Angela James is a Chicago singer-songwriter who just released a beautiful new album, co-produced with David Vandervelde (Father John Misty) called "Now That I Have You".
"I'm making what I feel like is the best work in my career. I had a lot of opportunities early in my career, and that was great, but I was so new and I had just started writing songs and just started playing music, and I didn't have the confidence, and now it's like, I'm making better work. I have more confidence." - Angela James
I loved talking with Angela. As a musician who is also a mom, I'm always excited to speak with other musician moms to see how they balance their lives and art.
Angela speaks in a calm, thoughtful way about a range of pretty wild topics, including using psychedelics, postpartum depression and psychosis, death, grief, and working in hospice. We also talk about her creative process, her new album, and how her relationship to her music career has changed over time. Finally, we share our love for the Chicago music scene, and how unbelievably talented, accessible, and supportive it is.
How do you make music when you become a parent?
How does your relationship to art change when you hit middle age?
What does music success look like?
Can psychedelics help spiritual growth?
Should you wait to have kids if you're trying to be a musician?
Angela James Bandcamp
The Highly Sensitive Child (book)
0:00:00.9 Jessica Risker: Hey everybody, welcome to Music Therapy! I'm Jessica Risker.
So what happens to your music career when you become a mom and hit middle age? We're gonna talk about all of that and a lot more on today's Music Therapy.
Hey everybody, welcome to Music Therapy. I'm Jessica Risker, I'm a musician based here in Chicago, Illinois, and I'm also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, and Music Therapy is a mental health podcast for musicians and music fans. If you wanna learn more about the podcast and look at previous episodes and upcoming events, visit musictherapypodcast.com, if you wanna help out the show, please subscribe and leave us a review. That helps us get in front of other people so that they learn about the show and helps us grow - that's probably the number one thing you could do to help us out is go to Apple Podcast and subscribe and leave us a review.
I hope you guys are doing well. It has been much, much prettier here in Chicago, which has been a very big mood lifter for myself, I know, and I know a lot of other people too. We took a little break from the podcast last week because our engineer, Joshua Wentz was out, he was in New York, so we took a week off, but we're glad to be back.
0:01:18.5 Jessica Risker: I hope you guys have been hanging in there and hopefully getting some good weather as well!
A little bit of a public announcement: My band is looking for a new flute player, our flutist and vocalist, Jenn Romero, we are very sad to share that she's moving to Portland, which is great for her, it's sad for us, and we also need a new flute player and female vocalist, hopefully in the same package, and we need someone by June 2nd because we're playing a show at Cole's on June 2. So if you're thinking about... If you're thinking about raising your hand, don't hesitate, let us know, go to musictherapypodcast.com and fill out our contact information, and let me know, and then we can chat. Or you can message me on Instagram at Jessica Risker.
or also, if you have questions for Music Therapy, there's a topic that you want us to cover, send it to musictherapypodcast.com in the contact and ask us a question and we'll get it answered for you, we'll do our best.
Okay, enough of that. Let's get to today's interview! Today I'm talking with Chicago singer-songwriter Angela James. This was a really interesting interview because even though Angela delivers her thoughts in this very calm and collected way, we actually talk about some pretty wild topics...
0:02:40.6 Jessica Risker: We get into psychedelics, we get into death and into life, postpartum depression and psychosis, we also talk about her beautiful new album and how her relationship with making music has changed over time with getting older and with becoming a mom.
Let me share her bio, and then we'll go to the conversation that I had with Angela James, so Chicago-based singer-songwriter, Angela James has released four LPs and one EP since beginning her musical career in 2011, her most recent release. Now that I have you, co-produced with David Vandervelde, who was also known as Father John Misty, was released on April 22, 2022, and showcases her songwriting and musical range from Stark original Appalachian style balladry to lush layered arrangements with renowned improvisers. Her music has been praised by the Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, NPR and Tiny Mix Tapes, and she lives in the secret Chicago neighborhood of Budlong Woods with our partner Jordan Martins and daughter Hattie.
She's gonna tell us about that secret neighborhood too, and where that is, and whole lot more, and we're also gonna hear some music off her new album "Now That I Have You". So let's turn to my conversation with Angela James.
0:04:08.3 Jessica Risker: Hi, thank you for being on the show.
Angela James: Thanks for having me.
Jessica Risker: How are you doing?
Angela James: Okay, it's been a rough couple of days. Just in terms of news, and we were going through a lot of family turmoil that seems like it never stops, so... Yeah, and having an anxious period, I'm feeling... My anxiety is very present right now. Okay, well, let me start off with my first question, and we'll get into some of that stuff, my first question that I ask everybody just to orient us to who you are and what your life looks like these days is...
Jessica Risker: Can you describe a typical week for you these days?
Angela James: Yeah, I work a lot of different jobs. So one job that I do is I teach therapeutic yoga privately to a handful of elderly people, and they all have some physical limitation at besides just being... I think my youngest client is 75, and so I drive... Three of my clients are in High Park, so two days a week I'm up really early, and I go to High Park. I live in the neighborhood Budlong Woods that nobody knows where it is, but it's like north north of Lincoln Square, and...
0:06:00.2 Angela James: Yeah, every day is different, and I also teach early childhood music. A daycare or preschool. And so I do that a couple of days a week. I have a five-year-old, and so she goes to school, which is kind of amazing, and also has its own challenges in terms of just your days and your times being kind of in these very particular increments, it's like, This is the amount of time that I have anything to do or get done like... But it is wonderful to have a child at school age because... I do know I'm gonna have that time. I mean, given the last couple of years, that's not necessarily been a given, but... Right. How long is she in school? She's in school from 8-15 until 3. Okay, and she goes to a Quaker school and Edge Water called the Chicago friends school. That's a really lovely... I think Quaker education is amazing, and there's a very small, very quirky quicker schools on the east coast are very fancy, but I would not characterize the school as fancy at all, and it's kind of scrappy and quirky, but quackery, which... Those values, I really...
0:07:27.9 Angela James: I'm into that as far as education goes, and apuesta-ly, my mother-in-law who has advanced dementia, was living with us, and so her care was a part of our living equation, but I think it's been two months since she moved to a facility, and my father I'm all is still here, and he just had a heart surgery, so we've been kind of circling the wagons, we live in sort of a family compound, so my in-laws are on the first floor, my partner Jordan and my daughter had her on the second floor and then my sister-in-laws on the third floor. Oh, okay, well, let's see. There's different directions I wanna ask you about it. You would refer to a lot of things going on in your family recently... Is that part of what's been going on? Yeah, at one point, the week before my record was really used, my father-in-law was having open heart surgery in one hospital, and then my mother-in-law is different hospital. Bless you, thank you. Because she had a pulmonary embolism in both lungs and it's like everything, and my sister-in-law was exposed to covid that week, so she couldn't help.
0:08:57.3 Angela James: So it was kind of a perfect storm. I'm so fortunate that my parents, while they live very far away, are totally beyond gay to take Patty to... And they live on a farm, so it's sort of this ideal, like it's the farm that I grew up on, is the farm other grew up on as the farmer father grew up on. Oh, wow. It is a really lovely place. And so Hattaway, but we were just bouncing back and forth on two hospitals, and in my mind, I was like, Oh, I've got this week before the show where I don't really... By design, I didn't have a lot going on. And then that all happened kind of at once, which feels a lot like what my creative practice is right now, it's like I'll have an idea of what I wanna do, and then life intervenes, and so it becomes this like... I don't wanna say a struggle, that is a challenge to get things accomplished, but I've started just making work about that challenge, and so on this new record, there's a handful of songs that are just sort of about that, like I just repeat, I don't have time over and over and over again, and it becomes a really...
0:10:33.3 Angela James: Again, I don't know what's out of desperation or I've matured as an artist, and so I'm like, I've figured out a way to creatively process it, but yeah, it feels like the timing was really bad, but I'm also like, Well, this is what I make work about.
Jessica Risker: When did you write the song set or on this album?
Angela James: I started... So the sort of manifest... So Song of the record Portrait of the Artist as a middle aged mother. I started when my daughter was an infant. I had just had a horrible postpartum depression, which sort of took me out for eight months, and I remember just sitting down and strumming like an e-card on a guitar, and so I'm told... And that was the first one, definitely for the record, but that's all I wrote for it. So that was 2017 at some point, and then I had finished that song until last summer, so I would say anywhere between late winter of 2017 to last summer, it's kind of the span can...
Jessica Risker: Are you comfortable sharing what your postpartum looked like?
Angela James: Absolutely. The record I really used before this was a record of lullabies and any sort of press that I wrote those all of is in the midst of Postpartum Depression.
0:12:13.1 Angela James: So I would just seeing these melodies to myself just to kinda keep me tethered while it was... My daughter was a terrible sleeper, so that not the obviously played into what was difficult, and so I talked about postpartum depression, it's like All of 2019, I was talking about postpartum depression, so I'm more than comfortable talking about it, and I think what's amazing, just in the last five years is that so many more people, women and their partners, because I feel like it's one thing for someone who's experiencing it directly to talk about it, but I think it's very confusing. It's very particular, and I have struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life, and it was very different, it's a very different Agence.
Jessica Risker: How was it different?
Angela James: The onset of it was studied and it was psychosis, it was this very particular... I feel like I've had several mental health crisis, crisis crisis crisis throughout my... Since my 20s and I can kind of feel them Come on it, it's like, you get through a certain number of them and there are patterns... Right, right. And this had no pattern, it was just... It was hormonally driven.
0:13:44.8 Angela James: So it was just this huge shift. And then you can't imagine not wanting to touch your child, right. It just feels like this completely foreign thing, but I was afraid to touch her, I thought that I was gonna hurt her or not intentionally, but I just did the trust where the human being...
Jessica Risker: Was that your anxiety?
Angela James: Yes, I just also felt like it would just... Yeah, it was anxiety. It's hard to put... It was postpartum depression, but it was also postpartum anxiety, I just... I just felt like I couldn't be trusted. And that's not something I had experience before with mental illness, again, there's sort of a more gradual process where I could be like, Okay, right now, I'm in this anxious phase where my partner, Jordan, last week, he was like, you're running a little hot right now, and I was like, Yeah, I know. I'm trying... It's like, Do I need to tweak my medication, it's like you can kind of feel where it's headed, a postpartum was just like... I don't know where... And then what was different too, is that once I got treatment, it was pretty fat terms of feeling better.
Jessica Risker: What was the treatment that you got?
0:15:18.7 Angela James: I found an inning therapist who was still my therapist who specializes in post partum of mood disorders, and I got on medication, so I was just put on sertraline/Zoloft, and I stopped trying to breastfeed, which I think was definitely part of the treatment, like my primary care doctor who is who diagnosed me first, was basically basically told Jordan and I that I was no longer gonna wake up at night and that... Basically, I needed to sleep. And that wasn't happy. So letting go of that, which was difficult, but also I think really crucial to recovery.
Jessica Risker: When you look back on that period of your life now... How do you remember it? And how do you feel about it now?
Angela James: I don't remember a lot of it. I remember flashes very, very worried about a reflux and very obsessed with it, it was a very particular thing and could... Couldn't get it. And I remember a little things like that, I feel we're not having any more children for a number of reasons, that's part of it, because it was very scared, I think... I can't really engage. I feel like there's been several movies made in the last handful of years about both proposes...
0:17:19.8 Angela James: There's sort of more, I think, media about it, it's like I don't have any problem hearing somebody's story about it or read, but if I see some sort of dramatization of it, it's still very difficult for me because I don't recall so much of it, so much of it is in this kind of misty place, but I am also... It's hard, it's like, I don't wanna say it taught me a lot, but I also began to understand myself on this really crucial level because of it, more so than I think it allowed a deeper level of acceptance of my own struggle with mental illness, but again, has been going on. I had my first sort of big crisis on... And I think my recovery from post was the first time in my adult life where I kind of saw myself and I didn't blame myself in the kids wrong with me, because I Strath mental illness. So in that way, it being grateful for it or what being a gift or... It's like, I don't believe that's true, but it did teach me a lot. And I still don't get up in the night when my daughter needs something, except last night, I got up because he had to be put back to bed, and Jordan usually gets up with her and he just was so tired, she's really...
0:18:51.6 Angela James: She's really interested in scary things right now, so she wants to see scary things, but then she's waking up at 2:30, terrified.
Jessica Risker: You've been doing music for a long time, I'm curious... Before you had your daughter, did you have any feelings about how these different pieces of your life might all fit together?
Angela James: I always kind of felt adrift... I didn't do it for a long time. I've always been a singer, but I hadn't written any music, I kind of had some pretty deep Impostor Syndrome, and I feel... But I also live in Chicago where collaboration, it was so easy just to be a novice here and then play with really incredible musicians and learn so much. So I always felt like I was learning and growing. I don't think I understood what I wanted to make art about, I guess is writing whatever songs happen. Now I feel like I have more of a vision and a more of an understanding of what I want, which is sort of a much broader thing than being a singer song... Right, I feel like being a singer, Sundays, like At this point of the... A small part of that and caregiving and being a parent caring for somebody that's the end of their life has really kind of clarified so many things, whereas before I just...
0:20:40.8 Angela James: I was like, I'm doing this because I feel like I have to do it. To feel complete is a human, but I don't want from it... And now I don't feel that way.
Jessica Risker: How do you feel about it now? Can you... Is there a way you can describe what it changed into?
Angela James: I'm interested in the utility and the magic of music, really, but in this very mundane way, I think my master plan is... I'm slowly cool to get a master's of nursing and a hospice, I'm already working with older people and living with my mother and mom, who was doing very slowly... It feels like there's a lot of different pieces of that, I've always sort of been interested in grief and dying. So I'm really interested in how my master's thesis, however many years ago, 15 years ago, was about music and memory, and how we use like music to hold our memories, we can... There's some songs I can't listen to anymore because they become so charged with me, but yeah, I feel like I don't even have appropriate language, basically, I wanna sing to people when they're dying, but not his... I wanna improvise and create sort of Indian Wells and tones, but also we have training so that I can get them with morphine.
0:22:49.6 Angela James: Right, so it's like, I wanna kind of have this and be teaching yoga for almost 18 years, so it's like having that non-complete practices and I think is coming into play. So all of these little pieces of my life now I feel like for a long time felt really haphazard, I'm like, Why am I teaching yoga? What am I like? I was on a PhD track and I quit that, and then we moved to Brazil, it's all over the place, and now I'm like, Oh, there is this whole... There's this very particular thing that I'm supposed to be with my life, and writing songs is part of it, but I feel like I'm just at the beginning of what I think I know about what... My relationship to music is.
Jessica Risker: What is it about end-of-life phase that attracts you to work with that?
Angela James: We don't do it well. And so there's a lot of... A lot of potential to understand our own relatives and of a better word for it, what love is and what we share as human beings, and we don't like death. Obviously, we're scared of it. It's the biggest mystery of all, and my uncle just passed away this week, and it's a total mess, it's just...
0:24:38.3 Angela James: There's land disputes involved, it's a total mess, and it's all because people were afraid to talk about it and be ready to address it, and so now there's a complicated feelings and I think is really complicated and we don't understand it and we can't talk about it super tricky. And it is not linear. And I have always... I've never been afraid of being sad or talking to people about being sad, and so once I kind of realized that, then I felt like, Well, if I'm not afraid of this and I have all of these things to offer, I should switch careers and I should know and then I had a living situation that really opened my eyes to... Oh, I'm actually on both. I'm good at showing up in problem solving, but also just helping a family, which happens to be my family, which is hard and the boundaries are difficult to maintain, but... I think we could do better. Basically, and I don't think I have any answers necessarily, but I feel very... I feel very passionate about exploring that more and being a part of that exploration.
Jessica Risker: Let me ask you about your album, "Now That I Have You".
0:26:24.5 Jessica Risker: And I'm asking that now, I know that some of the themes in the album very much tie in with what we're talking about now, some of what we're talking about now. My first question is, Who is the "you"...
Angela James: Now that I have you, always Hattie. It's totally Hattie.
Jessica Risker: So can you finish the sentence, now that I have you...
Angela James: Well, the song itself is all about is there are just so many cliches about parenthood and how much more expansive you feel and how your capacity to love and feel was just amplified in this particular way, but also you're in the log of the repetition and the minutia of it is just like mind, neither weird duality of like, I've never felt more alive. And I love in my life, and also I never can finish anything ever, I never fished with anything, and I don't have time, but I also... My heart is just this huge reservoir, and yet that song is all about... There are other songs that was called The Song or the record, The Caregiver, because that's one of the songs on the record too, and that's the one that repeats... I don't have time, I don't have time, I don't have time.
0:32:37.6 Angela James: I wrote that song obviously from a place of frustration, whereas now that I have you as maybe the only pure love song I've ever written, but it's also like... I think that the refrain is, now that I have you, I don't worry anymore. No, that's not true. It's just my heart is twice our size now that I have you...
Jessica Risker: What are some of the... If you can remember some of the frustrations you experienced it...
Angela James: I'm still experiencing them, don't know how much you know about highly sensitive temperaments, but Hattie Is a highly sensitive person, as am I, and I didn't know much about it until I started reading. I think I have the book, the book is up here, "The Highly Sensitive Child". And so I think as a highly sensitive person, I get overwhelmed really easily, and so being overwhelmed because I'm feeling everything and I'm just sort of in this very hyper-sensitive place, I feel what she's feeling, and I feel what I'm feeling and I feel what Jordan's feeling and it's like I'm tracking everybody's feelings, which makes me good... It's why I'm a good caregiver because I'm very much aware of what people need on an intuitive level, but I also just get really overwhelmed by those feelings, and so it's...
0:34:19.4 Angela James: I think boundaries are chiefly the hardest thing for me, and yeah, just not having your own time. I think I just require a lot of time and I don't have it. And so it's also something that's like, I chose this life. You know what I mean? It's like, I can complain about it, but I also, I wanted this. This is something I wanted, and there's a lot of people out there that want it and can't have it for a number of reasons, and so I think my main focus is to be honest, because I think, especially with social media, we just see these representations of life whatever it is, whether it's parenthood or music or whatever, that it's just this really perfect existence and you don't see the slog and I'm like, No, this is a slog, enormous slog too... Yeah, I don't know if that answered your question or not.
Jessica Risker: Yeah, it does. Is Hattie in kindergarten this year, was her first year of going away for any part of the day, or was she in the kind of pre-K or day care before?
Angela James: She was in pre-K for a couple of months before covid happened.
0:35:44.2 Angela James: I teach early childhood music at a preschool that has a location in Logan Square where we used to live. And has a location at Lincoln Square now. And so I think once she was three and some change, I talked to the owner and asked if I she be open to a trade, 'cause there's no way that we could afford child care, and she was really gracious as one was like, Absolutely, let's do this. So I taught classes in exchange for her going to pre-K and she loved it, and then covid Rush had a handful of months in pre-K and then we were all together for however many months that was... And then she went back to pre-K at a certain point before kindergarten.
Jessica Risker: Just hearing you talk about all the pieces in your life with all the work you're doing, all the family obligations and help that you're giving, you have a kid, have a relationship, you're working on music, I'll focus a little bit on the music part, just in the spirit of the podcast, but how has it been for you this year with her going to kindergarten? Having this window of time where she's not at home, and I'm sure it's still again, a kind of talking about.
Jessica Risker: I'm sure it speed with a lot of those different things, but how about for your creative practice, is that felt liberating? Is your more time or...
0:37:18.8 Angela James: Not since she started school, I think there's definitely more time and it's definitely more reliable time, it's like school is a different... Again, some of that's changed, but school is a sure thing, and I think because of the relationship I have with her pre-school and she wasn't full-time, it felt like again, there were certain days of the week where I would have time... But since she started kindergarten, things got more complicated with my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, and so I'm also... I'm taking my last pre-requisite for this master's of nursing, so I've also been taking classes for the past year and a half, so it feels like I have less... I feel like it's like a lot of other things, money, I think, functions the same way when you have more... You spend more, right? And when you have more time, your time gets filled up... And I'm not particularly great. I mean, I spend a lot of time outside. And so I think that's kind of my main self-care Avenue is I'm a complete and utter love affair with Lake Michigan... I don't even know how to describe how much I love that.
0:38:46.9 Angela James: I think it brought me out of a mental health crisis about two years ago, and so I feel like... I wish I had more time. Again, I feel like when you have a small child that's still so attached to you in this... Not necessarily physical way, although had really, since she's so sensitive, I find that when she's overwhelmed, she literally clings to my body and my clothes, and you just... There's less space for you, and then I hear parents with older children but are like, Gosh, I miss those days. My kid doesn't want anything to do with me, and I'm aware that that's coming and it's both... You can want more of your own time, but also a savor, the precious-ness of the little one. Yeah, like today, the sun was shining and it wasn't particularly warm and spring like... But she was riding her bike before dinner, and then after dinner, we went back outside and she just said this... It was so cute, she was like, Oh, I think it's just so nice to be outside. Before you go to bed, he just a great way to invite... And I was like, You're right, it really is.
0:40:22.0 Angela James: And it was just so sweet and lovely and growing up, it was just a grown-up way for her to process the time we were having. What's nice? It makes me think of the warmer weather that's supposed to happen next week... Yeah, be a lot more birds.
Jessica Risker: Let me ask you about... So we have a little bit of a bullet point list of things we're gonna talk about... We've talked about several of them. But let me skip to psychedelics, so let's talk about psychedelics.
Angela James: Yeah, what I love Olof them. I do, I think they're... I love to them when I was younger, and so more interested in them recreationally... I call myself a recovering type A personality. I think that most people like me don't enjoy psychedelics, but I actually really love losing control and understand just kind of being like what... I just think it's still instructive and so powerful, and I'm also a really mystical person, and so I think that my psychedelic experiences have really, especially with grief and end of life, and primarily that's another piece of my master plan is using psychedelics for grief counseling, which is not for everybody, because it's intense grief, fitness in and of itself is also intense, and then it's like, Okay, you're gonna have this psychedelic experience, but again, I think there's so much we don't understand about how we process our grief and how we think and feel about people that are dying or have died.
0:42:16.0 Angela James: And how even we can access those feelings and what does it mean, like that hole in your heart that you feel... What is that? And I think psychedelics are just a creative way to explore that, and to me, it's much less frightening to explore that with... It's a tool, I think. I had a really incredible experience with ayahuasca, maybe about two months ago, and my mother-in-law who is a... She's herself in the sense that she's this luminous person, but in that experience, she was talking to me, and she explained to my trajectory with end-of-life care and how she was there to sort of guide me through that, and it doesn't matter to me whether that's real or not, right? It does not matter. In one bit, to me, it was like, This is an important piece of healing that I'm doing, and I think it has the potential to bring people solace and to bring a deeper understanding of what it means to be a human. And again, what it means to experience love and loss, and it's great because it'll be legal here soon, and I think... And it's like, maybe we can get back to all the research that was done in the 50s and 60s, which is already...
0:44:00.3 Angela James: It's like all of those things are kind of happening again, although things are starting to feel very regressive, so I don't know, but I just think it's a tremendous tool, and I'm slowly doing psychedelic gut being a psychedelic guide here and here. So that's kind of part of the journey too, 'cause I think it's just really powerful, obviously, if you do it too much, it doesn't have the same power, I think. Is there a frequency that you think is sort of idea is... I think what's so cool about it too, is that it is so particular to the person, and I think it really depends on what you're trying to get out of it, if you're trying to connect with your grief, you probably should just do it once and then give it a rest. So yeah, I don't know, I can't speak with any level of authority besides my own sort of intuit, especially with ayahuasca. I'm like, I'm not doing that again for a while because I got so much out of it, but I was also... I wasn't... It's intense, it's like, how much can you put your body through your... Your body and mind through, but I know people that do it every month or every couple of months...
0:45:22.2 Angela James: Yeah, so it just depends.
Jessica Risker: Well, let me ask you, here's another sort of bullet point, maintaining a creative practice throughout middle age... What are your thoughts there?
Angela James: Yeah, that's just something that I think about all the time, because I feel... I'm starting to feel tired in a way that I didn't... I have not before. It's hard to say whether I'm sure the pandemic has something to do with that. I'm sure my living situation has something to do with that, I'm sure being a highly sensitive person has something to do with that, but I do... I am starting to feel my age and for the first time in my life, and so I think that that is... I'm 41, and it really did start happening last year, right, it felt very classic where I was like, Oh, oh, I'm 40, my body does not feel the same way, and I'm really athletic, it's like I teach yoga for a living, I'm a very healthy person, and I'm not used to my body, not quote behaving, so... There's a level of exhaustion that I'm experiencing now. I would say early metal age Creative Practice feels like this extra thing.
0:46:45.0 Angela James: And I'm really curious about older musicians, especially people who have just had a long arc of their career and are still making work, and I think a Chicago is really full of those kind of people, which is really exciting. And again, you can play with them.
It's such a beautiful city to live in because you can have these experiences with playing with legendary people, there's not... I don't know, it's a really beautiful place for collaboration, and you can go see bands that I moved here for it. When we moved here from Brazil, or we were thinking about where we were gonna move to, and Turner both like, let's move to Chicago, 'cause there were all these bands that I think when we were in college and post-college to serve the Indira scene here with Legendary A, and you can still see those people just play music... Right, it's pretty special, but I am feeling tired and so it's like, how do you balance all of that and how do you maintain an artistic practice with all of these other domain really feeling like middle age right now, it's like... Both of my in-laws are ailing, my uncle just died, and there's this really complicated estate thing that's gonna go down and that...
0:48:22.1 Angela James: That's my mom's responsibility. Sure, but she's getting older and you just feel sandwiched between caring for a young person and then providing care for your parents and it's exhausting.
Jessica Risker: Yeah, that is a lot. It does sound like a lot. Let me ask you about this song, if you can talk about the sun a little bit, the Portrait of the Artist as a middle-aged mother, speak about de lyrics or A.
Angela James: I did a little bit in the beginning where it's like I wrote that Lyric, I'm tired and then I didn't finish the song five years later, four years later, I come back to it. But that song, basically, I'm making what I feel like is the best work in my career, I have a lot of opportunities early in my career, and that was great, but I was so new and I had just started writing songs and just started playing music, and I didn't have the confidence, and now it's like, I'm making better work. I have more confidence. But I'm also, as I get older, more invisible.
0:54:10.0 Angela James: So I teasers. And so the lyrics are basically like, I'm tired, I really need some rest... It's fine, I know I'm not my best, but I'm free, I'm old, I'm getting past my prime, but I'm alive and I'm on fire, and so it's like I have a lot of ideas, which is again, it feels like this conundrum with parenthood too, where... Never have I felt more connected to my capacity for love, but I'm also just drowning in bullshit to accomplish, and with creativity, it's like, never have I had more ideas, but I just am tired and I don't have time... Right, and so that's kind of like what the song's about, but then also it's mostly just about having those ideas, and especially I think being a woman in music, there's just a lot of... I've kind of always done things my own way, I don't really fit in when I was first kind of coming up, you're like, Oh, she's a country singer, and then they'd see me, they're like, No, he's... So she's kind of dark and weird, but then other people to be like, Well, she's not weird enough, like I never really fit in any sort of particular genre, and I always kind of done things in my own way, but I think there is a certain pressure to present yourself a certain way when you're a younger female identifying person in a house culture-dominated art form, like using it, and I just don't care.
0:57:38.2 Angela James: I think I probably cared a little... And now I'm just like, No, I do not care. Nobody's looking at me, I can do whatever I want there. Yeah, it's so liberating. And it's a visibility. But with that invisibility comes sorts freedom to do whatever you want and have it not matter.
Jessica Risker: I wanted to ask you a question that was, that's geared towards in the spirit of Mother's Day and talking about being a mom and a musician, one of the things that I... Before I had my son, what I struggled with, how will I make all this fit together? I was really worried about losing that creative part of my life, and I was wondering if you could speak to maybe a younger woman who has an injured, the phase of life where she has a family at once that but is concerned about How is my artistic side? Going to fit in because it's like you're saying you've got a lot of stuff going on and stuff that you don't necessarily anticipate, what would you share with them or have them keep in mind instead of in pursuing music, but also hoping up a family Sunday.
0:58:58.7 Angela James: I think what really flipped the switch for me on that I released... So I released my Dave record in 2014, and like I said, I got a lot of praise and opportunities out of that, and I was on tour, and I was opening for somebody that I felt was really successful in my mind... Right. And I was just listening to them talk and they didn't think they were successful, and then in that same year, I had the opportunity to meet a couple of other sort of musical heroes of mine, and again, it was sort of a back stage situation, and I overheard a conversation, in one case was part of a conversation, and they just didn't feel like they had made it, and it's like this carrot that keeps getting dangled in front of you and I... That's in my mind, I was like, Okay, well, I'm not gonna have a child until I have a record label or a booking agent, all these things that I felt like were potentially in my future and they never happened, none of those things happened for me, and being in those situations with what I saw as more successful artists than me, that still didn't feel like they were successful, I was like, there's no reason to wait for the right...
1:00:22.0 Angela James: I mean, again, it's a cliche, it's like there's no right time, blah, blah, blah, but it's like for me, I was really scared of having a child in the midst of that time, and I think it was just like, Well, screw it. I'm gonna do it, I want both of these things, and if I want both of these things, I will figure out a way to make them work. And it's not gonna be easy. And part of the reason I released with this new record, I got a grant from the city to release my second falling record, which in my mind I was putting out. So my whole idea, I was like, This is my sophomore record... None of these things happened that I thought were gonna happen. Didn't get a record label, I didn't get a booking age, all this stuff, but I'm in a tour while pregnant, and it's like I had this whole notion, and the songs on the time will tell are pretty much all questions about what happens to your career once you become a parent should use... Should I become a... There's a song called Should I that it's like, Should I basically tour or should I put something in my empty womb, like Those are literally one from that, so...
1:01:49.1 Angela James: And I would stick my entire pregnancy, so I didn't tour, and I played a record really show at Constellation the night, like the Western Avenue Vedic was torn down, and it was like I... I have a knack with record release shows, I love record release shows, they feel like this spell conjuring ceremony that I just love, and I did that and then I gave birth a month later and had postponed impression and then never put that record. It lived only on Bandcamp until the pandemic, and then I think Jordan was like, Hey, the lyrics to the title track of this song actually sort of speak beautifully to the pandemic, and I started listening to the record again and I was like, Oh my gosh, this record was like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I was so worried about what would happen to my career and guess what, I didn't put this record out than the way that I thought I was going to, but my creative output, this next record is answers to all those questions, so I wrote a grant to put them out together and I got it. And so they really function is this one record of a person that hasn't had a child yet and just wondering what happens to their creative practice, and then the new record is like, Well, this is what it looks like, everybody...
1:03:22.5 Angela James: And it's not always great, but again, my heart is twice as because it used to be.
Jessica Risker: Where can people go to listen to your music? Well, bandcamp is always best because if you listen to it there, you can buy it directly for me, and their streaming situation has gotten better, but it's all... It's on Spotify, it's on iTunes. "Now That I Have You", I think everything is everywhere at this point, the band camp goes listening to a camp, let's promote the bandcamp for the time being. I mean, they just got bought by or... Easel, see what that... Yeah, it's been really great talking to you. Thanks.
Jessica Risker: Is there anything else that we should check in about before we wrap up today?
Angela James: Oh gosh, I don't know. I think that... It's just really great to be a musician in Chicago, I think. And I think it's a really supportive place to be a musician and to have a long career as a creative person, whether you've got a child or whether you don't... Or whether you're in your 20s, 20s or you're in your 50s, it feels like such a supportive place and you're doing this show and talking to people...
1:05:07.7 Angela James: I know you're not just talking to people in Chicago, but this feels like the kind of thing that makes sense that it's coming out of Chicago because there's such a warmth and kind of community of sharing here.
Jessica Risker: Totally, and I've had so many guests say that exact same thing.
1:05:29.9 Jessica Risker: I wanna thank Angela for her time and thoughts today, I hope you guys enjoyed that. As a mom myself, I find it very interesting to learn about how other moms are balancing their... The rest of their lives with their artistic pursuits.
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Music Therapy is hosted by Jessica Risker, produced by Sullivan Davis of Local Universe, and engineered by Joshua Wentz in Chicago.
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