NYC-based cinematic folk-rock artist Jessie Kilguss is back to offer a pure dose of her magical realism with the single ‘Great White Shark’. The first single of her new album ‘What Do Whales Dream About at Night?’, this is a welcome taster, four years since her latest studio album ‘The Fastness’.
This song with remarkable narrative is complemented by a endearing animated video, produced and directed by Deborah Magocsi with film footage by Magocsi, Rick Putnam and Jason Boyd.
Inspired by storytelling and emotion, Kilguss is a former actress, whose acting highlights include the film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder, and the UK production of ‘As You Like It’, directed by Royal Shakespeare Company founder Sir Peter Hall.
She made the switch to songwriting after working with her musical hero Marianne Faithfull in the London and Sydney productions of ‘The Black Rider’, a musical written by Tom Waits and William Burroughs, which was directed by Robert Wilson and also featured Mary Margaret O’Hara.
Produced by Adam Lasus (Yo La Tengo, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Helium) along with Kilguss and her band members, Lasus also engineered the recordings, which were mixed and mastered by Charlie Nieland (Debbie Harry, Rufus Wainwright, Blondie).
This album also features Brian Griffin (Patti Smith, Brandi Carlisle, Lana Del Rey), Whynot Jansveld (The Wallflowers, Butch Walker, Sara Bareilles), LA-based award-winning composer and producer Naren Rauch, and Nathan Schram (Bjork, David Crosby, David Byrne, The Attacca Quartet), with whom Kilguss runs Musicambia, a nonprofit that brings music programs inside prisons.
“In 2018, I was helping teach a 3-day songwriting workshop at a correctional facility for girls (aged 11-14) in upstate NY with the nonprofit Musicambia. We were writing a collective song, going around the circle and everyone was adding a line. I had just read in the news that a man had been eaten by a shark and I thought it would make everybody laugh so I added my line “a Great White Shark ate a man off Cape Cod”. Even though it’s horrendous, it was so far out of left field that everyone did laugh. I got home and decided to turn my line into a song,” explains Jessie Kilguss.
“For help, I turned to ‘Technicians of the Sacred’, an amazing anthology of ancient poetry from around the world, which I came to through Nick Cave’s newsletter ‘The Red Hand Files’, having recommended it as inspiration for songwriters. There’s an incredible poem in there that’s actually a spell to create gangrene of the nose. It inspired the repetitive nature of the lyrics of this song. Even though the subject matter is truly awful, it’s meant to have a light touch. It’s meant to be funny… Even though I have irrational shark fears when at the beach, I think that sharks get a bad rap. There’s this guy on Instagram (the Malibu Artist), who takes drone footage of Great White Sharks off the coast of Malibu. They’re always out there and they often come very close to people but it’s very very rare that they attack.”
In addition to writing and performing her own music, Kilguss also sings with Gramercy Arms, Jim Andralis and the Syntonics and Benjamin Cartel, having previously performed at the Sundance Film Festival and with Freddie Stevenson, supporting The Waterboys during their European tour.
On July 20, ‘Great White Shark’ will be released across digital platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music. The full album ‘What Do Whales Dream About at Night?’ will be released on September 23. That same evening (starting at 8:30), Kilguss celebrate her album with a release show at Rockwood 3 in New York.