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| 13 September 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “…what limits? Exuding the brave confidence it takes to defy all impossibility, Christian-Rock Artist Jodi Essex’s upcoming six-track EP, Fearless, is a call to build the Kingdom with the strength of a warrior. Having survived cancer at 25, Essex’s courageous perspective on life is powered by an innate sense of mission and belief all people have immeasurable worth. In the face of turbulence and adversity, especially when it comes to sharing the Gospel, “Fearless” is about learning to fear less, conquering fear with unshakable faith; “Fearless” lyrics implore listeners to be “steadfast in [their] fight” in the title track and music video out June 24, 2022, and the Fearless EP out July 8, 2022.” We FINALLY get Jodi on the phone to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Jodi, thank you so much for taking time out. We’ve connected a couple times in the past with our Dirty Dozen and we’ve done some reviews, but first time able to actually chat. So I’m really happy about this.

Jodi: Yeah, it’s a nice change up and I do appreciate your time and attention to any of my past previous music releases over the past. I guess it’s been three years now.

Toddstar: Well, you mention past previous releases, but let’s talk about Fearless. The recent six track EP that just dropped out about five, six weeks ago now. What can you tell us about this EP that fans and listeners of your earlier stuff might or might not grab when they listen through this collection?

Jodi: Well, I think actually, they’re going to grab a lot of newness right out of the gate, mainly because this is a much different sounding record from, Irreverent. With Irreverent, I was kind of going more the classic rock feel. There was also a lot of more space in the music. With Fearless, right out the gate, it hits you in the face with the single “Offend.” And so I just think from the get-go, I think as a whole, no one’s going to miss anything. They’re just going to notice that it’s a hugely different sounding record than Irreverent. So I hope that people can kind of dig into that and it’s definitely more modern rock sounding. It’s heavy, heavier for sure. More guitar driven, still melodic, but very heavily guitar driven. Percussive. The percussiveness of it is very assertive, aggressive, and yeah, I think it’s just an overall kind of 180 from what I did before.

Toddstar: I like the fact that it showed some growth and changes you’ve talked about kind of shifting away from the sonic focus of the last album, but it didn’t deviate so far that you didn’t recognize it as Jodi Essex.

Jodi: That’s good to know that. I think when you have more people involved in the making of an album, which that was the case with Irreverent, while most of the decisions were mine, I found out that I was curbing a lot of my kind of creativity and kind of what I thought I should be writing and what I thought I should be putting out there and producing. I was working with Sean Hill, producer at the time. And so this time around, I feel like I had more, by far, had more creative control. And I was like, I’m going to do what I want to do. And so I employed the services of Josiah Prince, who is the guitarist of the band Disciple, that’s been around for a while. While he is a musician himself, he’s an insanely creative, really an up-and-coming producer. He’s produced some really great tunes and I feel like that’s just kind of more of in his wheelhouse now and given his rock route background of heavy rock, I knew that collaborating with him, it was definitely going to be a bigger boulder album EP. And so that was my kind of goal going into that. And yeah, there are definitely still some common threads. I love a melodic lead vocal behind really crunchy guitars and energetic music. So that wasn’t lost. I still love to sing. I’m not a growler. I’m not a yeller. Not that I don’t have those moments in my songs, but for the most part, I still love to sing, growing up in the background that I did. So I still love the juxtaposition of heavy, crunchy freight train in your face kind of music, but then set against some really cool creative vocal arrangements and background vocals included.

Toddstar: Absolutely. I like the melody that is always woven into the material itself. One thing about your music, and I mentioned it last time in my review and this time in my review – fans of rock can, wherever they fall on the spectrum, can set aside the messages in the music, and just enjoy the ride. How important is it to you to make sure that you create that sonic wall of sound that will help bring in people to listen to your music that would normally say, wait a minute, Christian rock, I’m out.

Jodi: Honestly, my focus is always the music because you’re right. That’s what either tunes somebody in or tune somebody out. And that’s also, this music is also just, it’s a product of my personality and kind of how I am in terms of delivery of messages, how I live my life, how I am an adrenaline junkie. I’ve lived pretty much a fearless life. And so my focus really is on how music can make somebody feel. I think that’s when music is the most impactful, it’s got to make you feel something. I mean, for me, that’s how it is for sure. I think a few weeks ago, I don’t know if you saw this, but Joni Mitchell got back out on stage in Virginia and she brought out her guitar and sang for the first time, since she’s had her stroke and I mean, I’m watching her video on YouTube and it just made me feel the gravity of it. My eyes started to well up. And so music is the most impactful when it makes you feel something, whether it’s an emotional response, whether it’s a heck yeah, I’m going to pump my fist. I’m going to scream. I’m going to yell. I’m going to go brash. I’m going to go jump into pit, whatever it is. And so primarily, that’s kind of how I build my music is the feel behind it. And then I’m like, this kind of begs and warrants a message that goes in this direction. So usually, that’s secondary. And I feel like I always, as lyricists, I think we always have a lot to say, but you can’t just have a message and just plug it into any music. You first have to start with the music in my case. And then if it feels like an aggressive, in your face type message, that’s what I’m going to write about. My concern is that people are open and receptive to my music and that they can put aside those notions of Christian rock, because it did have a really bad reputation after a while. I feel like it’s come back a little bit and some people still kind of turn their nose up at it, understandably so, but it’s important that even if it is Christian rock, that it’s the best it can be. It’s still rock and roll. It’s still in your face. It still just sends that vibe that you just want to go rock out. You just want to go lose your mind on a mountain bike trail. You want to go for a run. You want to just go hang with friends. And so that is my focus in terms of getting people tuned into it, first.

Toddstar: You mentioned what we’ll call it the gray cloud that kind of hung over Christian rock. I grew up, and formed my musical opinions in the early to mid-80’s and Stryper kind of… it was a little too cheesy for me. I know it was a whole glam metal and I think I was just cheesy, in and of itself, but then I warmed up to pieces of it. But you mentioned Disciple and there is another Christian rock band I really like, Decipher Down. Those bands, they’re like you, they kind of led with the rock foot and then drug along the message.

Jodi: I mean, that can be said too. I’m laughing at when you said Stryper because I have an older brother and sister quite a bit older than me. They actually are the ones who got me into Petra and Stryper and that kind of thing. I’m thinking though, if you look in the secular realm, I mean, look at Poison, look at Whitesnake. Look at some of that ridiculous hair and their vibe and the whole kind of thing. So it was happening. It’s just that for some reason, Christian rock really got it bad. They got those types of comments like, oh, it’s so ridiculous. It’s so out of hand. And so I feel like within the secular industry, glam rock rolled out, nineties rolled in, you kind of got the nineties rock, Nirvana, Grunge, Stone Temple Pilot, Chris Cornell, Audioslave, and then Foo Fighters. I feel like we all came from those roots. We’re just an evolution of rock, how it evolved and where it came from and where it’s headed. So yeah, Disciple definitely has deep, heavy roots, but they also were influenced by all the bands they grew up listening to in the 80’s and early part of the nineties. I think it’s just come full circle.

Toddstar: It’s funny that you mentioned that because I recently spoke with Steve Blaze from the band Lillian Axe, who had had some heyday in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He said the exact same thing. It was all the same thing. It was just a matter of what color lipstick we put on it.

Jodi: Right. How high can we tease our hair?

Toddstar: Exactly. I think most people couldn’t grasp that Stryper… rock with horns in the air mixed with Christianity. That’s where I was really kind of enamored with your music on Irreverent. And then this one really jumped up at me, this EP here; I loved the song “Offend” when I first heard it and watched the video. I’ve seen a quote where you said that you were kind of challenging faith leaders.

Jodi: Totally.

Toddstar: At any point in time, do you ever look at these songs in these lyrics and think you’re really calling yourself out at times?

Jodi: Yeah. I think first of all, I think we’ve all lived moments of hypocrisy and we’ll continue to. I think that’s just the human nature of our free will. But I think when we come into those moments that we have the option to choose, what are we going to choose? I think as humans, I just think we’re all sinners. We all do good things. We all do bad things. We all do awful things. We all have regrets. That’s just how we’re made up. That’s how we’re wired. That’s how we come into this world. The difference between what I was portraying in that music video is that we have some of the biggest, not just religious leaders, but real serious thought leaders, just leadership in our communities and our country and that kind of thing. And so it is about calling out people to do what they say they’re going to do. And if they’re going to do it, don’t do it halfheartedly, bring it. Go big or go home. Literally, not to sound cliche, but it is about that. It’s stand up for what you firmly believe, even if you’re going to get a whole bunch of crap thrown at you. And it’s about staying the course, it’s really more about if this is who you say you are. Todd, if this is who you say you are, if you are 100% Rock Magazine, you’re a rocker, then your life is going to represent that. You can’t just kind of say you are and then go listen to Celine Dion all day long. Do you know what I’m saying? It’s kind of, well, I love her. She’s great. But I’m just saying as an example, it is about living a life that is reflective of what your message is. Not that we don’t all stumble. Not that we don’t fall, and we sin, and we do things wrong and we wrong people. We hurt feelings, that kind of thing. But it is about the people who proclaim their role in leadership and doing what they say they’re going to do as leaders, because they are proclaimed leaders. They want to lead a church. They want to lead a nation. They want to lead a group of people. Well then, if that is your position, it’s a very privileged position, then you really have to take control and authority over that and really own it. Everything you do.

Toddstar: I’d agree with that sentiment to the tee because I actually get shade a little bit sometimes because of the whole 100% Rock thing. I can tell you from deep down within, the best weekend covering live shows I’ve ever had in my life was Friday night – Alice Cooper and Saturday night – Barry Manilow. So I totally understand where you’re coming from. You need to represent the whole picture. That said, that’s what I like about this EP. It really is a whole picture into you. Musically, message, because not every song is just driving home, a consistent message. You’re spreading the message around, coming at it from different points of view. Another single Unravel. It really spoke to me. I really love that song. When you look at these songs, to phrase it differently, if you had to look at the titles, just knowing the meaning, but some people might not know the meaning, but just knowing the titles. If at the end of the day, you needed to have something scribed on a headstone or on an epitaph, what song title of yours from this new album, would you want to be part of your legacy?

Jodi: Oh, “Fearless” without a doubt. “Fearless,” for sure.

Toddstar: You’ve been fearless in the past. First, congratulations on being a cancer survivor. This sounds wrong in my head, but how important was that to you in wanting to make sure your message was delivered, having faced that challenge, and defeating it? I mean, you faced something and mortality reared its head really quick. How important was it to you to then step aside and say, okay, I’ve got to help take my message my feeling, my platform to the masses, through my music?

Jodi: Well, I think that first of all, when I talked about how we all come wired out a certain way, the nature versus nurture kind of thing, I feel like I came out a strong willed, willing to try anything, a fearless kind of personality. And then that just was nurtured and evolved as I got older. So when I had cancer, I already had that going for me. But when you’re faced with something where you find out literally in a 24 hour period after having been to four physicians and all of them telling me and diagnosing it incorrectly and then finding out that I have it, you’re scheduled for emergency surgery the next morning, I think you’re faced with a completely different thing together that requires the fearlessness that you built your life upon at that point because I was 25 when I was diagnosed with it. I think that after that happened and I was considered in remission, you’re considered in remission after a five-year period, I feel like I became… It was fearlessness on steroids to the nth degree. It’s like I wanted to experience everything I could, see everything I could, do everything I could, get my hands on everything that I could and just live even more fearlessly. And I think that another cliche, life is short, but it is. It is really short. And we only have so much time to do things and to see things and to experience things and to amend relationships or not. I mean, it’s all of the big whole ball of acts. And so I think part of my message and my music is to live in the now, not just live in the present, but live in the now and thrive, do what you can get out there. And I think this EP is a message about, it’s strong. It’s the empowerment because it’s one thing just to say, oh, go live a fearless life. Well, some people that’s really hard. That’s really hard. They have maybe there is a mental illness. Maybe there is family trauma. Maybe there is anxiety. Maybe it’s not that easy. And so for me, it’s about writing music and getting songs out there, where people can kind of find what their fearlessness is and grow it exponentially into truly living where they can say, yes, I’ve lived a fearless life. I’m living a fearless life because fear inhabits us. I mean, inhibits us from so much. It hinders us from creating relationships, from taking jobs, from experimenting, from traveling, from, I mean, you name it. Fear is a debilitating thing. And for some people, they can’t even get out of bed in the morning based on fear. And so it’s about finding something in somebody, hopefully that they can identify in themselves and then unraveling that for them and teaching them and encouraging them to live a fearless life. So my experience very much was far more instrumental. I mean, it was a major part of wanting people to experience a life that I’ve experienced. The good, the bad, the ugly, but at the end of it all, you can’t, what if? One of my lyrics in “Bandaid” is ‘what if?’ You can what if your life to death. What if this? What is that? If you’re not killing someone and it’s not illegal and it’s not going to land you in prison, why don’t you do it? Why don’t you try it? Why don’t you start working on some level of fearlessness that will get you to a place where you can live a life where you’re not questioning everything that you do.

Toddstar: I couldn’t have asked for a better answer. I couldn’t have written that answer. I appreciate the candid nature in which you offer yourself up in interviews. You’ve done it again in writing with us in the past, other interviews I’ve seen, question for you because I’ve looked and hunted and I’m always trying to find tour dates. Is there any plan to try and take this message out there?

Jodi: Yeah. I know. I get that all the time. They’re like, are you playing live? And it’s funny because I have definitely played some one-off live shows, but in terms of a tour, first of all, I was kind of at a disadvantage this year coming out of COVID because I started working on the EP last fall. So trying to navigate that with COVID and just scheduling, facilitating all that, I didn’t know how it was going to roll out, if I was going to get it to roll out on time. There’s the whole campaign, the promotion for it. And the issue was that all the bands, all the hundreds of bands that already had their tours lined up prior one year, even two years back, they were going to already get first dibs on all the venues, that whole thing, because they were unfulfilled tours, that hadn’t happened yet, that needed to happen. So I thought, I’m just going to finish this EP, do a good job of getting it out there, take my time. Don’t just throw it out there. It was really important to me, and I was really excited about it. And then I want to do a well thought out tour. So what I’m looking at, I’m always writing, of course, but I’m looking at next year being the tour year. I’ll probably put out some more music, but honestly, Todd, what I would love to do is put out an all-female tour because it hasn’t really been done. There are a lot of male bands. Guys rock. But I also think that if we have a few really great women, female artists and bands, female fronted bands on the bill, that would just be a great experience. I actually am looking at doing some dates myself next year, but also talking to a couple booking agents about putting together. I really want to help assemble a good solid group of female rockers and just do and bill it one show and just do a couple dates, one or two dates a month for the entire year and just really rock it up.

Toddstar: That’d be amazing. I’ll call it a festival, because anything more than a couple three bands becomes a festival for me. One of the most interesting I’ve ever been to other than ones of huge names was at, was actually one I covered at a church, and it was the Decypher Down. They were one of the headliners and I believe Disciple was on that. And it was crazy to see and be part of that, where it is that total mosh pit rock vibe without all the intoxication and the ignorance.

Jodi: That’s nice. It’s like you knew what you were going to get, but still it rocked out. On a secular level I thought about, I don’t know if you remember this, do you remember Lilith Fair?

Toddstar: Absolutely.

Jodi: It was Sarah McLaughlin. It was the most awesome tour and people, of course, were throwing doubt at them going, ‘oh, you’re not going to make money at it.’ And they were saying, what about all these other male tours going on and that kind of thing? Sure enough, they put it together and kept it out there for several years and did really, really incredibly well. I just think there are still a lot of female rockers out there that don’t get to tour and don’t get into the festivals because unfortunately, it still is male dominated. It’s rock and it still is very much that way, understandably so. There’s been very few really women rockers that have risen up. We know who they are, but compared to the male bands, just look at that statistics. It’s huge. It’s an 80/20 split almost. I’m not talking pop rock, I’m talking pretty heavy stuff. That’s kind of what I was looking to put together next year. I just think it would be a really good movement.

Toddstar: Well, you gave me a perfect segue. As a closing note, Jodi, because I stock your socials to always try and again, find a live date or just to make sure I’m not missing anything. If you had to pick, Sandy or Kira?

Jodi: Oh, Olivia Newton-John.

Toddstar: It was devastating. You were one of the first posts I saw actually after her passing and the fact that you mentioned, because everybody talks about Sandy in Grease, but Xanadu is always that hidden gem that so few mention.

Jodi: I know. That’s so funny because I probably I’d have to say probably the latter half of Grease where Sandy gets in her spandex. It’s almost like she’s faking it until she makes it. If you remember Rizzo was like, throw the cigarette out. She’s like smoking a cigarette, looking tough and then she doesn’t even know what to do with it. So she motions for her to throw it out her mouth and stomp it on the ground. She becomes this fearless Sandy. But the great thing about Kira is that she really had a mission and she believed, and she wanted everybody to benefit from building this arena and living this dream. And so I really feel like the most successful people are the people that want to include others. They want to empower others. They want to lift others up. And so what I appreciated about Kira’s character is that that’s what she did. She brought hope and belief to a fashion of people that this is possible. This place is possible. This life is possible. And so I would say I’m definitely kind of a combination of those two.

Toddstar: Well, I’ve figured and assumed ahead of time, you would follow me more on the Kira side, just because of the message, the uplift, the hope that’s kind of brought across in the message because your music definitely brings that hope across.

Jodi: Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah. That’s definitely a goal. So I appreciate hearing that.

Toddstar: Well, Jodi, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the time. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to speak to you and get this done proper.

Jodi: I love talking to people after we’ve had paper shuffle back and forth for a couple years and then I get to meet them in person or talk to them on the phone. I really love that. So thank you for suggesting doing an interview. I jumped on it right away because I’m like, oh my god, I would love to talk to him because we’ve never really talked.

Toddstar: Absolutely. Well, listen, I’m going to keep my eye on the tour dates. We wish you well with the release, new music, and everything going forward until you can get that tour set up for next year.

Jodi: Thank you, Todd. I appreciate it so much and 100% Rock. I really appreciate that you keep promoting my stuff and review my music. That’s an incredible outlet. So thank you so much.







Category: Featured Articles, Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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