Jessica Rotter is hitting the music scene ever so eloquently while rattling every listener’s ear with her debut album Plains. Atypical Sounds got to attend Rotter’s release party and it was an evening to remember. Rotter took the stage on the rooftop of the W hotel with beautiful views of downtown Los Angeles shining through every window. Dressed in a beautiful old school Hollywood dress she expelled soul shaking vocals from Plains such as “Aflame,” “Stars,” “Flowers In My Head“ and “Let Me Go.” Rotter combined with an amazing entourage of band members and back up singers made for an exceptional Friday night.
We got one on one time with Jessica recently and talked Plains, love, freedom, motherhood and everything in between! See below for the full interview.
When did you realize that music was a career path for you?
I think I realized it multiple times. When I was very young I was always singing. I would day dream about going on stage. Every stage I could ever go on I would start singing. It was kind of just part of me. When I graduated college I was kind of pursuing directing for music videos and then I ended up just getting a lot more work singing just because I’ve been singing my whole life. It made me realize I should just embrace singing. I had been writing music but I wasn’t sharing it actively, and then when I started sharing it I was like wait a second this is amazing and so much fun. What am I denying? I was like stop lying to yourself go be a musician.
Is there anyone that you saw yourself performing with when you were younger (elementary/junior high days)?
Yeah. Are you kidding me? Everyday I would dream about *NSYNC bringing me up on stage. I just imagined going to one of their concerts and Justin Timberlake would see me singing along and he would be like ‘I can tell she has a great voice she should come on stage.’
Has your family influenced your music at all?
Yeah definitely. I think that growing up in a classical-ish family influenced me as a musician. Listening to a bunch of amazing film scores and classical music growing up really influenced me but directly my dad did help me with a lot in the early stages of the album. He arranged all of the big string parts that you hear on the album like “Last Sound” and “Hit The Ground.” My dad actually wrote those string parts. He was a composer first and now he’s a contractor so he hires musicians for orchestras. He helped me coordinate and put this huge session together with all these amazing L.A musicians. There are like twenty-five string players. It was a big session. It was amazing. I felt really fortunate.
What does this record represent to you?
I wrote it in a very transitional period of my life. I was kind of searching for freedom a lot of the time and trying to find myself. What I realized is that even in love there are times of loneliness and even with this illusion of freedom there’s the other side of it which is that you are alone. So it’s like what about being tied to another person creates a struggle and what about not being tied to another person creates a struggle? How do we find peace in either situation? It’s really just me wrestling with loneliness and love. As I said at my show, I got pregnant unexpectedly. Honestly, I think I realized that if I was going to be having a child and I didn’t pull myself together I maybe never would do this. I felt that there was a real need to expedite this journey and really create something and put it out there. Some of the songs I wrote before I got pregnant but they all kind of fit into the same world of when you’re free who are you and when you’re not free who are you? What is freedom and what’s more rewarding? And at the end of the day, I think that being in relationships that are real and rewarding is more important than this illusion of freedom that everyone is chasing all the time.
What inspired the album title?
Really it’s a metaphor for that open space and how when you’re in a huge open space you can feel completely alone or you can feel completely free. It kind of metaphorically explains that feeling in a lot of the songs.
How did you find your peace?
Honestly, I think that sometimes you just have to make a choice and I think that I just made the choice that I had things pretty good. I was never concerned with becoming a mom, I think that was always magical to me especially as a creator. It’s like hello this is the coolest creative project ever. My son is the most amazing child. Obviously, every mom is kind of biased about that but he really is. He’ll walk outside and put his arms out and talk about how beautiful the trees are. He’s also super musical. He’s a drummer. He’s only two and a half. He’s so cool so none of that has ever been a problem. Really I don’t think I would be pursuing my career in such an intentional way if I hadn’t had him and had such a strong reason for making my life happen.
At your show you said you wrote a certain song when you were going through your pregnancy. Which song was that again?
Stars. I wrote it before I found out that I was pregnant but I sang it throughout my entire pregnancy. It was always playing in my head. I wrote Stars right when I had just gotten into my first relationship with the same person who is now my fiancé and the father of my child. I had been in love with other people but this was my first true relationship. So this song for some reason just kind of came out of me and I sang it all the time. And it did, it really carried me through my album, it carried me through my pregnancy. A lot of people have reached out to me about Stars saying that it’s really helped them through hard days.
What’s an activity that helps rejuvenate your creativity and music?
I love going out into nature. I actually just moved right outside of L.A and there are a lot of hiking trails so I spend a lot of time outside. I like meditating, I go to the beach a lot and (laughs) I’ve discovered gardening which is like, I don’t know—something about putting a plant in dirt is very therapeutic for me. (Laughs) I feel like a mom to the plants when I’m gardening. It’s just nice to get hands on with the earth.
Have you ever had a song, lyric or melody come into your head while you’re meditating?
Yes. My favorite though is when I will wake up from a dream and record a song. That’s how “Flowers In My Head” happened. I woke up one morning and sang this guitar line and then turned my phone off and went back to sleep.
How would you say you defy what’s expected of the modern female musician?
I guess first we need to decide what’s expected of the modern female musician. I definitely think that I’m not an obedient person so by nature I am defiant. I think that nothing should be expected of a modern female musician and I definitely don’t think that I ever got into music to be a sex symbol. I think that female musicians and male musicians should just be looked at as artists which is what we are and not to be exploited. I know a lot of female musicians are exploited for multiple reasons. Especially with this Kesha thing coming to light—it’s brought up this whole thing where you realize how many women in this industry are not being treated as people and are being treated as objects. I’m going to be myself and I’m not trying to cater to someone’s image or stereotype.
What would you say your spirit animal is and why?
I think I’m a butterfly. I think in my heart that’s why this album is about freedom because I like flying and I like movements and I like growth. I love the caterpillar symbolism.