It was a hot day at Washington Square Park and everyone came out to play… children, dogs, cloggers, tap dancers, drummers, a violinist, and us. We sat with Sonji, a musician who performs under the name JackLucy, on a bench near one of the entrances of the park, and the setting couldn't have been more ideal for our discussion. There we were, the park in front of us, a violinist playing in the background, and I was exactly one day away from turning 30. We were in deep thought about the perplexities of the day to day existence and it's effect on our creativity, but I was anxious for her to tell me what the other side of 30 looked like. Her interpretation of it was murky at first, but by the end of our conversation, we all walked away soaked with a new perspective on our lives, a feeling of hope in our creative dreams, and ready to venture into our beginning.
Sonji was born and raised in a Pittsburgh neighborhood that ostracized her for being different. She didn’t quite fit in and she didn’t feel like anyone was interested in what she had to say, but these outside influences shaped her identity. It pushed her into playing music and eventually finding her voice, "music, it's not a team sport, I don't have to be involved with other people… and there's no real need for camaraderie, so I didn't have to feel excluded." As a way to emulate her folks, she picked up the flute when she was 8 years old and then she learned how to play the saxophone shortly after. She started playing guitar when she was 15, and by the time she was 17, she could play 10 instruments fluently, but she had an urge to write a song. The songwriting evolved from being heartbroken, but not in the classical sense. She was having a hard time grasping her sexuality and accepting it.
She’s always considered herself a musician, but not a singer. She came from a family of singers who all sang in the standard style, but she wasn't able to sing like that, so to contend with them, she learned to play every instrument she could pick up, that is until she discovered Nirvana and Radiohead. She found this new style of singing in grunge music, "listening to those guys was when I decided to sing and song write because they were voices I’ve never heard before." She landed a meeting with a music label when she was 19 and was able to find some success there, but it was a suppressing experience, "when I was 15, I was singing whatever came out and I didn't really care what people thought, but once you get to the labels, you start considering how other people are going to receive it, and then it just doesn't make sense anymore - why can't I just play what I want?"
She spent years trying to fit into this mold of what everyone else wanted her to be or sound like, but now that she's in her early 30's, she's in a state of awareness. She's transitioned to the "B-Side," as my cousin Omar likes to call it… the flip-side of her life, and arguably the best side of the record. She's in her truest form and playing the most honest version of her music, "I'm coming to terms with my identity now instead of writing surface music that has nothing to do with how I’m really feeling. I was jaded by what everyone was saying, but it's taking me 10 years to figure it out, accepting that everyone is not going to like it. If this is my artistry, then this is what's going to come out, and this is what I’m going to create. This is what it's going to be."
JackLucy is all about blending a mix of hip hop and folk, its rhythmic and honest, it represents her alter ego. "Jack" being the most conventional name she could think of and "Lucy" represents the polar opposite of that, the female side. It embodies the dualistic make up of who she is. She’s an introvert by nature, but an extrovert when she plays music. This project is going to be exactly what it’s supposed to be, what she aspired to do when she was 19, but in it's authentic form, "as long as I continue to believe in it, continue to find things to inspire myself and just keep going, take in all the good, and be positive about what I want and sticking to it. I think it can be something new and fresh, that people haven't seen, that I've been sitting on, and I kinda grew into it. It's what I always thought that I was inside, but couldn't get out, so we’ll see."
Her music is definitely motivated by heartbreak, but she's actively working to shift this, "It's always been love songs, a break up song… I don't write happy love songs. My music is always about the end of something, and I’m actually trying to change that." She wants to make music that celebrates the beginning, that fresh and exciting feeling when you discover something new. She’s inspired by people who have to work really hard to do what they want to do, so with the JackLucy project, she has to be her biggest source of inspiration because she refuses to live her life in regret. "In order to survive, I have to play music because if I don't, then I’m going to die. My soul is going to die and I have to take a chance. I'd rather starve doing what I love than eat doing this, whatever this is, I can't do it anymore," and with that said, we were left speechless. It was the first time we ever thought our creative dreams were a life and death situation, like a shark… we have to keep moving towards our goal in order to exist.