By Valarie Šakota
Jessica Gerhardt (she/her) is a singer-songwriter & ukuleleist from Santa Monica, California. She attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, receiving a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. After graduating, Jessica came back home to LA to begin to record some of her original songs & begin building a music career.
Describe your musical personality in 5 words.
Vulnerable, spiritual, emotional, mermaidy, romantic.
Do you have any rituals when you write or perform music? If so, what are they?
When I write it’s different every time. Sometimes I have a melody recorded on my phone, and I build a song from that. Other times I noodle around on my ukulele until something comes out, and I put words to it. Sometimes I have an idea for something I want to write about or even a few lyrics, and then I put music to it and build the rest of the song around that. It varies.
For performing, I typically have some nervous, excited energy. I try to drink water and take deep breaths. And I usually say a little prayer with my bandmates before we go on, asking the Spirit to move through us and let us just be the instruments. Kinda takes the pressure off.
Tell us about your playlist! What inspired this curation?
These are female artists who I’m really into right now and who have been hugely inspiring in my development as an artist. There’s a few friends on there as well who have been releasing new music lately. These are some of my favorite songs.
Which do you prefer, Summer or Winter? Why?
Summer because I would always rather be warm than cold. I love the sun and the flowers, and going swimming and being able to wear shorts and flip flops. I’m a California girl through and through.
What is the first album you ever owned?
I think it was Spice Girls’ Spice or Now 1.
What song, album or artist do you turn to when you need to tune out the world? What do you love about it?
Flock of Dimes - If You See Me Say Yes: Jenn’s voice, melodies, and instrumental choices just create such a unique atmosphere, and I dig the zone her music puts me in. Also, Wye Oak, I’ll just head bang contemplatively to them for hours.
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy: This is such a cathartic record and just really resonates with me. It’s edgy, moody, angsty, eclectic. I love Annie’s voice. It’s bewitching.
Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill: Honestly, this one is the most cathartic for me. If I ever need to just blow off some steam, I blast this in my car, windows down, belting out every yodel and lilt. Almost every song on this album feels like it should be a femme anthem.
Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour: I’m typically not big into country music, but this album is a gem. I just spin that CD on repeat in my car and sing along to every word. Her songwriting is sooooo clever, the melodies are extremely catchy, and the production is just perfection.
The Shins - Wincing The Night Away: this album is a good one for me. I got into their music on my own, and so I don’t really have any other associations with it, and it’s just upbeat and zany, and I just love Mercer’s melodies and lyrical creativity.
Do you prefer a sweet or savory breakfast?
Savory. I like a good hearty omelet or frittata. I’m one of those millennials who will never buy a house, because I love avocados and avocado toast too much. Sugary breakfasts don’t typically make me feel very good. Though I do like a good crepe or french toast… and Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a guilty pleasure.
How does your musical practice incorporate into your everyday lifestyle?
I pretty much sing all the time. When I’m walking around in between things, driving, showering, etc. So vocally I practice often. I could be better at picking up my uke more often. I also want to get into learning new instruments. Maybe in a less busy season I’ll be able to make more time for teaching myself guitar, keys, mandolin, bass, maybe even drums…
What is your dream collaboration?
Gosh… I’d love to work with Audrey Assad, Moda Spira, Sufjan Stevens, or Josh Garrels… I’d also love to even just sing harmonies with Fiona Apple. Girl is a goddess.
How do you see your own music career evolving over the next five years?
I hope to record a couple full-length albums, go on a bunch of tours, be able to share my music with more folks, and have the music touch them in a personal and meaningful way. My heart for music is rooted both in creative expression but also in a desire to be of service in some way. I hope to see my music be used in a way that helps others individually but also perhaps organizations or communities. I also hope to work with a lot of other artists, both collaboratively on songwriting and production as well as sharing bills and touring.
If you could learn from any musician or artist that has ever lived, who would it be, and why?
It would be cool to talk with Alanis or Fiona about their experiences. They were two of my earliest influences, and I love how their songwriting is emotional, expository, and ever-changing. I’d love to just sit down and learn about their creative process, how they stay grounded, what they find healing and encouraging, and what guides them in their artistic journey.
What’s next for you? New music? A tour?
Releasing my EP on June 28th, playing a release show at The Hotel Cafe on June 29th (featuring Brendan Willing James, Arielle Estoria, and West Coast Traders on the bills), and then I’m going on my first tour ever as an acoustic trio with a couple of my bandmates up the West Coast, and I’ll be playing a few East Coast solo dates as well. And then hoping to release some new music in the Fall!