Introducing: Josaleigh Pollett – In The Garden, By The Weeds & Interview

I have to make a confession, I had no knowledge of this artist before this album came out. My friends on Twitter were sharing it and I saved it in bookmarks. I even decide that I will do an interview with Josaleigh before I listened to the album. I am not sure what I was thinking, but I trusted my friends. Sometimes I have just that feeling in my gut that the album will be great.

After listening for the first time, I was like “whaaaaaat”… and this became instantly my top album of 2023 (disclaimer: the list is still growing and I am not writing it down). I had more relistening time and it grow on me more and more. It is one of the best indie albums released this year and everyone should listen to it. I am loving every minute of it and you should too.

I will not write about it more, because you have to discover its beauty on your own. Just trust me, it is amazing.

I have written recently Josaleigh some questions and got such amazing responses. Just read them for yourself. I am so proud of this interview, my heart is melting.

Filip: I have to admit, I have not listened to your music before preparing for this interview and hearing the most recent album. How would you introduce yourself and your music in a few sentences?

Josaleigh: My name is Josaleigh Pollett, a Salt Lake City-based queer indie musician. I like to say I write tender and personal songs that skew toward indie rock.

F: What inspired you to start making music?

J: I was raised in a really musical family – both parents played guitar and my dad was always in bands. It really was just a given that making music was as normal a part of processing the human experience as talking or laughing or crying in my home, so it really never felt like a choice. It just happened.

F: Do you have any memories of music from your childhood?

J: Absolutely. I remember always trying to get the tv volume loud enough to drown out the drums of my dad’s band practicing in the basement. Music was never not playing in the house. My dad always played guitar along to whatever tv show was on. All of my Barbies starred in intensely choreographed album-long music videos I recorded in my head, ranging from Natalie Imbruglia to Spice Girls to Weird Al. I remember getting separated from my brother in a NOFX mosh pit around age 9. Music and being a kid to me are pretty inseparable.

F: Do you have any special memories with cassettes or vinyl records?

J: My dad drove a big GMC truck with a bench seat. In between us was always a big, triple-decker box of cassettes on every road trip. I would obsess over the liner notes in Alice Cooper’s Goes To Hell, Tom Waits’ The Black Rider, and Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson. My first cassette tape was Julie Brown’s “Trapped in the Body of a White Girl” (also holy shit that title). Both of my parents had massive vinyl collections and I spent a lot of time looking at the covers and playing them at the wrong speed.

F: It has been a couple of weeks since the release of your recent album, how does it feel now? How do you see the reception of the album?

J: It’s been an incredibly warm reception – more than I could have ever asked for. I love that people have favorite songs and favorite lyrics. I love that people are so enamored with the production because I am too. My bandmate/producer Jordan Watko really outdid himself with the sounds on this record. It feels really nice to have it out. Creating that record was an incredible process. We did it all at our respective houses and spent every Saturday together toiling away. He’s my best friend and I just loved getting to spend time with him and goofing around with new sounds. It feels really special and lucky that people like what we made.

F: You have self-released the album without a label and pressed it on vinyl records. How did this release process feel for you? Was it harder to do it on your own?

J: This is the third vinyl release I’ve done on my own, with the support of local record store Lavender Vinyl. They’re not a label but partner with me to help front the cost of pressing vinyl and have done so since 2017. This time felt like it went so smoothly, as it didn’t have any expectations or timelines until I really felt like everything was ready. I was able to take my time through each step. It was busy and a lot of work, but I am a creative project manager in my day job, so navigating artwork, production timelines, and follow-ups is kind of my jam and felt a LOT easier to navigate this time around. Not my first rodeo or something like that lol. It also helped that during the production phase of my last record in March of 2020, a global pandemic hit, so it kind of felt like my ability to navigate hiccups and stress had been so well practiced that I could navigate anything that came up.

F: You live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Does this city have an impact on the music you make?

J: I’m sure the environment has a lot to do with my music always, but I’m not sure what specifically it is about SLC. I feel like it’s taken a long time to find my comfort in this city as a musician. It felt like going against the current for a long time when I was younger and it feels more accepting and comfy now. Especially since meeting Jordan. I do think the closeness to beautiful things in nature has always been an inspiration to me creatively, and SLC is one of the most beautiful places I know.

F: What has the DIY community meant to you and your music?

J: Everything. In this current landscape of creating music, it feels easier than ever for anyone that wants to make music to be able to. And part of creating is sharing and feeling supported. It’s motivating and it keeps you at it. Without my SLC community and my online community of DIY folks constantly lifting each other up, the sharing aspect of music would feel so much more daunting and difficult. Finding people who rally and love each other and share each other’s art is the most impactful thing in the world. Otherwise, creating has been such a lonely thing, at least for me.

F: You have been very active on social media (Twitter/X). How do you find that? What drives you to support so many artists?

J: It’s funny that being so chronically online has led to some of my favorite reviews/connections/listens of my own music because it’s never been my intention with social media. I have just always been an over-sharer and yelling about music online and it happened to lead me into a world of other people that like to over-share and yell about the same sorts of music that I like. It has its weird moments, especially because I have never really made a hard line between myself as a person on the internet and myself as an artist on the internet, but also that sort of realness and vulnerability is what has connected me to people that feel similar to me. I am driven to support others because I think creating and sharing art is the bravest thing a person can do. I need that support from others in order to keep creating the way I want to, and it’s so easy for me to share and boost and yell about it when others do it because I know how hard and scary and brave it can be firsthand.

F: Which artists have influenced your music the most?

J: There are so, so many, and I feel like it changes so regularly. I think that Edie Brickell was my first inspiration – I wanted to be like her so badly. She wrote songs so relatable and simple to me, and I was always so impressed. Since then I’ve always had a direct IV of Jason Molina’s songs heading into my bloodstream and literally anything Jenn Wasner or Sharon Van Etten touches.

F: What does your creative process look like?

J: It’s always changing, honestly. Lately, it’s been a lot more intentional than it used to be. I used to live my life pretty chaotically and wait for my life to eventually blow up as a result and then I’d sift through the aftermath and process it musically. I realized that was pretty unsustainable and now, I try to just take care of myself in a way that allows space for creativity, and if I’m feeling a small itch of inspiration, I try to create intentional time to explore it. Scheduling it literally into my day – sitting down and treating it like a necessity – because it is. I start by trying to write a lot of journal-type entries and sometimes parts of those stand out to me that feel more lyrical, and I try to spend time building them out into something that feels like a song. Sometimes adding a melody or some guitar chords. Since I’ve been writing with Jordan, this is usually where I bring him in and we talk about structure and feeling and if we want to make it a song together, or if it’s something that lives in me and my guitar only.

F: Do you search for the meaning through the music? Does the creative process help you to process your thoughts?

J: Oh absolutely. I feel like making music isn’t just something I do to process thoughts and feelings and experiences, but is quite literally the physical expression and output of those thoughts and feelings and experiences. I usually am able to process things through music that I can’t quite get a grasp on without it. Part of my creative process, when I’m early in the writing stage, really just requires me to be very mindful and present and let myself empty out my brain, which often is so revealing of how I’m doing emotionally.

F: Where do you seek inspiration for your lyrics? How do you choose what to include in lyrics and what not?

J: It’s mostly my own personal experiences. If I notice that there is something particularly thoughtful or nice or tricky or poetic or weird or cool about something that is happening, I’ll make a note of it in my journal or my notes app or something. Like I just pulled open the app and found a note from last year that only says “shin deep in swamp water.” Maybe that’s something I’ll dig into or maybe it’s nothing, but I like keeping lists like that so when I sit down ready to write something, I have a lot of fodder for prompts or ideas or things like that. Sometimes it’s really just processing a big thing, like if I’m feeling really sad or really in love and I just don’t feel like I can express myself fully, I just start writing it out and maybe that becomes a song. Editing feels like a relatively new phase of my process – removing repetitive or redundant lines. It’s easy to get cheesy or too cliche I think sometimes, but knowing when it’s right is all part of the fun.

F: What is your daily job and how do you make music while working? How hard is it to find time?

J: I work in healthcare as a marketing project manager. It’s a 9-5 and I tend to be a weekend warrior with music. It makes me feel really busy and insane all the time and I wish I had more time for music. I especially wish a weekday show wouldn’t derail my entire week, but it’s just the way I operate these days. Nights and weekends for music mean sacrificing a lot, but also I really like having healthcare and a paycheck to support the music part more independently. It’s not my ideal, but within the confines of capitalism sucking the life out of all creativity, it’s my best-case scenario right now. It makes me have to be very intentional about what I say yes and no to, which as a musician can feel really hard because it’s easy to just want to say yes to every show and every collab and every opportunity because you think “what if this is a really fulfilling creative thing for me?” but there are opportunity costs to everything, much more often than not.

F: Do you have any other hobbies besides music?

J: Most of my hobbies are music-adjacent: going to shows or talking about music when I’m not making it. But I also love riding my bike and going on walks with my dog and lifting weights while I listen to pop music. I also really enjoy cooking for my friends and my partner and just myself.

F: Any favorite or inspirational books or movies?

J: I am having a bit of a favorite book crisis right now because since I was 15 I’ve said my favorite book is The River Why by David James Duncan, but I recently re-read it and wasn’t as enamored this time around. Still loved it, but it just didn’t hit the same. I like movies with Kurt Russell or Sigourney Weaver in them, and also really loved the new Puss in Boots movie. I recently picked up a book by Robert Bringhurst called the Tree of Meaning which is a neat collection of essays about language and storytelling that Phil Elverum talked about a lot in a virtual songwriting class I took from him last year and I like it a lot. I also read Elliott Page’s new autobiography recently and the way he approaches creating art/work as hungrily as does was really relatable and inspiring and I found it beautiful and motivating, especially as a queer and non-binary person.

F: What keeps you motivated to continue making music?

J: The constant pain and never-ending joy of being alive.

F: What was the most challenging thing in your music (artistic) path?

J: This is a good question that I’m not sure how to answer! I feel that of all the challenges in my life, my musical career has not really been a conduit of many. I am grateful that at this point in my life, I get to say no to playing 3-hour long bar sets in my hometown to noisy crowds that aren’t there for a show. Not that I’m better than that, but just that I’ve put in my time. I know the environments that I like to perform in that are conducive to me feeling like my best self, and I don’t ever want to do that again! Saying yes to every gig and coming home with 20 dollars for hours of performing always felt really difficult to me, but it also taught me a lot, so I’m grateful.

F: Do you have any set goals with your music? Some milestones you would like to achieve?

J: My only goal with music has ever been to continue making it in a way that feels fulfilling and challenging. I always want to improve. I always want my next song to be better than the last. I want each project to stretch me and make me proud.

F: What would you dream to do if anything was possible?

J: Quit my day job and spend my time gardening and touring and writing and never step foot in an office building ever again.

F: Do you have any advice for artists just starting out or maybe coming back to prior passions?

J: Truly it’s just to do it. Whatever is standing in your way of not making something today, figure out how to fix it and just start. It’s always a matter of practice and getting better and what has helped me more than anything else is to just have been doing this all for a long time so I know what I like and what I don’t like and what I want to prioritize or not. And the only way to be doing something for a long time and to know what you like is to start as soon as you can.

F: In the end, I have one challenge for you. Describe every song from your newest album in a single sentence, one sentence for each song.

J: I love this! Let’s go!

  1. YKWIM – You’re sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car of the girl you are dating and you say “you know what I mean” about something mundane and you can tell that she doesn’t and it unexpectedly breaks your heart.
  2. Empty Things – A recurring feeling of “how do I keep ending up here” plays on repeat in your head while driving through a snowstorm you should not be in.
  3. The Nothing Answered Back – The apathy is extra heavy today.
  4. Bad Dreams (Not Broken) – You wake up from the fifth nightmare of the week and start to wonder if you’re going to get a good night’s sleep ever again.
  5. cinderblocks – I don’t want to hurt you but I did build an effigy of you and I’m about to burn it in the backyard if you’d like to join me.
  6. Not Easy, Not Forever – If you’re at the point of needing a mantra I think it might be worse than you thought.
  7. Jawbreaker – An EMDR session over Zoom (worse than you think).
  8. Earthquake Song – I didn’t know about aftershocks and I didn’t realize I should have been asking you better questions.
  9. July – Your mental health is in the shitter and you’re begging yourself to get up off the floor and try to dance for at least a moment.

Go and grab a vinyl record and support the artist!