Yesterday, Londoners glimpsed Lady Gaga dressed as a full Christmas tree complete with a green wig. Fittingly, it was precisely the reason why we spoke with Hilary Kole on how much an artist should give in to pop culture to promote one’s work. For her iTunes holiday single PR, it appears Ms. Kole will be doing something so shocking in 2013, it is unheard of: relying on her singing.
Miley Cyrus was among the most popular Halloween costumes of 2013 thanks to her VMA performance. How could an artist take jazz to her popularity? Could someone perform jazz differently in a traditionally pop music routine at the VMAs one day?
I think that audiences would love jazz if they were exposed to it. Jazz music is some of the most complicated music in the world, and the musicians who are masters in jazz have so much to offer a wider audience. I believe very strongly that people respond to GOOD music, whatever genre it comes from. That being said, I think it is the responsibility of jazz artists to make themselves accessible to a wider audience. There are MANY young and extremely talented (and hot) jazz artists out there and should have a bigger following.
I enjoyed The Great Gatsby soundtrack this year. Was that an accurate depiction of the Jazz Age to you?
I love the soundtrack, but it isn’t exactly accurate. The artists on the soundtrack aren’t jazz artists, and I think they went in a very modern direction with the music to this film, which works, but it would have been great to have some young jazz musicians featured on a film that was trying to depict the Jazz Age. I think it is a lost opportunity.
How can more rappers like Jay-Z, the soundtrack’s producer, frequently include jazz elements while pleasing old and new audiences?
The answer is EASILY. Jazz is based on conflict, struggle, individuality, transcendence, and all of the emotions that great music and art comes from. The elements in Jazz are directly related to rap and hip hop, and it would be wonderful if producers could be creative in mixing the old and the new. I am frankly bored by most mainstream music today- it all sounds the same. Many elements in jazz could be used to create something new, something that could bring the music forward.
How does someone prepare his or her voice to sing jazz?
Singing jazz is like singing any other type of music. The difference is, to sing “jazz” effectively means you need to study and have a good understanding of rhythm and swing, and a very strong understanding of harmony and all of the musical components that jazz encompasses. You can sing just using your natural ear, but the greater your understanding of harmony, ear-training, and theory, the better your improvisation becomes. Trying to sing jazz without these elements, you may have one or two colors to choose from. When you understand the theory and harmonic structures of the music, suddenly you are painting with the entire box of crayons. Your choices are almost limitless, and the best part is, it is different every time. That’s why I love it so much.
Is jazz different for men versus women when one performs or writes?
I don’t think so. As a singer and not just an instrumentalist, I am drawn to lyrics that move me. As an instrumentalist, although I believe that one should always be aware of what the song means, you have more leeway to just explore the harmonic structure of the song form.
What is the craziest thing you ever done to promote your albums?
I guess I should be naked on a wrecking ball one of these days, but I have always just let my music speak for itself. So far, at least.
We always hear about artists selling out so they can, literally, sell out shows and top record sales charts. Would you ever make a sexy music video or do anything considered selling out? Does selling out still exist in an age where no one buys physical albums?
I am pretty open about myself because I am an artist. If a song called for a “sexy” video because that was the feeling I wanted to give to people, I would be open to doing that. That being said, it has to come from an artistic reason for me. If I wanted to “sell out” I would not be singing jazz in the first place. I came to this music because it moved me and I wanted to express myself and challenge myself. I think most of the artists I know and work with just want to work, just want to be heard. As far as I am concerned, if you are being true to yourself and your art, there is nothing wrong with doing something that will get you a bigger audience.