We’re doing something new here at IC: I’m honored to host an online residency from Nashville-by-way-of-Seattle folk artist Jess Jocoy. Jocoy will be premiering three live cuts of songs from her recently-released Such a Long Way on IC over the next six weeks.
Imagine you’re in a coffeeshop with the bustle of people around you, and you hear a voice cut through the clatter and rustle. (Meta: now is where you turn on the video, as Jocoy has helpfully created the ambiance of a homey coffee shop.) Jocoy’s warm, comfortable alto punches through the noise as she launches into “Existential Crossroads.” She spins a tale of faith, mercy, grace, escape, and America, packing a lot into four minutes.
This performance of the song fits into the realm of balladeers singing songs about things much bigger than themselves, while still cutting her own path: she finds a path less abstract than Dylan, not as concrete as Springsteen, and not as high-drama as Patty Griffin (although Jocoy can sway emotions with the best of them, but she doesn’t go for big moves here). Jocoy sings with conviction but without excess, nailing the contradiction between vulnerability and confidence that marks my favorite songwriters. Jocoy knows what she’s about, and while it’s a troubled tale, it’s one she knows and can deliver with clarity.
Jocoy was kind enough to give us some comments about the song:
“This song is about morality. As a songwriter, or writer of any kind, really, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that you can write about anything in any way you like. For me, I thought I was ready to write something that, for my style, would be considered “renegade.” That song was fueled by a little too much angst, though, and neither really sounded like me nor aligned with my true self. I felt like I was at a crossroads; vexed over the idea that an artist could go too far for the sake of the art to the point that you lose yourself. This song was the result of my working through that perplexity.”
No wonder it sounds like America in song form; the story of the song is similar to the complicated story of America (the complexities of going renegade, the difficulties of maybe going too far, the struggle to reconcile the actions with the ideals; America 1776, America 2020).