Only a year after her 2010 debut, Providence, singer-violinist Ida Jo returned with her newest album, Singer In The Band, which continues to expand on her innovative violin work and her soulful vocals. This Wednesday, Nov. 9, the songstress will be performing at The Brink Lounge with other local female singer songwriters in a “songwriters in the round” series showing original songs in a collaborative format. The A.V. Club sat down to chat with Ida about her new album, her future plans, and her passion for Snoop Dogg.
The A.V. Club: When writing your songs, do you first start with the lyrics or the music?
Ida Jo: Usually with the lyrics, but a lot of times that idea comes out of a little bit of an idea for lyrics and a little bit of an idea for how it’s going to sound. I might not start exactly with the melody or chorus, but some sort of idea about the feel and the sound of the song.
AVC: Listening to your music on your Bandcamp site, it’s easy to notice that the stripped down and soulful quality of your voice is really central to the songs you sing.
IJ: Oh, cool. Yeah, definitely.
AVC: Your newest album, Singer In The Band, recently came out this past August. How does this album differ musically from your previous album, Providence?
IJ: Well, when I was working on it, I didn’t think that it would be all that different, like I wasn’t making conscious decisions to change it, but it definitely ended up being quite different. One reason was that it was a year later and I had kind of settled in to what I was going for. When I did Providence, it was really kind of out of nowhere and I didn’t really know what it was going to end up like. So having Providence done, I had sort of had an idea about what would happen when you put these instruments together and that kind of thing. So yeah, I guess I wasn’t quite sure how it would differ, but it ended up being a lot more soulful and a lot more edgy at times. The songs aren’t necessarily standard forms of songs or standard chord progressions. I don’t know if that was really conscious, it was just kind of what I was finding interesting at the time, and I pursued that. So it’s definitely a different aesthetic and more explorative I guess.
AVC: I read about the violin “chopping” technique that you use. On Singer, where can we listen for that specifically?
IJ: It’s almost on pretty much every song. On “Judgment” it’s pretty clear. It kind of starts with the piano, but when the violin comes in, it’s really stark and you can hear the percussive quality of the sound. Also, in the title track, “Singer In The Band,” it starts with just my voice, but when the violin comes in, you can kind of hear the style and sound it makes.
AVC: How would you describe chopping to someone who isn’t familiar with violin music?
IJ: Sure. Yeah, it’s basically like a percussive, rhythmic way to play the violin. It acts somewhat like what maybe an acoustic guitar would do rhythmically.
AVC: Is there a song off of the new album that you especially like to play live?
IJ: It’s probably “Judgment” and “Diamonds And Gold.” They’re both really big singing songs. Some of the other songs are low, rhythmic, and smooth, and I like those, too, for different reasons. On both “Judgment” and “Diamonds And Gold” I just get to let it rip, and I like that really wide-open and honest type of singing.
AVC: Do you ever do cover songs, and if so, what songs do you like to play?
IJ: Yeah! A song that we love doing is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band, and that’s kind of fun, because I introduce it as a sing-a-long and I don’t know if people know what to expect. I like that song because it’s the kind of song where everyone knows it, but it’s not something you hear everyday. And it’s got that really soulful storytelling quality to it. For a while, another we were doing was a Grace Potter And The Nocturnals. Do you know them? We play “Big White Gate” that tells a clear story and is really soulful. I really love that song as well.
AVC: Yeah I really like that song, too. It would definitely be a cool surprise to hear “Big White Gate” at a show.
IJ: Oh, I’m glad you know it! It adds a lot to the set, I think, to bring in. If you use covers well, I think it brings such a depth to the music that I don’t think you can get if they’re all your songs.
AVC: As with the recent Lou Reed and Metallica album, Lulu, as well as the Jack White and Insane Clown Posse song “Leck Mich Im Arsch,” would you ever consider lending your voice to a hip-hop or metal album?
IJ: Yeah definitely! [Laughs.] That’s really funny you say that, because in the past, I’ve actually been a really big Snoop Dogg fan. Which is really funny, I know all of the words to every song on Doggystyle, which is strange. But anyway, in the past, I’ve been like, “Geez, maybe I could do a song with Snoop Dogg?” That’d probably be interesting, if nothing else. [Laughs.]
AVC: That’d be awesome. I’m sure Madison would look forward to hearing a collaboration like that, or with any hip-hop artist. How would you describe the current music scene here in Madison?
IJ: Oh gosh, you know I think that Madison has a really strong music scene, but on the other hand, it’s a bit scattered. There are so many people, and I think it’s hard to kind of step out of your world and meet maybe like the jazz players, or you mentioned hip-hop, and there’s a lot of hip-hop in Madison right now. I think that although it’s really strong that it would be even better if we had a way to bring everyone together even more.
AVC: Do you have another album in the works?
IJ: Yeah I do, I’ve actually been working on one quite a bit. I wasn’t going to start working on something too soon, but I had a lot of ideas and started feeling like I had the makings of a new record. So I would say even early next spring I’ll have something new out.