The rising singer-songwriter reflects on her growing stardom, her craft and how she set about pinning down her aesthetic.
"It's a lonely, cold October Friday night. No rain from the sky, just from my eyes," sings DIY musician and songwriter Abigail Jerri, a heralded 20-something making waves in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Off the local buzz of her EP, 2016's Take a Chance, the singer (one of Sing & Relax Studios' most valuable players) thrills with an enticing blend of Evanescence, Natalie Imbruglia and Sara Bareilles. Unfiltered and earthy, Jerri's album is the kind of concrete foundation on which she can now construct her career; standouts such as "Magic Box" and current single "Tell Me Why" blend her feathery vocal with a cinematic, deeply-moving viewpoint. "I guess I was blind, but I saw the good. So maybe not. I never understood how you forgot," Jerri weeps over a chilly layer of soft guitar and muted piano within the sonic walls of "Tell My Why."
Despite its very raw and intimate roots, the song incidentally feels larger than life. "I wrote this song about a breakup with my ex before it happened. We both saw it coming. We dated for four years, and it was my first 'real' relationship," Jerri shares exclusively with Popdust. "We fought a lot, and looking back at it now, I'm sure we both had it in the back of our minds that we wouldn't stay together forever. So, this song was me predicting and feeling the breakup before it actually happened. There is a line in the song that says 'you're left with someone new in your room.' Well, he engaged the 'someone new' six months after we broke up."
The accompanying visual plays in vital greens, browns and oranges before flickering between darker tones, a device to heighten the sense of sorrow and the unexpected escape in the heartache. On camera, Jerri commands the screen with a subtle strength, which is owed in large part to her extensive onstage background. "I have been performing on stage since I was very young. Although i have not been in front of the camera a great amount, relatively speaking, acting and performing in the moment comes second nature to me, whatever the medium," she says.
Drawing upon such influences as Christina Aguilera and Nelly Furtado, Jerri peppers on varied pop and rock textures, as you'll find on deep cuts like "Forget It" and the EP's title track. Both are alarmingly throwback with a contemporary finish, something which makes the upstart one of the area's most promising. Her songwriting, too, is smart and frank, unimpeded by lavish embellishments which do very little to serve the narrative. "I started writing lyrics since before I was in school. The first song I wrote was about my favorite color 'Pink,'" she recollects. "I had a Barbie cassette recorder that I used to record it in my brother's room while he played the drums on it."
While Take a Chance sees the singer thrive in her natural, coffee-house-bent style, the journey to this point hasn't always been easy. Developing a suitable aesthetic takes time, effort and, above all else, patience. "I am influenced by so many different genres. I feel like I can create my own. Not many people understand this but that is why I released this EP. It is all about following your heart even with life's struggles and peoples uninformed opinions about you," she says, noting the process as "frustrating but interesting."
Recently, Jerri has taken a breather to refocus her creative energy to further define her musical direction, with the astute knowledge of Sing & Relax Studios creative director Jennifer Vanella--the 31-year-old entrepreneur uses ROYGBIVJMV, a patented theory to teach complex musical concepts, to demonstrate music's universal appeal and as a way to change the world. For Jerri, that means expanding her point of reference and challenging her instincts. "My vocal coach suggested that I cover Patsy Cline. I plan to enter more into soul and r&b with some country influences. Patsy Cline is definitely country. I feel that she, in another time and place, would have crossed into soul, as well," Jerri says.
"I consider myself a confident person. I need to remember and feel this confidence in the business facet of the music world. I slipped a bit this past summer, when I associated with some people who--while skilled and confident in their own right and sincere in trying to help me and point me in a good direction--did not have philosophies that meshed with my own," the singer says about the lessons she learned in 2016. "It really affected my general mood and made me feel trapped in the music business. Eventually, I realized that, like Dorothy, I had the power the whole time to go back 'home' to my own philosophy, which meant being myself, to a larger extent, than what was put before me in that situation."
As 2017 kicks off, Jerri eyes her next full-length project. Her new single "Ancient" is set to drop in February.
"My goals are to keep growing and stand beside myself," she says. "Keep learning about myself through my music. Letting people learn about 'Abigail Jerri' through her music as well. Continue to keep taking chances...."
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Is Black Out Tuesday really "an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change"?
On Friday, May 29th, as protests ripped across the nation, a message began to circulate through social media, asking that the music industry disconnect from the Internet for a day.
The post called this "an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change."
This is part of an initiative created by Atlantic Records' Jamila Thomas and Platoon's Brianna Agyemang, who launched it alongside several calls to action. "Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week," they wrote. "The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable. … This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced."