Quiet Signs: An Interview with Jessica Pratt

On May 17th, Jessica Pratt will be gracing the Miracle Theatre with her sibylline siren calls. Almost alien, her other-worldly voice is both warm and tinny; distant and intimate; foreign and familiar. Put more simply, her music can feel impossible to accurately describe. On her most recent album, Quiet Signs, the elusive song-writer has created a work that is just as reverent toward the spaces between notes as it is with the notes themselves. The album came four years after her last release On Your Own Love Again and reintroduces Pratt as an evolving yet timeless voice.

We were able to ask her a few questions regarding the album and her songwriting process ahead of her performance in DC. Read the full interview below and be sure to buy your ticket.

By Ava Mirzadegan

How do you spend your time when you’re not writing/performing music?

Reading a lot. I try to see people. Stomping around LA.

Was the time between albums a purposeful repose?

Yes and no. There’s a natural static period in between big phases of writing and recording, for me. I didn’t settle on any length of time prior to the break, it just sort of happened that way. Who’s to say what will happen next time.

Your earlier records focus mainly on finger-picked guitar and voice but Quiet Signs ventures further than you’d gone into incorporating other instruments and more strumming – how did you bring these other elements into the final composition?

I think the way a person plays an instrument is bound to evolve over time. As far as the other instrumentation it just had a lot to do with what I had at my disposal. If there’s cool stuff lying around, I’ll try to use it! Or get someone else to play it. Only a fraction of it winds up feeling essential.

All of the press surrounding Quiet Signs has focused in on the quietness of the record, but there’s a restlessness bursting within the spaces and the varied instrumental voices. It’s especially noticeable in “As The World Turns” where the melody is almost pushing out and expanding from within the limited chord progression… It almost feels like an exercise or challenge you set for yourself to build an inventive melody. Do you ever do anything on purpose like that to spawn creativity or does it always just feel like the songs just come to you on the spot?

As of yet I haven’t set out to write a song within a particular framework, or set rules for myself in advance in an attempt to create a useful sort of limitation. Whenever I’ve tried to define something before it’s been created it doesn’t work out very well. I think there are very minor techniques I apply to lyric writing, perhaps, but it’s never a tried and true method, it’s just about trying to look at something from a new angle if you’re stuck in a spot for too long.

Which of the songs is your favorite to perform live?

I’m not sure I have a favorite. Each song can vary quite a lot in how it makes me feel, or how I perform it. There are certain songs that are challenging to sing live in a way that entertains me.

By Ava Mirzadegan, of No Boys Allowed 

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