If Carole King had come of age listening to Peter Gabriel, 2Pac and Tracy Chapman then recorded her first album with the Dave Matthews band, her name would be Jillian Speer.
She invites me to take my shoes off and enter her home, and immediately the decor tells her story: The hanging five pairs of point shoes and tap shoes worn from age three through the competition years of her early teens. Among six custom made guitars arranged high to low on the opposite wall, the acoustic she picked up at age ten to channel the melodies her voice training had already begun to unlock. A copy of her first three song demo recorded in Seattle at age fourteen, next to the large Ganesh and Shiva altar inspired by her year in India learning yoga and the sitar at age sixteen. An entire childhood spent nurturing her artistic vision to become a true 21st Century Renaissance Woman.
We listen to final mixes of the songs she's spent the past several years patiently writing and recording now playing through a ‘Beats By Dre’ booming speaker, appropriate given the beats laid down by her live hip hop drummer, the world renowned and legendary Chris Dave.
Speer embraced her path in the major label machine of the early 00’s only to be left very disenchanted by a music business no longer concerned about nurturing the real singer/songwriter but only focused on saving themselves through the pop music consolidation which bullied many a lesser artist into quitting altogether. She chose to step back and step aside, continued doing live shows in LA (where a devoted following would consistently pack the house and bring the fire marshal) along with the occasional tour as opening act for the artist Jewel. Jillian Speer is a survivor, and that decade's fight to keep her unique voice shines through in every moment on this record.
Hip Hop style live drums with Eastern tinged folk music: the basic vision for Jillian's new recordings. To find that New Sound we've never heard done before. And after a period of trial and error with her two-time Grammy winning producer Qmillion to get the sounds right, Mission Accomplished!
DUM DUM DAI plays like a new millennium scat, the Sarah McLaughlan-does-Gospel with haunting bluesy backing vocals on PENDING LOVE, a hypnotic mantra over the hiccupping rhythms of ZION, the chamber orchestra that frames naked emotion for OPEN. A Peter Gabriel-esque haunting cover of Tracy Chapman's signature FAST CAR, the delicately picked guitar and jazzy horns inspiring us to BREATHE DEEP, Tori Amos channeled to perfection with PALE STRICKEN SUN. And if DAGGERS & SUEDE turns out to be the title track of this sonically rich album, that label is also an apt description for Jillian Speer's singing voice.
A good album can withstand a lifetime of repeated listening. This is one damn good album. Already this writer's musical brain can't stop reflexively replaying these songs in my head on a daily basis. Soulful longing to painful betrayal to compassionate forgiveness, Jillian Speer takes us on a complete journey through a series of rich emotional snapshots in musical form.
An EP scheduled for release early this summer, a full length Album scheduled for release in the late fall, finishing touches on music videos and a tour to book are all in our near future as an audience. And Jillian already has been slowly completing a new collection of songs ready to go for recording the next album. So while the Speer train has only begun to leave the station, the conductor herself is already preparing for our next quality musical excursion. We can consider ourselves fortunate that Jillian Speer doesn't rest until she gets the job done right.
- Andrew Harlander