This week we chat with Jhariah about a lot of our favorite topics at Concert Archives like first/favorite concerts, bucket lists, etc. Jhariah released “To Mend The Sun” in March, and recently released the single “SPLIT!”. Follow Jhariah on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more updates!
Backstage Pass: What’s the first concert that you went to?
Jhariah: The first concert I ever bought tickets for was Panic! at the Disco in 2016. That was a very big moment for me. I think I’ve seen them four times now.
BP: What’s the last show you went to before everything was canceled indefinitely?
Jhariah: Oh, that’s a good question, let me check! I’m always going to little gigs around town, but the last bigger show I went to was Waterparks back in November, and that was incredible. Dwayne Jackson opened and it was an incredible show. It was just unbelievable; definitely one of my favorite shows I’ve been to!
BP: You did theater for a while. What was the first theater performance you did?
Jhariah: So my relationship with theater is kind of funny ‘cause I only ever did one musical, but thinking back on it, it feels like I did so many. I sort of accidentally got into theater through doing stage crew. I was the set designer for one of our shows, and after being there for so long, I realized I really wanted to just try doing it. Eventually I gathered the confidence to audition, and got a role in a musical called Urinetown, which was very cool. I was the supporting lead, and doing that was insane! I realized I love to perform, which is something I never thought I could do before!
BP: When was the first show you played, and was that before or after you got into theater?
Jhariah: My first show was a year and a half ago. I had been doing open mics here and there trying to build up a bit of confidence, get some experience performing. Somebody I met at one of the open mics was an organizer of local events, and she hit me up asking me to play a set at this thing she was organizing in the Bronx. And I was like “That would be amazing! It’d be so cool.” That show was April last year. It solidified for me that I really wanted to perform, but also that it felt very comfortable, very natural, even if it was sort of difficult to build myself up to it. It felt like I belonged there, you know?
BP: So my next question is what’s your favorite show that you’ve been to?
Jhariah: Oh wow. That’s such a big question. Honestly I think in a different timeline, by now, I would have been saying MCR, but that didn’t happen [😢]. Honestly, I think my favorite show I’ve been to has to be the last time I saw Panic! at the Disco, which was last year in January. I see them every time they come through, but last year especially was really special for me just because it was the closest I’ve ever been at a stadium that big for this band, specifically, and because it was right at the time in my life when I was trying to figure out who I was as a performer. It was just a few months before my first show and I was spending hours every day rehearsing and imagining what it would look like. They’ve always put on a show I really enjoy, but going to that show felt like such a perfectly timed moment that really solidified a lot of things for me. It lit a fire in me. And also, it’s a great show; they’re incredible performers!
BP: What inspired you to begin making music in the first place?
Jhariah: Hmm, kind of a long story, but to summarize: I started playing piano a little bit as a kid ‘cause my sister had this really tiny toy piano, and she would never play it. And I thought it seemed pretty fun so I just kind of played around with it, and eventually I got pretty into playing the piano. I got my own keyboard. And that was just something I did as a hobby. I’d practice and I learned songs I liked so I can play them myself.
Eventually I started producing music in FL Studio. My music teacher in six or seventh grade, we’d talk about music and stuff since I was so into it, and he showed me he was getting into producing music. He was like, “Oh yeah, I found this cool program and I’ve been making these beats.” and I thought, “Oh, that sounds fun! I’d love to try and actually make something that’s tangible that I can have in my computer and maybe even release.” So I went home and I tried it and ever since then I’ve loved FL Studio. I did a lot of electronic music to start. And then when that coincided with me doing theater, and my music tastes growing throughout high school, I realized that maybe I should try to sing. Maybe I can try making music that’s more like the stuff I’m listening to.
BP: Your first on Spotify was a 12 track concept album. What inspired you to make such an ambitious first release?
Jhariah: Honestly, a big part of it was just lack of knowledge of how this stuff works. It hadn’t occurred to me that most people don’t come out of the gate with a big concept album. In hindsight, if I knew what I know now, I probably would have done things a bit different, but I definitely don’t regret it. It’s ‘cause I wrote this first song and I thought it was a big idea, it was too much to tell in one song. I was getting so many more things that would kind of stretch off of it, so it was like, “Okay, this definitely needs to be a record.”
I’ve always loved concept albums – My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parades is my favorite album of all time. That was my pinnacle concept album. And I thought “I want to try doing something like this. I know it’s a big task and this is the first song I’ve written, but I think this would be the best medium for me to tell this story, and then I’ll just do my best with it.”
BP: Well, it definitely worked. Maybe I’m biased ‘cause I also love concept albums, but if Panic! at the Disco can do it, why not?
Jhariah: That was actually another thing that I remember thinking about, like what it must have been like to have never heard of Panic! and then have them drop A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. It felt like such a power move. I felt like I had to at least try to do something of that scope, and I don’t really think I reached that level, but I definitely think the ambition was there.
BP: What’s your creative process, since you do almost everything yourself?
Jhariah: The process really changes every time. Most commonly I’m a music first kind of person. Well, really it’s the idea first. I have a lot of stories and concepts that I want to tell, which is usually before I even have an idea for a song. I’ll typically have something on the back burner that I really want to write about, or tell the story of. Then, when I get a musical idea, it’ll usually fit perfectly with a concept I had written down.
I almost produce a song moment by moment. I’m not usually somebody that will write out all the lyrics or produce a song in full and then try to write words for it. I’ll literally be like, “What does the first 10 seconds sound like? – full production, full vocals.” And I’ll just keep going, measure by measure. And then, naturally, stuff will grow; you’ll figure out what you want to do. It’s not always gonna be that linear, but I love the music aspect and that’s the core of all of it.
BP: Being a solo project, how does your music translate to a live show?
Jhariah: For the live shows, it’s an interesting situation. It took a bit of time to develop it to where it’s at now, or at least where it was a few months ago. Right now, and I think for the foreseeable future, we perform as a duo. Cole will be on the drums, and I’ll do vocals, occasionally I’ll do keys or guitar, but usually the majority of the show relies on backing tracks. In that way, it’s a lot more like a pop show than a rock or pop punk kind of thing. It’s always interesting on gig lineups, since our gear set up is much different than the other artists.
BP: I recently saw people discussing that more small venues need to get a good PA so that artists who use tracks can play and still sound good.
Jhariah: Yeah! It’s so hard getting a good sounding mix without having a bunch of instruments and amps. That was really discouraging for a long time. I remember our very first show, I asked a bunch of friends and mutual friends if they would play with us for the show. I’m in another band with them currently, but when I first asked them, they were like, “Yeah, that sounds cool. We don’t usually play shows, but we love to play and we like your music, so we’ll give it a try.” And it was really a disaster, honestly. The show went great, I think, but it was such a stressful experience trying to break down all of these parts I wrote – I’m a pianist and pianists are notorious for making arrangements that are just not comfortable to play on any other instrument, and that was very much the case for this.
We had two guitarists and a bassist with minimal music theory knowledge, but very good at their instruments. And straight up, they’re like “This isn’t something you play on the guitar, you’d have to do this differently.” And we just didn’t have the time to rearrange the album. It really ended up just being like, “That was fun, but I don’t think we can go on doing that.” After that, we had to figure out, if it’s going to be the two of us, how we can put on a good show. So definitely the PA thing is always an obstacle, trying to get a good sound, getting the tracks to sound decent, and not like a karaoke night.
BP: Do you have any plans to tour once it’s safe to do so again?
Jhariah: Yeah, I’d love to! I’ve never toured before and I really want to. I was hoping, before this whole mess happened, to start figuring out plans to tour next year. I wanted to do something over the summer and play a few shows on the East Coast, but now things have changed quite a lot. It’s not really looking like that’ll be a possibility.
I was thinking as for the scope of the tour, it would be very, very small, just to start. I had a very small audience and I still do, but it’s actually been growing quite a lot! I’m really excited to see what shows look like after quarantine, since before this started, I was playing shows to like 15 people in the back of bars. So hopefully we can do something a little bit more than that next time!
BP: You’ve released a couple of songs since there’s been shows. Which songs are you most excited to play live?
Jhariah: Oh man. Let’s see… The stuff that I’m really excited to play is the stuff I haven’t released yet! But as far as things that are out.. “Pressure Bomb,” I’m so amped to finally do live. I really wanted to do it before quarantine, but the release show was literally days after everything shut down. That’s one song that, even since writing it, I feel like I’ve gotten so much better at performing it that it’s going to sound so much better live than it does on the track version.
BP: Any idea of when we’re going to get to hear those as-of-now unreleased songs you mentioned?
Jhariah: Yeah! I really am planning on releasing a bunch of stuff this year, just ‘cause I really want to keep getting things out there to people. I’m hoping to release another song on Halloween. That’ll be really fun if I can get everything in order in time for that. And then there are a couple of music videos that I have in the works. I’m hoping to get at least one out this year, if not two of them.
BP: If you could tour with anybody, who would you want to tour with?
Jhariah: It’s probably cliche, but it has to be My Chemical Romance.
On a more practical level, there are a whole lot of bands right now in the scene I really want to tour with! Glass Beach is one of my favorite bands in the world right now. Obviously there’s Pinkshift, they’re incredible and I really hope we get to play a show one day. Sarah and the Safe Word are also incredible, and I feel like that’d just be such a show. Us and them on the same lineup would be such a theatrical time.
BP: Do you have any festivals or venues that are on your bucket list to play someday?
Jhariah: I have a whole bunch of bucket list stuff like that, but definitely the one I think about a lot right now is Webster Hall here in New York. That’s just a venue that’s really special to me just because some of my favorite shows have been there. It’s just such an iconic venue. I want to play there really badly. There are definitely certain spots around that would be really special for me to play, and that’s definitely one of them.