Jessica Pratt Talks Unexpected Success and 'On Your Own Love Again'
Published Jan 28, 2015Presenting recordings that exude an other-timeliness that almost places her in the '60s and '70s as much as the present, Jessica Pratt ushered her On Your Own Love Again into the world this week. And while the album came at the hands of label Drag City, we really have to thank White Fence's Tim Presley.
After Presley heard Pratt's self-recorded four-track demos, he fell so much in love with her songwriting and classic-sounding voice that he felt compelled to start a record label (Birth Records), just to put out her self-titled 2012 debut.
"He really did it out of the goodness of his heart," Pratt tells Exclaim! "I don't think he had any intentions to do anything else with that label — it was just a means to an end."
Recorded without necessarily the intent to release them, Pratt refers to the songs and production on her debut as "real simple." "The first record was kind of off-the-cuff," she explains. "It was my friend's friend's studio, and he just had some free time. There wasn't a lot of intent. It was like, 'let's go down there and work quickly and just record all the stuff you have lying around.'"
Now based in Los Angeles (she grew up in Redding, CA, four hours north of San Francisco), Pratt says her sophomore album, On Your Own Love Again, feels like her first real debut.
"It's a cohesive collection of songs that I went into writing and recording with the idea of putting it out as a record," she says, adding, "The songs on [the 2012 debut] do have a very sort of traditional edge to them; they feel very concrete and set in what they are. I'd prefer a little more diversity, so I'm happy that I could do this one the way I wanted to."
On Your Own Love Again is more diverse and exploratory, but it's a subtle, still mostly solo exploration; more psychedelic (at points it sounds like the tape slows down and speeds up again); and poppier, with touches of Pratt's strummed electric guitar, hints of percussion and Will Canzoneri's organ and clavinet augmenting Pratt's warm, bassy, finger picked classical guitar — still very much the backbone of the songs.
"The fact that I got a nylon string [guitar] was kind of circumstantial," says Pratt, who bought her first one at a little thrift store that her and her "worldly" mother used to frequent. "I had a slightly older girlfriend that taught me my basic finger-picking. And from there I experimented and got better. I listened to the first Leonard Cohen album a lot and the Incredible String Band — that kind of stuff: mystical folkie things."
After her first record came out, Pratt was frequently compared to artists like Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton (and this time around, it may well be Judee Sill, which she finds quite flattering, seeing as Sill's songs are so "complex and dark and mathematical").
"I think there's a certain pop sensibility from acoustic or piano-based songwriters from the '70s, like James Taylor, Carly Simon or Elton John. There's a certain lilt; it's just a generational thing," Pratt says.
"When the first record came out, there was the storm of comparisons that has to happen, that's just inevitable. I never took any of it in a negative way, but because of that I think I maybe unconsciously tried to avoid listening to a lot of the things that I was compared to. And then I had these latent rediscovery periods. I'm over it now and listening to those things."
Pratt is also listening to more new music now than she ever has before: she mentions Panda Bear, Riley Walker and Ariel Pink, to name a few. "I've always been a big Ariel Pink fan," she says, laughing. "I feel like I talk about him a lot in interviews." (He also gets a thank you in her liner notes).
On Your Own Love Again borrows its evocative wording from a "psychic dream phrase" that came to Pratt while she was playing around with the title track that closes the record. "I really like how difficult it is to settle on one inflection," she says. "It makes it sort of psychedelic: it kind of sounds like a very standardized easy listening title but because the words don't quite make literal sense you can sort of give any intonation you want."