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Serena Jost interview page one photoOn March 3rd, Joe’s Pub, located in New York City, alternative folk rock singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Serena Jost unveiled her current CD Closer Than Far.

“It was a wonderful night and we really filled the place out. All kinds of people, both whom I knew and whom I didn’t know, came out. People who were on the record and a smattering of other people who have been playing with me recently, were all on stage, at different intervals. The setting (of Joe’s Pub) is so great, because you can put on a real show. I enjoy playing smaller venues, but Joe’s Pub is the perfect size. We caught a wave and you don’t always know if you are going to,” says Jost, in recalling the night of her CD release. 

Although it is still early, some songs are emerging as early fan favorites. “A lot of people like the intro to “Jump,” when I use a made up language. People relate (well) to the cello and the voice combination (in “Jump”).  “Awake In My Dream,” comes out for a lot of people, and I don’t know why exactly. People also like the Iris Dement cover (“Our Town”). The original version of “Our Town,” is longer, but I edited it down a lot. Our version is totally different, but people enjoy the way that we have done it. A lot of people enjoy “Halfway There,” because it is catchy, and it is a real pop song. “Stowaway,” seems to be something that people relate to on an emotional level,” says Jost.  

Serena Jost is a very accomplished storyteller whose lyrics do not leave the listener grappling with vague metaphors or symbolism, but instead are easy to follow, and more importantly easy to relate to. However, Jost’s music is not totally dependent on her skills as a lyricist, far from it. She is a wonderfully creative composer. Although Jost’s music is closer to an alternative folk rock style than anything else, there is no mistaking the fact that she often borrows from her classical training as a cellist, as she did with the song, “Awake In My Dream.”  

The song “Jump,” is introduced by 1:40 of Jost playing somber tones on her cello and uttering words that I guarantee, you have never heard before. She explains, “I grew up speaking a Swiss dialect in the Midwest (her parents are Swiss). A lot of people, who know me, and are (aware) of that fact, think that (in the song) I am singing in my dialect, which completely cracks me up. It is actually a true story, but I make up the language every time. The story is the same, but the language changes. I have this screwball side of me, so I really enjoy entering that moment, where it is just me and the cello. I have no idea what is going to happen in the next segment.”

The song, “Jump,” also features Jost playing the keys and guitarist Julian Maile lets loose with some incredible riffs that sure sound pretty edgy and rock driven, for a guy wielding a classical guitar.

“He (Maile) is an incredible guitarist and one of the things that I like about Julian is he will never rest on his laurels, or do the same thing twice. He goes for it full on, and sometimes he just rams it up against the wall. More often than not, the risk totally pays off. That’s one of the things that I really love about him. We have very little need for communication. I can bring a song to a rehearsal and he drops into the center of it.  In the studio (when it came to) “Almost Nothing,” I remember saying to him, ‘I want you to move a wall with the solo, as if you were moving a boulder or something.’ That’s all that I said, and then he did his thing. He takes chances and he doesn’t fear the outcome, which is why I think you get some of those really vital moments,” says Jost. 

Serena Jost also invited her friend, alternative pop artist Greta Gertler to join her for the song “Almost Nothing,” and that led to Gertler recommending to Jost that a third New Yorker, Alice Bierhorst join Gertler in providing the backup vocals.

Jost recalls, “When we got to the studio I was really excited about the timbre of Alice’s voice. (On the other hand) Gretta’s voice is quite ethereal. She is a high soprano, and I wanted to create a counterweight to the guitar solos (in “Almost Nothing”). On one hand, I wanted the song to be monolithic, and on the other hand I wanted it to be very breezy.”  Read more