- Article by: Jamie McCormick | Photos courtesy of Ponychase
- Posted: 06/18/2012
- Related Links: Ponychase's Brite Artist Profile
Music serves many functions in our modern society, from simply entertaining us to adding emotional weight in a cinematic sequence to encouraging us to remember and purchase specific products. But for Jordan Caress, who fronts the Nashville-based indie project Ponychase, music serves a function more than purely auditory. It engages and enlivens all of our senses, and even nudges awake a few of our sensibilities. “I'm clearly a romantic person, and the reason I love reading is the same reason that I love listening to music,” explains Caress. “For me, it's a sensory experience and the combination of a number of factors – context, word choice, etc. – that ultimately stirs something in me.”
Growing up in a highly musical family, (as do so many of the music industry elite), and playing in a band with her three brothers for nearly a decade, Caress would have found it difficult to avoid developing such an intimate relationship to music. “My father was a recording artist and my mother sings and plays a mean blues harmonica,” she explains. “Being a professional musician was always encouraged.” But not only was Caress exposed to music itself, she was thrust into the heart of the music industry, becoming acquainted at an early age with the highs and lows of life inside the industry. “My parents used to come to every show we played – hundreds of them – and take me home right after, at 1am, so I could go to school in the morning,” she remembers. Even in high school, a life of music was both a privilege and a job.
So when Caress meandered her way into the Nashville music scene, the transition was as natural as water flowing to the ocean. With diverse interests, opportunities, and talents, she quickly found herself fronting bands, writing extensively, and playing and touring with other artists such as Justin Townes Earle, Bobby Bare, Jr. and Tristen. “It's easy to move from project to project when your heart is in all of it,” she says. But as time ticked on, she found that some of her new material did not seem to fit with the rest. Thus was born Ponychase, a side project that began as “a series of home demos that [Caress] played everything on, with varying degrees of skill,” and has now morphed into a major undertaking with a sonic objective all its own.
“I never really felt comfortable as a solo artist,” explains Caress. “Having grown up in collaborative situations, I don't desire a spotlight.” Instead, she allows sound itself, both in concept and in reality, to take center stage and soar. From intricate solos to screwdrivers slid along the neck of a guitar, nothing about Ponychase is definable, and the tone of the group's tunes is inimitable, coming from a collective of different talents and approaches. “Meeting Beth Cameron was a game changer,” asserts Caress. “It is so inspiring to share the stage with such a strong performer who is a creative entity on her own.”
Ponychase creates simple, sinuous melodies and lyrics that wind their melancholy way around the major events in Caress' life, never trying too hard nor backing down. Whatever the challenge, Ponychase finds a way to make it melodic and beautiful, if haunting and sad. “The main influence on this project was my own limitations,” explains Caress, speaking of both equipment and abilities, since she recorded the demos by layering her own performances and still performs many of the parts. “It ended up being so simple that it sounded cool,” she says, continuing, “It's obvious that there is an 80's pop influence on this record, and I won't deny that Cyndi Lauper is my all-time favorite pop vocalist, but I was just as influenced by Tunnel of Love-era Springsteen. I'm drawn to the warmth of that record. The synth pads just make you want to cry. In this batch of songs, I wanted to be able to combine the fun of New Wave sensibilities with the emotional potency that artists like Bruce Springsteen, Kate Bush, and Peter Gabriel are able to pull off. If anything, I got into a lot of New Wave pop after the album was written. I currently can't stop listening to Book of Love.”
Feeding off of her own experiences, Caress first builds a complex and resonant soundscape, then adds whichever of her stories fits the scene. “I think this music is the clearest, most honest representation of myself that I've ever presented,” she asserts. “I've always worn my heart on my sleeve in life, so doing it in music is no different, really. I've always tried to find the most concise and least flowery way to get a point across while still conveying what are often heartbreaking emotions.” But perhaps a new chapter lies only a few pages ahead, and Caress will be able to turn her pen and her pick toward sunnier shores. “I'm actually most proud of the most recent song I've written,” she says. “I've yet to teach it to the band. Believe it or not, it's a happy one. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf.”
Ponychase - "Brainwasher (Live HQ)"