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Jackie Mendoza on Grief and Values - Tunes Tuesday Interview Transcript

Maud Mostly: Hi folks, I’m Maud Mostly my pronouns are they/them, and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday, a weekly series where I sit down with Queer/2SLGBTQ+ bands and musicians to talk to them about their music, their experiences and so much more. This week, I am joined by California-based pop artist, Jackie Mendoza. Thank you so much for being here with me this week. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Jackie Mendoza: Yeah, I'm Jackie Mendoza pronouns are she/her. I'm in San Diego, California. I lived in New York for a while, for eight years, and I just moved back here in October, so I'm excited to start playing shows around here, and hopefully I'll get back to playing shows in the East Coast very soon.

MM: Yeah, that's awesome and I know, one of the first songs that I actually really want to talk about actually kind of, in the lyrics, addresses that move you made, you know what the ways you were missing New York, but the ways you were enjoying being in California, and that's your most recent release from 2020, your single Let U Go, which connected to the feelings of loneliness and grief many people have been going through this last year, particularly as they pertain to a much harder holiday season. Do you feel like putting out that single helped you navigate those difficult times as well?

JM: Yeah, definitely. I never planned on writing a Christmas song or a holiday song, so it was really spontaneous and it was just, it came out of what I was feeling at the time what I was going through. I went through a really hard breakup and which led me to move back here, and it was like during the height of the pandemic where so many people were losing their jobs, losing — I also lost my great-grandma to Coronavirus at the time, so it was just a lot of changes and losses that I knew not only I was feeling. So I really just wanted to, I don't know, let people know that they're not alone. Everyone’s going through the same thing, and it really helped me just process things at the time and yeah, that's where that song came from.

MM: First, would like to say I'm incredibly sorry about your loss, but do you find that you use your music frequently for of those therapeutic purposes, to connect with each other through difficult feelings?

JM: Yeah, almost every song. It's kind of hard for me to sit down and be like, “Oh, I'm gonna write a song about this random thing”, it always comes out of what I'm going through. Yeah, very autobiographical and what's going on with the world at the time, or what I'm feeling. So, yeah, it's very therapeutic for me.

MM: Absolutely, and do you find that only impacts your lyrics, or do you find that that comes through in your sound as well?

JM: In the sound too! Also, the way I write is very spontaneous and kind of improvisational, so I just kind of let it freely flow and I just build on so many sounds and just — it's kind of just like BLERGH! Yeah, if it sounds good to me that that's the most important part to me. I don't really think like, “Oh, this isn't — this is not structured correctly”, or it's just kind of like, yeah, like the free flowing thing.

MM: Very cool. And proceeds from that release, Let U Go, went to The Okra Project, which is a great initiative that provides free meals to Black trans people, and recently you've also done other fundraising initiatives with your music, including being part of quite a few benefit comps that have raised funds for Centro Corona as well as Undocumented Workers, and so much more. How do you find ways to match your music, your creative processes, your art, your career with your values?

JM: Well, it's like, I don't know, during the pandemic, that's when more compilations started coming out and people started releasing music to benefit organizations, and I thought that was really cool because, yeah, it just makes the song or the music even more valuable because you get to help people and it's just — I don't know, I, yeah, I think that was cool that it was like, you're not just releasing this just so people will hear it, but it's also to benefit others in a very tangible way.

MM: Yeah! It's been really amazing watching how people have been coming together and using what they have and using their talents to kind of connect more. Do you feel like you have a lot of opportunities to connect with community through your music?

JM: Yeah, also being like a queer artist, I feel like that opens doors and people feel like, “Oh, she's queer, so she's gonna be down to, not just release music just for profit, it's gonna be like, oh, they might be down to like, I don't know, I do this to benefit others”, and that's how I've been invited to be a part of these compilations that help organizations that are helping Black Trans people and Undocumented Workers. So I feel like just my identity is coming hand-in-hand with things I can help others, with the music. I don't know, it's kind of all coming together, in a really nice way.

MM: Yeah, and I really appreciated the way that you said that that's kind of opened doors for you. I know a lot of times when we talk about being queer, particularly queer musicians, we often think about how many opportunities you can lose out on for that because of still the systemic homophobia, the systemic transphobia around us. So hearing the ways that has actually brought you into community and brought you into projects is really wonderful to hear.

JM: Yeah, because remember, I came out in 2017 and I got a lot of hate for it, from followers on Instagram and people said really mean things, and at the time I was like, “Oh, I'm gonna lose out, I don't know a certain audience or people I won't wanna listen to my music or they're just gonna see this as like the only thing that I'm about or…” — but that was just for a short period of time that I was like “eff the haters!” and it actually did open more doors. I got to meet more musicians that were queer. Yeah, now I feel like I'm a part of a bigger community and I gained more.

MM: Yeah, it's really unfortunate to hear that there was that initial backlash, but I'm really glad that that ended up spinning into something positive where you were able to find even more people outside of the ones that didn't want to support you anymore, unfortunately.

JM: Mhm. Yeah.

MM: Yeah, and then you are also a part of the group Lunarette, how do you find you work differently within the group compared to your work as a solo artist?

JM: So, I've been with Lunarette since 2014, and we used to be called Gingerlys, and then we switched name three years ago, and I was always more the vocalist of the band, I was rarely part of the writing and the instrumentation of the songs. I feel like my bandmates are very like, “It has to be this way! It's dream pop not indie!” They have a very specific idea of what the sound is going to be, and I love what they write and I like their inspiration behind it, so it just became a really good collaborative project, because I like to sing and I like to write lyrics, so they send me the tracks and then I get to sing on the songs and make it whatever I want from there. And since they're in New York and I'm in California, it works out perfectly because I could just write from here and they write from there, and then it works out that way.

MM: I love hearing that. And how do you feel that differs from when you create music more solo?

JM: Mine is more — not all over the place, but kind of — I just take inspiration from different types of music, I don't want it to all be the same. So mine's more improvisational, more, not super pop structure. So I like doing that on my own and not having anyone tell me what to do. And then with the band, it's more like, okay, it's like a group effort, you have to compromise and just kind of take their ideas and then put in what you're good at and see what comes out of it, putting it all together.

MM: Together. Absolutely, and do you see yourself continuing to enjoy both of those styles of creative processes in the future?

JM: Yes, definitely. With my solo stuff, I want to start collaborating more with different musicians, singers, producers. I've been thinking about it for a while, but I haven't executed it yet because I'm still so — I just get an idea and then I just do it and it's like — so it's kind of hard to plan out. So that's refreshing with a band because you come together and you're like, “Okay, what are we doing next? As a band?” and then by myself, it's kind of hard to just be like, “Okay, Jackie, what are you gonna do next? I don't know. Let’s see”.

MM: Absolutely. It can be wonderful to kind of have support, and it also reminds me what so many artists have brought up throughout this series too, which is kind of that fact that even if you are a solo musician, you're not really ever solo, solo. There's people that are looking at your rough lyrics or people you're sharing some music with, or people that are willing to support you, give you advice, and I think it's really amazing all the different ways people can come together and collaborate, and I'm really excited to see how you decide to experiment with that in the future.

JM: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, I just finished, I wrote an album during the pandemic, and it's all finished, now I'm just figuring out how it will be released and everything. But even writing that, it was just so, because I work with my producer, Rusty, and he helps me with songwriting and with mixing and stuff. But he's the only person I show ideas to or that I work with, and then once the song is mastered, I'm like, “Oh, I have a typo in that lyric, but okay, I guess I should have shown it to someone else”. So yeah, just working on my solo stuff has taught me that I should be more open and should be open to constructive criticism and other ideas.

MM: Yeah, well, thank you so much for joining me this week. If you would like to check out any of the music that we have brought up today or the incredible other albums that are out there as well, or if you would like to stay tuned for updates on when that future album will be coming out, definitely make sure to go to the links below this video. Loved this conversation, I'm looking forward to seeing you next week on Tunes Tuesday and Jackie Mendoza will be playing us out.

*What I Need by Jackie Mendoza begins playing*

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