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Rock On The Rise Interview: Jasmine Cain

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Front woman and bassist extraordinaire Jasmine Cain released her fifth studio album, White Noise, this past summer. Produced by Lincoln Parish, former guitarist for Cage The Elephant, White Noise is chock full of fist-pumping anthems, irresistible melodies and heartfelt ballads. Full of drive and passion, this record has captured the energy of what Jasmine Cain is know for – her live performance.

White Noise features contributions from vocalist Ralph Saenz (aka Michael Starr from Steel Panther), bassist Kevin Bebout (Full Devil Jacket), drummer Christopher Williams (Accept), guitarists Jeff LaBar (Cinderella), Gerry Finn (Killer Dwarfs), Jeff Caughron (Full Devil Jacket/Every Mother’s Nightmare), Kenny Greenberg (Gretchen Wilson/Kenny Chesney) and Peruvian axemaster Charlie Parra (M.A.S.A.C.R.E./Kobra and the Lotus).

Rock Confidential caught up with Jasmine to talk about White Noise, her influences and the importance of rockin’ a strong work ethic.

Thanks for taking time out for this! How are things going?

It’s been the busiest touring summer that I can remember and it feels amazing. I’m totally energized.

What did you use as inspiration while you were in the studio for White Noise? Did a certain song set the tone of the record?

At first we just needed to get back into the writing mode, so we were just writing anything that came to mind. Our first few songs written were “Into the Grey” and “Break Even” and I felt like we had hit a real groove with mainstream radio with those two. My co-writer and friend, Paige Logan, and I have a long time friendship and writing history, so it was a very natural session. But after some time started to pass, I realized that something was missing. We weren’t really capturing the energy of the band that we’re known for on our live shows, so I took a left turn and wrote some high energy rockers with my guitarist like the song “Coming in Hot.” I was jacked! But we still had a long ways to go. So I turn another left turn and called my friend and keyboard player, David Michael Thomas. He showed up like the next day and knocked it out of the park like he always does with Paige and I. In just one afternoon we finished “White Noise” and “Fall To Rise.” He also lent “Good Life” to the project, knowing the Foo Fighters-esque song was a perfect fit and we picked “Hole” from our Modern Day Gypsy album, which he also co-wrote with me. I knew when we finished “White Noise” it was the perfect title for the album. We were down to the wire, so I took one final left turn and did a power writing session with the band completing the final track, “Fool’s Gold.” It turns out that three left turns DO make a right.

Do you write music around lyrics, does the music inspire lyrics – or a little of both?

Honestly, I can never answer this question. It just is what it is. Sometimes I have a dream and write the whole damn thing at once. Sometimes I have a title and write around that (“Comin’ In Hot”). Sometimes I have a great guitar hook and write something for it (“Into The Grey”). Sometimes I just come up with a great melody and craft everything around that line (“Break Even”). When I first moved to Nashville, they tried to teach me the “Rules of Songwriting”. The first rule of songwriting is THERE ARE NO RULES. Do whatever feels and sounds right in your head. If it’s meant to transcend to the masses, people will let you know. We test drive a lot of our songs before we record them.

You wrote this album in just a couple of weeks. How did that differ from previous records? Did it add pressure or really get the creativity flowing?

I’ve NEVER done that before. Someone told me once, You have your entire life to write your first record and about six months to finish your second one. That hasn’t been totally accurate for me, but I’ve never power-written like this in my life. I actually found it to be much easier because I never had to break my concentration at any point to complete it. There wasn’t a tour in the middle that I had to do that would keep me from working or deplete my energy level. I think this is the way I would prefer to work from now on. I loved it. The only thing I could see happening from doing it this way is unless you bring in new people to work, you’re going to end up with a bunch of really similar songs, so you gotta switch it up and keep it fresh.

Your band has a wide range of talents and influences. With such a variety, how long did it take to nail down the sound you wanted for White Noise?

We’ve all done it all. From reading interviews with Lzzy Hale from Halestorm, our story is similar. We’ve been a cover band for so many years, it’s easy for us to do all styles. This record was all about connecting. We needed that connection with the industry, radio, our fans, and new audiences. It was a big game of “Connect the dots”. I pulled from rock artists that I felt were timeless and I wrote with them in mind.

How would you describe producer Lincoln Parish’s work style? Did he make decisions or suggestions that were out of your comfort zone while you were in the studio?

Lincoln and I agreed on the songs and the arrangements pretty much from the beginning. Somewhere mid-record, we lost him. He got distracted and we finished the album without him, but I felt like he would’ve agreed with the decisions we made because we were pretty much on the same page all the way through. He did have some suggestions of things I have never attempted before and although they were out of my comfort zone, I wasn’t against trying anything. If you want me to grab a couple of frozen fish out of the freezer and beat on a concrete fireplace for a cool drum part, I’m all about it. (Not saying that did/didn’t happen, but you understand). Sometimes recording requires a certain sound that doesn’t have an instrument yet. I’ve done numerous shaker parts using Sugar in the Raw packets because it has a deeper sound than a regular shaker. It actually makes for way better stories later.

You had a few special guests turn up on White Noise. The closing track “Fall To Rise” with Ralph Saenz is a true stand-out. Were any songs written with a certain guest in mind or did they work their way in as the album was being written?

I knew that I wanted “Fall To Rise” to be a duet. I had a few people in mind, but recently had become re-infatuated with Ralph’s voice. That dude can just out sing most rock singers out there. He’s incredible and consistent. I love his attitude and his willingness to try anything. When he agreed to sing on that track, I freaked out. He was leaving the country on a tour with his band Steel Panther like the next day. He just dropped his kids off at school and was like, give me an hour and I’ll shoot you some tracks. My heart was pounding waiting for those tracks. He did them immediately and they were perfect. He sings pitch perfect and even experimented on the vocal lines to better fit the song. Everyone was blown away. He’s the real deal. And the best part was getting the email from him later in Europe telling me how that song is stuck in his head and he can’t get it out! Best compliment ever. Kevin Bebout (Full Devil Jacket) actually made that connection since he is the Project Manager of Kramer Guitars and designs all the guitars for Steel Panther. If you notice, most of the guitarists on this album have one common thread, and that’s Kramer Guitars. Gerry Finn, Jeff LaBar, Benjamin Johnson, and Charlie Parra del Riego all have Kramer Guitar endorsements, so it was a guitar party. I spent the winter months touring with Jeff LaBar (Cinderella) and his studio appearance was nothing short of rock star status. He walked into that studio not even hearing the tracks in advance and pulled off some classic Cinderella guitar harmonies that would make anybody stand up and cheer. He slapped on that old dirty white Gibson guitar and slung is around his shoulder, stepped into his rock stance, and killed it.

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Who are some of the artists that influenced you early on?

My first influences were country music artists. I wanted to sing like Wynonna Judd. She had a deep smoky voice and it was different than all of the other girls. My first rock influence was Joan Jett. My older brother smuggled blank cassette tapes in the house to let me hear some of her stuff. When I heard “I Hate Myself For Loving You”, I knew I needed to sing rock n roll. Pat Benatar was my next hero because of her trained vocal style. I started self training to improve my vocal range and breathing techniques. Then I discovered Heart and it was over. That sealed the deal. Later I learned about songwriting and Stevie Nicks and Chris Cornell became infatuations. Honestly, I don’t think you ever stop being influenced by something. I just heard the new Ghost album and I love it! During the recording of White Noise, I couldn’t stop listening to TesseracT and Karnivool. Killer groove!

Aside from musical influences, different things in life can influence and inspire musical directions and lyrics. What are some things that help mold you as an artist?

I’m influenced by people mostly. I listen to their stories and feel their pain, joy, anxiety, anger… everything, really. I’m always moved by the innocence of nature and animals. I’m an outdoor girl. I’ll sit in the woods for hours for no reason other than to hear silence. I’m totally comfortable with silence.

You’ve released five albums on your own. You have over 35,000 record sales to back it up – plus you’re debt free. THAT is rock n’ roll. Do you think the indie approach is more gratifying since it’s a more personal experience?

Honestly, if I hadn’t gotten tied up in someone else’s dream and lost $140,000 helping them achieve their dream, I’d be a lot further along. I just became debt free two years ago from that and now I’m starting to build myself back up. I’ve never had a record deal or assistance from anyone really, with the exception of this last record, so I have nothing to base my answer on other than my own experience with working my ass off. I’d say, yes, I’m very proud of what I have and am continuing to achieve because I earned every dime of it and that’s something you can feel good about. I will say that it pretty much seals the deal on your personal life, because unless you’re surrounded by friends that support your dream, you’re going to have a very lonely existence. I get up around 8AM every morning and go straight to work. Before I ever eat breakfast or have coffee, the phone and computer are in my hand and lap. I’m working until long after the sun goes down. I’m driving over 70,000 plus miles a year and flying even more. I’m mailing out online orders weekly. I’m fixing trailer fenders, van tires, input jacks, cables, and everything else that breaks. It’s never ending. But I was born to work my ass off. I’ve been training for this since birth, so I’m more than ready to handle it all until the next best thing comes along. I’ll keep learning and stay open to anything.

What are your thoughts on how new music is promoted now?

Honestly, it’s so hard for a new band to start out right now. I credit my success to getting started so many years ago and finding my niche. I can’t imagine getting a bunch of people together right now and being completely unknown and trying to make my mark in the music business. Our listeners have the attention span of the worst ADD person you’ve ever met. Remember when you could write epic rock operas and people were blown away by the amount of effort and creativity that went into it? It was a masterpiece! Now they’re bored 30 seconds in because the first verse hasn’t started and they want to hear the chorus. Fast forward! New ideas and fads come and go, but one thing that will always pay off is getting out there and playing, playing, and playing some more. I live in Nashville and many people won’t go to a rehearsal without being paid or drive to a gig more than 30 minutes from their house because they’ve grown lazy. Don’t be lazy and it will eventually pay off. You gotta get out there! Get a mailing list. Stay in contact. Be a social media butterfly. Get to know your fans and they’ll get to know you. Invest. Invest. Invest. Hell, I’m still trying to figure it out. I try to keep everything in house as much as possible so I can control where the money goes. Get that .com site and get your music up there for download. Market yourself in any possible way you can. You’re all you’ve got.

What has been the most exciting part about your career so far?

I was asked to do a show in Abu Dhabi for the 13th Annual MENA HOG Rally. It’s a Harley Owners Group for all Middle Eastern countries. Over 750 people from 15 different countries came and represented their country. I sang good ole American Rock n Roll for them and crowd surfed over the top of them at the end. That was liberating considering the situation today. I honestly didn’t think twice about it at the time… neither did they. We were all just motorcycle people with a common interest and we came together to party. It was fantastic. I didn’t realize the duality of it until after it was completely over.

How have you changed as a front woman over the past few years?

I’m much more comfortable now than I’ve ever been. I honestly never started out to be a front person. I wanted to sing harmonies and play bass in a band, but not be the focus. It was so much pressure! I have to get into a certain mindset before I take the stage. It doesn’t take long for me to switch characters anymore because I’ve had to do it so many times. It’s about a 30 second thing where I put my bass on and get my hair out from under the strap and with my back turned to the crowd, I flip off my standby switch on the amp and take a few deep breaths. The guitar kicks in and the drums follow and I turn around and attack the microphone and it’s balls out from that point on. It’s like preparing for battle. Singing with that kind of force takes quite a bit of energy.

What do you hope people take away from your music?

I hope they find something to connect with. I know so many people that are able to pull something from it to make their lives easier. That’s really all I want. If it makes life a little easier for someone, I’ve done what I came to do. I don’t want anyone to feel alone.

Thanks again Jasmine! What would you like to say to wrap things up?

Those were great questions and a great interview! Thank you! I just want to remind people to check us out on our website jasminecain.com. We’re big coffee fans and if you’re into the caffeine junkie like I am, you might have to try some of our Coffin Coffee. It’s a rockin’ roast of heavy metal strong enough to wake the dead! Also, keep an eye out for new videos coming soon to our YouTube Channel @missjasminecain. And, as always, please join me on Twitter @jasminecainrock and Facebook @jasminecainrocks so we can stay in touch. I answer most all my messages and I’m always happy to meet new people. I’d love to hear from everyone after they’ve heard the music. It matters to me. Thanks!