Jill Sobule belongs to a rare breed of artists. Her work is at once deeply personal and socially conscious, seriously funny and derisively tragic. Over ten albums and a decade of recording, the Denver-born songwriter/guitarist/singer has tackled such topics as the death penalty, anorexia, shoplifting, reproduction, the French resistance movement, adolescence, and the Christian right. Did we mention love? Love found, love lost, love wished for and love taken away.
Sobule began playing guitar when she joined the junior high school band. She never learned to read music, though, and faked her way through rehearsals and performances by playing by ear. As she began writing songs, it was very clear to Sobule that this was becoming more than a teenage hobby — music was serious stuff. She played in a variety of funk and rock bands in Colorado, and eventually made her first solo album — Things Are Different, produced by Todd Rundgren. But success did not knock on her door until three years later, when Atlantic Records released her national hit “I Kissed A Girl.”
“That song was a double-edged sword for me,” she says. “It was perceived as a novelty hit, but on the other hand it was the first song with an overtly gay topic to be aired on Top 40 radio. I am quite proud of that.” The song also jumpstarted her music career in a big way, and since then she’s had the honor to induct Neil Diamond in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, to share the stage with the likes of Neil Young, Warren Zevon, and fellow songwriters/activists Billy Bragg and Steve Earle. Quite the serious guitar player, she even toured the world as lead guitarist in Lloyd Cole’s band a few years back. Along the way, she has made three more critically acclaimed albums — Happy Town, Pink Pearl, and 2004’s Underdog Victorious.
1. Which was the first record you bought with your own money?
Diamond Dogs — David Bowie.
2. Which was the last record you bought with your own money?
LP? I bought a Glen Cambell/Bobbie Gentry album a couple of months ago.
3. What was the first solo you learned from a record?
Neil Young’s “Down By the River.”
Jill Sobule- Mary Kay (LIVE)
4. Which recording of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?
Hmmm — my new up-and-coming one. I like my vocals. And I should push it.
5. What's the difference between playing live and playing in a studio?
Playing live is a little freer. I don’t mind clams.
6. What's the difference between a good gig and a bad gig?
Bad gig — shitty money and loud drunk frat or ex-frat boys. Good gig — shitty money, but the audience seems happy to see you.
7. What's the difference between a good guitar and a bad guitar?
A bad guitar just doesn’t make me want to learn something new.
8. You play electric and acoustic. Do you approach the two differently?
I never play with a pick on acoustic. I do on electric.
|Watch Me Sleep : lyrics
|Empty Glass : lyrics
|Talkin’ Platy : lyrics
|Gotta Get Me Some : lyrics
|Jitters & Creeps : lyrics
|Tell Me I’ve Won : lyrics
|Evolution : lyrics
|Skyhook : lyrics
|Deep Blue : lyrics
|Nothing I Can Do : lyrics
|Dreamtime : lyrics
9. Do you sound more like yourself on acoustic or electric?
I think my more unique style is on acoustic. But, since I don’t have the fastest left hand, I have relied on a combo of pedals. I make noise.
|from Underdog Victorious. I always wanted to write a sympathetic song from the perspective of the “dumper”. It’s a tough one, but it had to be done.
From Pink Pearl. Lucy was the anorexic at my gym. I wrote this worried when she didn’t show up at her scheduled time on the elliptical
From Pink Pearl. Another song about drugs. With a Lulu kind of vibe.
|I wrote this for a fancy medical conference filled with the heads of pharmaceutical companies. The song wonders how folks like Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe and God had been on meds.
|Live from Joe’s Pub 2012 with my band, Dinah Shore Jr. I had not played this song in years.
Live from Joe’s Pub 2012 with my band, Dinah Shore Jr. It’s from the upcoming musical, “Times Square”. I went overboard with the creepty guitar playing
10. Do you sound like yourself on other people's guitars?
I do. I can’t mimic very well.
11. Which living artist would you like to collaborate with, and why?
Oh, I think it would have to be with any of my childhood icons — Neil Young (heck, even Neil Diamond), Joni, Bob, and Beatle Paul. Oh, and Burt and Hal.
12. Which dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?
13. What's your latest project about?
My new record will be out mid-March. A year ago I put up Jillsnextrecord.com — a website for fans to donate to my next record. I reached my goal within six weeks. I employed my pal Don Was to produce and hired some of my favorite players — including Jim Keltner. I am currently trying to come up with the title. It’s hard.
|A Day at the Pass (2011) · A Day at the Pass finally captures an ongoing collaboration between Jill Sobule & John Doe. It was funded entirely by their fans & w/ an all-star band, recorded live at The Pass studio on one fine day in Los Angeles.The download features 9 tracks including: Under The Bridge, a rousing sing-along for the new forgotten man, a suprising cover of the classic “Never My Love” , and…for the hell of it, a reclaimed badass version of Jill’s original Kissed a Girl song. Plus, amazing John Doe songs!
|California Years (2009) · California Years was written over the last three years, following my move to the West Coast. It was influenced by the sights and sounds of the Golden State, especially the seductive, but not always sunny Los Angeles. Maybe the next record will be “The Utah Month” or “Back to Brooklyn.”The whole thing was made possible by a small but mighty fan base. They gave me the love, encouragement and the dough to do this. I was truly surprised and so very grateful. This record is for them.
|Prozak and the Platypus (2008) · A collaboration among Jill (Music), playwright Elise Thoron (Words), and artist KellyAnne Hanrahan (Comic Book). This CD features the music from the play, and a 30-page graphic novella that tells a condensed version of the story.
|Pink Pearl (2004) · Another witty, inventive set from post-modern folk songwriter Jill Sobule, Pink Pearl benefits immensely from creative arrangements and production by Brad Jones. It covers a wide stylistic range (albeit within an overall ironic retro-’60s framework), and proves that Sobule is almost as sharp with a melody line as she is with a lyric. “One of These Days” is the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds crossed with a hip-hop rhythm sample, while “Claire,” with its horn section and soaring, McCartney-esque melody, is pure Beatles’ White Album.
|Underdog Victorious (2004) · Underdog Victorious is the kind of album that makes listeners feel smart. Catchy and upbeat, it connects instantly to spark a Friday-at-five vibe, but it also sinks in deep on several tracks.Where other “quirky” musicians stagnate or flame out, Sobule only gets stronger. Underdog Victoriousis her triumph-tinged proof that in the gets-better-with-every-album race, she’s the rare real deal.
|The Folk Years (2003) · A self-released CD, available only at live shows and here at the Jill Store. Jill says: “This is an intimate, self-released compilation of home recordings and demos. The songs are pretty much acoustic, with few tracks, and minus the blips and bangs of my usual produced CDs. Actually, I think it represents the spirit and sound of my live show. I hope you enjoy it.”
|I Never Learned to Swim (2001) · I Never Learned To Swim: Jill Sobule 1990-2000 is a “best of” collection and a good way to enjoy the wide variety of Jill Sobule’s music. It contains a good cross-section of her wit and musical styles, which range from stories like “Margaret” to the haunting “Houdini’s Box”. The liner notes include a brief comment by Sobule about each song. For example, about “Resistance Song”: “Every record of mine must have at least one WWII reference.”This is a great introduction to Sobule’s work or a good way to have some of her best in one convenient package.
|Happy Town (1997) · Happy Town is Jill’s third album, released in 1997. The album contains the singles “Bitter” and “When My Ship Comes In” as well as the fan favorite “Half a Heart,” and the satirical social commentary “Soldiers of Christ” where Sobule sings from the point of view of a Christian Conservative to illustrate the existence of Homophobia in religion. Meanwhile, “Love Is Never Equal” appeared on the 2005 Jenny McCarthy film Dirty Love.
|Jill Sobule (1995) · Jill Sobule is Jill’s biggest selling CD, featuring her two MTV hits and many other favorites. “The best parts capture a goofy cocktail nation groove worthy of Combustible Edison or Love Jones… turn to the witty lyric sheet, which chronicles the secret lives of characters like Karen, the uptight boss at the shoe store, and Margaret, the bad girl at St. Mary’s Catholic high school.”
|Things Here Are Different (1990) · On the introspective pop/rock effort Things Here Are Different, Sobule’s approach is so subtle that it may take one a while to realize just how good she is. But the more one listens, the more one sees that her songs are as thoughtful as they are meaty. After several listenings, it becomes clear that for all their subtlety, songs like “Evian,” “The Gifted Child” and “Sad Beauty” get their points across quite well. One offering that really shows how disarming Sobule can be is “So Kind” — this poignant commentary on wife abuse doesn’t preach or shout, but it’s definitely disturbing. Though not a huge seller, this promising, Todd Rundgren-produced date indicated that Sobule was someone to pay attention to.