. Plus, the whole thing is kind of strange anyway, I really just made a silly little video to show my friends and family and then all of a sudden the Today Show played it, like what?? So, trust me, I was almost in disbelief myself *laughter*.

CR: Well, that’s so cool and I’m really, really happy for you. Moving in a different direction, how do you define success?

JO: My boyfriend and I always tell each other that it’s not about the pursuit of happiness, it’s about the happiness of the pursuit. In a way, success is never really going to be obtainable to me because I always want to be achieving more, but I have two choices: I could not be enjoying any of this because I’m not where I want to be, or I can freak out, think “holy cow this is flippin’ sweet” and just enjoy the moment and know that more and more good things are going to come. I mean, what good is it if you can’t enjoy the ride? I’m never really going to be happy if I never enjoy the ride because for me that’s all success is, just a constant ride, a constant thing that I’m  trying to get to. So for me, I just need to enjoy each thing that happens along the way, staying mindful of where I am each day. If I’m constantly worried about stuff that happened and can’t change, or constantly worried about things I have no control over, I’ll just be a wreck.

CR: Excellent. You had mentioned before that when you weren’t doing music you felt that you didn’t have a support system. How would you describe your support system now?

JO: I have an incredible team. My parents have always been incredibly supportive, and incredibly supportive of what I’m doing at the time. As soon as I started doing music again they were at every gig, wanted to hear every song I wrote, and it was awesome. A year ago I met my boyfriend who is also an artist, and that’s special to me because it’s good to find someone who understands what life is like to be an artist; he’s my rock. Also my producer at the studio, my co-writer that I did a couple songs with, I just have a lot of people around me now, they definitely support me and want to see me succeed. I’m in a church that I really like now, which is great. Overall I have friends and family that I love, I’m in a church that I feel very comfortable at; there’s just a lot of pillars underneath me now that weren’t there before.

CR: So you feel like your foundation is stable?

JO: Definitely, I certainly have a lot of people that aren’t letting my head blow up either *laughter* The other day I was on the phone for a long time, one of those days where I was taking phone call after phone call. I said to my brother, “dude I just do not want to be on the phone anymore, it’s just exhausting” and he was like, “oh yeah I feel so bad for you, you’re talking to all these people who are trying to make you famous” *laughter* Yeah, he really put that into perspective for me. Lots of people are helping me keep grounded, that’s for sure.

CR: Nice. Definitely good to have those people around. So I wanted to ask a quick question: You were saying that you felt the pressure and the vulnerability to be a positive influence to people who are looking up to you. What exactly do you mean by that?

JO: Well, right now things in mainstream music are very strange because you have all these pop musicians with their army of a fan base, where they totally worship these artists, but I don’t necessarily like that because I think that it creates this “us vs them” thing. People have been making little jokes about me like “move over Taylor Swift”, but my response to that is no, there’s room for everyone. One person’s success is not another person’s failure, we can all succeed together. If Taylor Swift is selling a million albums it doesn’t mean no one else can, people can buy more than one CD, they can download more than one song at a time. I mean, this is all kind of new to me so I don’t know how it all works, but I just hope that I can use whatever power and influence I have to create more unity. There’s way too many things going on nowadays that separate us, and I would hate for music to be one of those things.

CR: That’s so true. Music has the ability to unite all people because there’s so many forms of it, so many genres, so many ways to experience it. It doesn’t matter if you live in America or a third world country, music is meant for all people.

JO: Yeah, and I think a lot of it has to do with the competition shows that we have on TV, American Idol, X Factor, all those things where they make it out to be a competition. I went to Ford Field a couple years ago for American Idol and there were 10,000 people there. I saw so much talent, so much passion, and it just bums me out that there were people there that day that auditioned, got a no, and gave up because of that. We’ve put so much emphasis on these shows meaning something, but there are tons of great artists that got booed off. Colbie Caillat didn’t even make it onto American Idol, but she was resilient and made a name for herself anyway. So, I honestly think a lot of the whole “this person is better than this person, etc” comes from our love for those shows. There are lots of people that think that’s how the music industry works, but that’s not it at all. There are underground Indie bands that would turn their nose up at winning a Grammy or whatever. Punk Rock bands would’ve said f*ck off to them too, but if they fill a basement show with 200 people, they’re stoked and that’s success to them.

CR: Definitely.

JO: Yeah, and you know what, I didn’t have to put that video up, and I definitely didn’t think that almost 400,000 people would watch it. I didn’t have to go into the studio and make this album, I didn’t have to pick up the guitar and start writing songs, I could have just stayed in my bubble and gone and gotten my bachelor’s degree or whatever, I could have let not making it onto American Idol stop me, but I have very high goals for myself and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from doing that.

CR: Cool. Since we’re on the subject, what would your best advice be to someone who is experiencing the same things, either interpersonal or career wise?

JO: I think that first and foremost you have to learn to love yourself. There’s that cliché “you can’t love someone until you love yourself”, but there are a lot more things that won’t happen besides maybe not being happy in a relationship. If you don’t love yourself, how can you be excited about anything good that happens to you? So that’s definitely the first step people need to take, is to believe that you do deserve it, you are worth succeeding, you are worth getting what you want. You’re not being selfish, you just have to convince yourself that you deserve the success you want. The second thing is to prepare. Prepare, prepare, prepare, for whatever it is, hone your craft, whatever it may be. For me, playing three hour gigs conditioned my voice and made it stronger, made it comfortable for me to perform in front of people. Constantly work for what you want, prepare yourself, and treat it all as if that goal is right around the corner. For me, when I was about to release the single, I made sure that my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and website were all ready to go before releasing my single. I made sure that I put up the album artwork on all of those sites, I made the little banner that has the link to where you can pre-order my music. You just have to put your ducks in a row, you have to prepare yourself as if what you want is right around the corner, because it might be, like it was for me. Had I not gone a few days before and done all that, and then put out that video that went viral, that would have sucked! I would have been backtracking like crazy and freaking out. But I set it up and prepared ahead of time, I was proactive instead of reactive. Doing that will make you ready for any success that inevitably will come your way.

CR: That’s awesome. You’re the first person to talk about that, but it’s true. There is so much to be said for preparation, and not just in your craft, but the things that revolve around it.

JO: Yes, and not just in music. Everything in life, you have to try and be ready for it. If I wanted to get into Michigan State as a Basketball player and I’ve never touched a basketball, that’s not going to work *laughter* You have to prepare, you have to learn how to play basketball, you have to get really good at playing basketball, and you have to overcome the obstacles that you encounter, otherwise, what are you doing.

CR: For sure. That’s a really relatable thing, because no matter what people do, we all have passions and put a lot of hard work into everything. Someone who’s a businessman is not going to just wing a presentation, they’re going to prepare and put a lot of work into it. A lawyer won’t just wing it in court, they’ll do their homework and research into people’s backgrounds and the law.

JO: Right, they’ll prepare.

CR: Definitely. So to kind of wrap it up a little bit, do you have a mantra?

JO: Yes, I have two. I have a favorite Bible verse which is Philippians 1:6 which says: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Whether you’re a believer or non-believer, you can’t deny that life is a work in progress. Everything that happens today is a set up for stuff that happens tomorrow, and as a believer, I put a lot of faith in the fact that even if things aren’t going the way that I want them to right now, God has a plan and he will complete it. I’m a work in progress and he’s not done with me yet. My other quote is: “a person of integrity expects to be believed and if they are not, they let time and circumstance prove them right”. I don’t think it’s known who said that quote, but I love it. When I get all these comments about being fake there’s a little part of me that wants to clap back at them right away. Living by that quote I just instead step back, and being that I think I’m a person of integrity, I’m going to let time prove them wrong. I ignore the fact that those people think it’s a scam, and focus on my work. A lot of things could be avoided instead of trying to prove other people wrong all the time, we just wait it out. If you are correct like you think you are, your point will be made. If it’s not, then you didn’t waste your time arguing with someone.

CR: Wow, that’s great. That a great quote! What kind of hobbies do you have other than music?

JO: I really like to paint. My boyfriend got me into it, so that’s been my thing to do when I don’t want to pick up the guitar or work on my website; it’s been really cathartic. I like to work out a lot too, I kickbox and lift weights, all that fun stuff.

CR: Cool, kickboxing is fun! I’m usually a calm and peaceful person, but I’ve done kickboxing before and when I do that I just attack the shit out of the bag.

JO: Dude it’s great, it really is. You get so much aggression out.

CR: For sure *laughter* What’s one final thing you’d like to leave the audience with?

JO: I want people to know that anyone can do this if you put in the hard work and the time that it takes. It’s so easy to give up, so much easier than to work hard. I also want people to know that I’m just a normal person, like everyone else, I just had a goal in mind and worked really hard to get it, I didn’t half-ass anything. If you’re passionate about something and want to obtain a goal, you have to do whatever it takes to do it the right way. You can’t cut corners, and you can’t try to weasel your way into it. Work really hard and try to make everything you do the best it can be.

CR: Awesome. Well, again thank you for doing this, I really appreciate it a lot.

JO: Yeah! I just want to say that I really appreciate this interview. I’ve been doing all this radio stuff and they’re like, “OK we’ll ask you this question but can you keep it to a 5 second answer” which is impossible *laughter* So, I appreciate this a lot.

CR: I appreciate it a lot too, I’m glad that you shared all this with me too. Thanks Jayme!