Jill Sobule


Jill came in to Portland Brew in the Sylvan Park section of Nashville looking very nice, we started talking about the Enron situation, getting our coffee and comestibles together.

Jill Sobule: They're the evildoers.

Puremusic: It's pretty loud in here, wow. Not to mention they're playing really bad 80s stuff on the radio.

You know, it's not as easy as it should be to find out a lot about Jill Sobule on the Net. For our readers who may not be acquainted with you, we should get some kind of a quick grip on the long story. I think it starts in Denver, right?

JS: Actually, my first professional gig was in Seville, Spain. I was on a third year abroad program from Colorado University, studying international affairs. I'd had rock bands, but only ever been the guitar player, I didn't write. Well, I wrote, but they were only songs for me.

PM: To the many people who consider you a great songwriter today, that's probably interesting to imagine, it is to me.

JS: The first time I ever played one of my songs in public was on a street in Seville. A friend of mine who was also on the program abroad, she was a flute player, said, "Come on, let's go and play some music on the street." I figured, "I'll never see these people again, and they won't know what I'm talking about anyway…"

PM: And it's hard to sing on the street, you have to sing really loud.

JS: So, what happened was, when we played, this guy walked by with a big Great Dane. And he said, "Would you like to play in my nightclub?" So at first we thought, "Sure buddy, what nightclub…" But his offer turned out be legitimate, and I ended up dropping out of school and playing his nightclub for three months. So I have often wondered how my life might have gone if that guy didn't walk by.

PM: Did you ever reach back for that guy in the years to come? [Jill shakes her head slowly] What's the name of the club, in case I get to Seville?

JS: Canela y Menta [Cinnamon and Mint], but it's probably not there anymore. Anyhow, so when I went back to Denver, I had the bug. I started playing open mics, putting together a band, you know.

PM: This is when?

JS: Putting together a band, that's mid to late 80s.

PM: So, at Canela y Menta, you were playing covers, having only written a short list of songs?

JS: I played the same songs over and over. I didn't have many songs, and I did some covers.

PM: And what about the friend that played the flute, who got the ball rolling?

JS: You know what, she emailed me. She's got three kids, and is a professor of something. She found my website, and got a hold of me.

PM: It's wild, the people that find you on the web.

JS: Oh yeah, that happens a lot with me, because I chat a lot with people on my site, it's a news group. So I get people from kindergarten that ask "Do you remember me?" It's great.

PM: So, you went back to Colorado and started a band. How many years before you came to Nashville?

JS: First I went to New York. In '88? It's a little fuzzy. When I came back from Spain, that was '82. Before I did my goodbye to Denver show and went to NYC, I was a big fish in a little pond.

PM: Is Denver so small a pond?

JS: The music thing, yeah, not too many people coming out of that scene.

PM: Kenny Vaughn came out of Denver, right? [a very popular guitarist in Nashville, who's toured with Lucinda and played and recorded with too many to mention]

JS: Right, Kenny was a hero there, and had the coolest punk band in town. So, there was a publisher from Nashville at my Farewell Denver show, Randy Talmadge, of Warner/Refuge. He said he'd love to work with an interesting non-Country artist, and eventually brought me to Nashville. I brought guys from Denver to Nashville, we played The Cockeyed Camel [long defunct] for the Nashville Extravaganza. That must have been 1990.

PM: Who was that amazing keyboard player that first gigged with you here from Denver?

JS: Eric Moon. Originally he called himself Eric Jacobson. Yeah, he was great. Then he and I did some very cool gigs with Michael Rhodes. [a legendary bassist from town…]

PM: Tell me about it. Those gigs are burned in my memory as some of the very best shows I've ever seen. I recall very well sitting with Bill DeMain [of Swan Dive, who now often co-writes with Jill] at The Bluebird, pretty amazed at what was going down in that period.

JS: I want to do those again. Those were probably the best times for me so far, performing. It was so musical.

PM: That's good to hear, I remember being pretty dumbstruck at the time.

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