Interview: Jaguar Jonze on the intersection of songwriting and visual art

Friday, August 31, 2018

Deena Lynch aka Jaguar Jonze wowed us a few weeks ago with the release of her poignant single 'You Got Left Behind'. Before she plays two shows in Brisbane, plus showcases in Indonesia and Singapore, I had the opportunity to ask her about the single as well as the influence self-expression has on her songwriting.

You have so many exciting things going on at the moment, from the release of ‘You Got Left Behind’, lots of triple j and Unearthed love, as well as upcoming live dates. Has it all felt like a whirlwind?

Yeah, It most definitely has felt like a whirlwind. It’s such a weird and bizarre thing for me. It’s been so long since I’ve released music and then to finally have it out there and to be hit by a freight train of awesomeness, it really did feel like a whirlwind.

And the single (‘You Got Left Behind’) is absolutely incredible, what’s the story behind it?

I guess it’s about watching those close to you fall into this place of self-victimisation, self-wallowing and self-pity, and you try to bring them up and bring them out of it constantly for so long and eventually you get kinda stuck in this toxicity. So all you can do is step back and wait for when they’re ready to fight it. It’s about the difficulty of watching that.

With that, do you find it easier writing about your own experiences or things that you’ve witnessed as opposed to writing a narrative? Which one is easier for you?

Music for me has always been a tool for self-expression, so I always prefer to write about my feelings, thoughts and experiences because it’s my method of catharsis. But with that said, sometimes I may take on a songwriting style that is like a narrative, but I never really write just a story so much.

Songwriting, as well as creativity within any art form, can be therapeutic like you've said. How has songwriting become that outlet for self-expression? 

Myself growing up, I’ve never been one to talk to people about what I’m thinking or what I’ve been through. It’s just been a culture around me where we’re not allowed to talk about emotions and everything was kept to a private life. With a turbulent childhood and adulthood, I needed some way to say these things and to deal with them. I ended up finding music and art to do that. So it is a huge therapeutic process for me, not only to overcome obstacles but to also discover more about myself too. So I think as I keep songwriting, I find myself being more and more open with how I write and what I’m expressing. So yeah, it is a really important part of my life.

You mentioned your art -- do you approach visual art the same as songwriting or is it a completely different creative process?

It is a completely different creative process, but they all go hand-in-hand with each other. With Spectator Jonze, it’s a people project that I’m really passionate about and the premise to it is that I interview every single subject before I draw them and it’s all to do with mental health. It’s a gift what these subjects are giving me, just as it is as beneficial for them. When they open up to me, and when they share their stories with me, and they’re giving to me I can’t just take. So from these beautiful subjects, I’ve been able to open myself up and give back to them and have a conversation and become connected as we go through different adversities. Then that translates over to the music as they’ve taught me to be more open and not fear being vulnerable and exposed. It makes my songwriting stronger.

You have your live dates coming up, including two at the Foundry (one of those is during BIGSOUND), how are you feeling about the shows and what have you been doing to prep up for them?

I am really excited to play. It’s exciting to burst outside of my bedroom and take it to the stage. On that note, I also have your normal amount of nerves and I am hoping we do well. But we will do well as we’ve been rehearsing every single week for the last two months and working on our live-craft. I really hope it’s going to be a fun time and I’m just so excited to take the band and myself to the two Foundry shows and then to a few shows overseas as well. It will be a good time.

Written by Amy Smolcic (@amysmolcic)

You can catch her at The Foundry on 5th (during BIGSOUND) and 14th September more information is available here — as well as at the Australian Music Week Conference in Sydney from 7th to 11th November.