Sometimes you hear a song and it brings something out of you. A part of you that you didn’t know you had. When I first listened to Jessica Lamb’s “Just Don’t Have the Time,” the single off of her latest E.P., Songs of Travel, I couldn’t help but want to call up everyone who never believed in me and tell them they were wrong. Then I realized the chorus was telling me I shouldn’t care enough to even give them five minutes of my time, and then I felt empowered and (I have to admit) I acted like I was in a music video driving on 440 West with every window in my car rolled down.
Throughout our conversation, which I have to say Jessica is the only artist who’s ever been early for an Across the Table, she told me that she didn’t consider herself a “story-teller songwriter” and while I knew why she said it, I couldn’t help but feel the exact opposite. Jessica’s music puts you in a certain time and place. You feel every emotion that her music exudes and you can relate to it.
“You’ve got your dreams just like anybody else, so what’s the point wasting your time killing mine? I used to wish that everybody’d want the best for me, now I just don’t have the time…”
When we first sat down I asked the question that I always like to start with, when did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in music?
“Today’s a great day to ask that,” Jessica laughed, “two years ago today [February 18th], I performed my first original song live at an open mic night while I was studying abroad in Cambridge. That experience gave me courage. I had never been completely sure I’d pursue music as a career, and I’m still just learning as I go, but now I know I’ll do it forever.”
Jessica has a song off of her most recent E.P., entitled “Cambridge,” which talks about her journey to England and gives a brief glimpse into what the experience gave her. Songs of Travel focuses specifically on the places she’s gone in the past year, but leaves a nice open-ended resolve on where she’s still going. She says that her time traveling taught her so much and “eliminated fears” for her in so many ways.
With the theme of travel and change so prevalent in Jessica’s music, I asked if she felt she was more influenced by where she’s been, or where she’s going…
“My writing style is always changing depending on where I am, but it also has a lot to do with my life cycle. Songs of Travel was centered around being in school, traveling to places and having so many new, first-time experiences. My second E.P. set to release later this year has a much different theme behind it; now that I’ve graduated college and moved out there’s a bit of uncertainty, in a non-dramatic way,” she laughed, “and that bleeds into my writing. I think without knowing it, my writing usually centers around a theme, not a time.”
“As far as my writing process goes, lyrics usually come together before melody,” Jessica responded. “Writing music comes more naturally to me, I think because I have a stronger background in music and theory and not English. I value lyrics the most because they take a lot more time for me. I don’t think I’ve ever written in a song in one sitting. Sometimes it can take two weeks and then there are some that I’ve been working on for two years. I have found though, that my favorite ones are those that I write quickly.”
Jessica admitted she had two songs ideas she was bouncing around with for about two years until one day she looked at both of them side by side and realized they were one song and each half completed the other.
“It’s times like that where I just get sort of amazed and give myself a little credit for having a song all along, but not knowing it. It’s a relief and sort of feels like I’m off the hook,” she joked.
I think Jessica describes it that way because she is her own biggest critic. After chatting with her for a while after the interview finished, not only did I instantly feel like she was a new friend, but that she also took her career very seriously. It’s refreshing to see the drive she has and that, paired with her incredible music, will no doubt take her to infinite heights.
“All of my songs mean different things to me for different reasons,” she said when I asked if she had a song that meant the most to her. “It’s been really cool to hear stories of how others were influenced by ‘Just Don’t Have the Time.’ I wrote that song so internally and it’s the closest I’ve gotten to summing up my outlook on life. It’s sort of sassy with an attitude,” we both laughed, as that’s not the vibe Jessica initially gives off, “but it’s exactly how I feel.”
I had to ask how the song came about and while we’re going to keep the story super vague on this one, Jessica said it spurred from a conversation with a good friend.
“It’s definitely not directed towards that person, but our conversation really got the idea into my head. They said something to me along the lines of what I had achieved was handed to me and that I couldn’t have a big career in music forever and I just thought…’but I can.'”
And she will.
With opening for Ingrid Michaleson, a song that went national and then international in Starbucks’ in-store playlist, and a feature on ABC Family’s [now Free Form] television show, The Fosters, Jessica is just getting started in this ever-changing industry and riding the waves with class.
“That’s a good question,” when I inquired about the pinnacle of her career thus far. “I guess all three of those have really been eye-opening for me as far as my career, but the one that struck me so personally was opening for Ingrid Michaelson. She was someone I listened to growing up, not to make myself sound super young, but I couldn’t believe I had the chance to be mentored by her.
I have a licensing agreement with Castle Peak and they pitched my music for Starbucks and The Fosters, but the Ingrid Michaelson gig came about as a contest actually. Aloft Hotels has this thing called Project Aloft Star and they have a designated mentor for it every year. Ingrid shared something about it on her socials and I was like ‘okay… doing it!’ They chose five semi-finalists, then the top two were flown to NYC to open for her at a private concert. There was probably about 200 people in this back courtyard and they were all industry and press guests. I had an hour to meet with her separately while I was staying at the hotel the night of the show and I remember getting into the elevator with my guitar and thinking I had that time to collect myself and then the elevator doors opened, she got in and knew exactly who I was and I was like, ‘you need to collect yourself right now… It’s happening’,” she laughed. “It was a dream come true.”
I had to ask what it felt like hearing her own music on The Fosters or while she was in a Starbucks.
“I actually heard my song on The Fosters this past Monday! It didn’t seem real. The actors were talking during this dramatic moment and it took me a second to realize it was my song playing in the background. With Starbucks I never knew when it was playing and I tried to pretend it was an accident when I first heard it,” she admitted, “but my brother and I went to one on the day the playlist came out and we were in there for about 30 minutes before we heard it come on. It was a Thursday night and people were in there studying but we were freaking out, jumping around, singing along and taking videos. No one even noticed,” she smiled.
Jessica says a lot of great things came from her Starbucks plug. We’re both Shazam-ers, a term I’ve coined, so she said her hope was that people would do that and find her through her music speaking on it’s own. And they did. She did a show in L.A. last month and was even featured on Jessi Smiles YouTube channel — who heard Jessica’s music at Starbucks.
As far as pursuing music in Cali, Jessica says she’s a southern girl at heart. Originally from Alabama, she described L.A. as a neat place, but a niche city where she felt like she didn’t quite fit in. After a month in Nashville, she said there is really no place like this city and she sees herself staying here for a while.
“The main thing I hope listeners will gain from my music is a feeling that they’re not alone and their feelings are shared. I love sharing my music and attitudes and having people be able to connect to those. It’s unexplainable.”