The making of 'Not Alone'...
A long and winding road is a good way to describe her serpentine life. After a long, successful, career as a hair/make up person in mainly the music industry & celebrity portraiture, Jilann walked away to give her attention to her true self...singer, songwriter, poet, musician.
In 2005 she turned her full attention to record her first full length album 'All These Things' - recorded in Los Angeles with co-producer Evan Frankfort and the album featured some of LA's heavy hitting musicians Rami Jaffee (Foo Fighters & Wallflowers) lent his magic touch on the B3 and other instruments and played on every track. Also, co-writing the song 'Fabulous Ways' with Jilann. Mike Farrell (Morrissey, Alanis Morissette) also played the piano on many track and co-wrote 'Shadow King' with Jilann. The two would go on to work together on her next two albums. Other great players such as Blair Sinta, Brett Simons, Chris Joyner, Erik Eldenius, Kelli Scott, Lucia Micarelli on strings. With her style of writing and creating, these players came together in the studio and under the co-production of Jilann with Evan an huge sounding album was born. A self-produced album that Jilann was determined to follow her own rules on. While it's vast in its influences and diverse in color, the album is a cohesive journey that's pure her.
Upon finishing the album, and doing a few shows with her 'rock star' band, in 2008 she set about to create and alternative way of performing the music. And with her undertones of torch-avant garde she put on mixed media show to support the album. Using film projections, monologues, sound scapes and stage decoration the audience would descend into the cave of well known underground cabaret theater in Silver Lake and transported on all levels into a sort of Dante-esque journey through mind and music. The show 'Morceaux de Moi' ran for a year in LA and it was there that her second album began ints incubation.
For her second album of original music 'Owl Songs' Jilann worked again alongside Mike Farrell. Co-writing most of the album with him the two worked over the years when suddenly in 2012, to perhaps have him play on a track or two, Jilann reached out to Mike Garson (Bowie pianist) and that's where the story becomes even more serpentine. Owl Songs would not officially be released until 2017 - because life, and following the artistic intuition, she'd find herself recording two album at once. Worlds collide when we let go of the 'plan.'
In 2012, at the studio JJ Blair (Fox Force Five) in the Hollywood Hills Jilann and Mike met for the first time and recorded a handful of jazz covers and of course (with Jilann's lifelong love for French music) a couple of Jacques Brel songs. They were deeply intimate, acoustic conversations between singer & pianist. Recorded live, the two had an immediate musical connection. It was here that her journey would bring her to Paris...when Mike commented on his fascination with her voice when she sings in French, Jilann took the chance to ask if he would consider recording 'Lady Grinning Soul' if she were to translate it into French. When he agreed, she found herself on a plane to Paris and has been there ever since. That was February of 2013.
In early 2014, John Taylor (Duran Duran) listened to what she had recorded with Mike and fell in love. He was stunned by the raw vulnerability in her voice. And adored the story of this young female singer bringing attention to a forgotten iconic pianist like Mike. So, he encouraged Jilann to consider making an album of Glam era covers with Mike and never being one to turn away from a challenge or project of passion she answered the call.
'Not Alone' recorded in Los Angeles in August 2014, was a labor of love as much as it is a riveting tribute to artists of the Glam era…Bowie, Roxy Music, TRex and Eno. Born out of those initial sessions at JJ's in 2012, where they recorded Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day' it was this song and Jilann's move to Paris to work on her French version of 'Lady Grinning Soul' that launched the full length 'torch-glam-avant garden' album. John called the album a project of ‘the New Standards.' As an aficionado of the era, John immediately heard the potential for the project and together they worked on a list of songs that included not only classics like ‘Time’ and ‘Rock n Roll Suicide' (Bowie) but also others like ‘Bitter Sweet’ (Roxy Music) and ‘The Slider’ (TRex), to name but a few. Once decisions had been made on the material, the project took on a life of its own, unfolding over several months until its completion in October of 2015.
Throughout the recording process, the dynamic between Garson and Jilann played an integral part in the direction of ‘Not Alone.' Mike trusted her to bring her vision of their musical connection to the forefront and Jilann kept her vision to this 'torch-avant garden' and also to keep his piano parts as the ‘spine’ of the album. In constant contact with Jilann, John also ended up co-producing ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ and ‘Lady Grinning Soul,’ working on the record whenever he had a moment’s downtime from Duran Duran’s own studio sessions in London. Entering the studio with his unique ear and enthusiasm, John brought a different approach to these classics, helping Jilann find new twists in her voice while keeping an expansive, more avant garde approach to the songs overall. And by the time they had finished, they had succeeded in turning these timeless tracks upside down. One of the more special moments on the album is ‘Quicksand’ where Taylor lends his gritty vocals to Jilann’s own evocative performance. This intimate duet, underpinned by Mike’s eerie yet strong piano, is a poignant tribute indeed.
Co-producing the remaining songs on the album with Jilann was her longtime collaborator Mike Farrell (Morrissey and Macy Gray,) who acted as the anchor to her expansive vision. Alongside 'Not Alone’, they have also been working on a collection of original songs titled ‘Owl Songs’ which is expected later this year.
'Not Alone' was released in early 2016, after the death of Bowie. It was curious and challenging timing for Jilann and Mike both and though the album was not a 'tribute' album one can only be haunted by the timing, the story, and the music. For in reality, their recording of 'Not Alone' would mark the first time Mike Garson would record any Bowie song with any other singer. An honor that Jilann still holds dearly to this day. "It was a very special time and there was a magic to our time int he studio on 'Not Alone' - a gift I will never forget."
So, after a lifetime of living in around the world - Los Angeles, San Francisco, Derry Northern Ireland and now Paris...and three albums later 'All These Things' 'Owl Songs' & 'Not Alone'...she is finally digging into her upcoming French language album. Being a poet, it has taken her time to feel to the place where she can fully express herself both in lyric and song from this point of view. Only after being fully immersed in this culture do I feel connected at a deep enough level to create something authentic.
"If it's not authentic, dangerous and vulnerable, what's the point?" she asks. All these years later it seems the quote on the liner of her first album still sums her up the best....
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman