Jill Cagney

I think it’s universally understood that being a social worker takes a special kind of person; someone with seemingly unlimited patience to be sure. But we’ve been learning more and more, that some of the most creative, talented people out there make their living doing this kind of work – and Jill Cagney is the latest example to grace the pages of PEV. Her style of music shouldn’t come as a surprise based on this background – she states it best: “Jill Cagney does not bend the truth to be nice, get along with people or fit into society.” And while 2009’s “Sometimes I Tell the Truth” did showcase this, this years "It's All in How You See Things" demonstrates this better than ever.

We asked Cagney to get into the collection: “It is darker and more edgy than my first record…more true to me. I think fans will relate to each of the 10 songs and see themselves in them, or at least find another way to look at the things they deal with everyday.  Who hasn’t had the thought ‘If you leave me I’ll kill you’!” Intense, eh? If you like a dose of reality with your listening, then Jill Cagney and “It’s All in How You See Things” is for you. Jill will be busy making more music, touring, and even making TV appearances, so keep an eye out. Keep reading for so much more in the answers to the XXQ’s.


XXQs: Jill Cagney

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?

Jill Cagney (JC): First, thanks so much for this interview and taking an interest in my music!  I would describe my music as singer/songwriter rock.  I am a storyteller in my songs and musically I like an edgier sound.  I think what makes me stand out in my genre is my straight forward and often sarcastic take on life. 

PEV: Based in the New York/New Jersey area, what kind of music where you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?

JC: I loved The Beatles, Squeeze, The English Beat, The Talking Heads, Prince, Joni Mitchell and Elvis Costello.  I would say that I had 2 main influences in my writing… Joni Mitchell for her fearlessness, imagery and music, and Glenn Tilbrook for his smart and clever lyrics.

PEV: Having played in the business for a goodtime now, what was it like for you when you first started out?

JC: It was exciting starting out, but also difficult. I used to get very nervous and be pretty demure when it came to booking a gig or talking to audience members.  I started out doing open mic nights where you would get 10 minutes or two songs.  I would be so nervous that my legs would shake and my knees would knock.  I would just about be getting over that feeling when the two songs were over.  When it was time to approach people for emails or make phone calls to book gigs, I felt pretty shy.  I think my skin was pretty thin when I started, and it took time and ups and downs to get my skin cow hide thick like it is today.

PEV: Do you remember the first time you thought to yourself – “I am really onto something!”?

JC: I have been writing forever, but I remember when I wrote “You Are Not So Fabulous”.  It was after a really bad date, after a string of really bad dates and I was talking with a friend about how dating sucked.  We were laughing because I was being very sarcastic and dark in my comments…and she was laughing. I did not realize I was being funny.  I went home and wrote the song and it was funny and dark but also very true.  That is when I thought…this is what I need to keep doing.  I see things in only the way I can see them, and that is how I need to write my songs. 

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Jill Cagney show?

JC: My stories.  Each song has a story about why I wrote it…usually they are entertaining and a little sarcastic.  I like to talk to the people listening and involve them in the show.  If you are going to spend your time and money to come out to my show, I am going to take you out of your own head for awhile and bring you into mine.  I promise to return you unharmed.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

JC: “Wow… this is so cool” and then “don’t bang your front teeth into the microphone while singing”.  I can get really into what I am singing about and then get a little clumsy!

PEV: Any preshow rituals before going on stage or do you just wing it?

JC: I will drink one beer, look around at the audience and say to myself “I am here for them”. Then I take a deep breath and go on.

PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?

JC: My inspiration is people…what they say, how they see things and my own struggle with how I feel.  My song “Change Your Mind” comes from dealing with a teenager who was suicidal and my feeling that if this person could see themselves the way I did, they would not be making the choice they were about to make. I get my best ideas for songs from everyday things.  On my first record “Sometimes I Tell The Truth”, the song “Facebook” came from seeing kids substitute cyber interactions for personal interactions.  On the new CD, “Cell Phone” is about the insane attachment we have to cell phones and “Just Want To Say” is about someone who made me so angry that I had just about given up my resolve to be a good person.  I just finished writing a song about people who talk too much.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “It's All In How You See Things". What can fans expect from this work?

JC: I love this record! It is darker and more edgy than my first record…more true to me. I think fans will relate to each of the 10 songs and see themselves in them, or at least find another way to look at the things they deal with everyday.  Who hasn’t had the thought “If you leave me I’ll kill You”!

PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?

JC: I definitely get writers block and I get over it by writing anyway.  For me writers block is really about self censoring. I think “oh, that’s stupid” or “that’s not good enough” and feel like I can’t come up with anything.  I find if I push through it and write anyway…even if it’s just for 20 minutes, I almost always come up with something pretty good…sometimes great.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Jill Cagney?

JC: I love serial killer novels…fiction and nonfiction.  The workings of people’s minds, how they organize their thoughts and feelings and then behave is endlessly interesting to me.  I took a creative writing class a few years ago, and the professor commented that all of my stories were dark and troublesome.   He said, ‘You seem like such a warm and positive person, I am a little surprised.’ But I am fascinated by the dark side of things.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

JC: As a teenager, I knew I would always write….it was and is my way of sorting things out.  No matter what happens in my life; who comes and goes, my writing is my own.  I think it was then that I knew music was going to be a career for me; whether it was part time or full time, there was no getting away from it.

PEV: What one word best describes Jill Cagney?

JC: Persistent.

PEV: How is life on the road for you in the music world? Best and worst parts?

JC: It is a really good thing that I love to drive!  Being on the road has given me the most amazing opportunities to meet the most excellent people.  I have met other musicians that have become dear to me and have traveled from Tennessee to Toronto to gig with them and just spend time.  They are the people I turn to when I start to feel frustrated in this business. The worst part is the tiredness that creeps in after awhile and the rest rooms you must subject yourself to on the road.

PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

JC: The West Coast of the U.S. has always seemed so beautiful to me, so I would love to tour there.  I would really be happy to tour anywhere for the chance to travel.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?

JC: My friends and family are extremely excited and supportive.  While I see myself as plowing along in the music business, they see me as someone who has already arrived and that is amazing to me.  When I play a show in NJ and they all come out it is the most incredible feeling for me, and since they know my life with its ups and downs, they have a special appreciation for the songs.  My family in particular has been amazing…from my husband Kyle who does all of my photos and a lot of my promotions, to my kids who thinks it’s really cool that I go out and do my gigs, I could not do this without them!

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

JC: I’ll tell you there is not much spare time in my life, and when I have some I feel very compelled to work on the music career.  I do love to go into NYC often and just walk and observe; go to the movies, or sit outside and read.  I love to read and find it to the most effective way to escape from my own thoughts.

PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

JC: There are so many!  Three that come to mind immediately are Jared McCloud, Andrea Nardello and Hudson K.  They all have very different sounds and topics, but are all very original and authentic.

PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?

JC: I sometimes think about working as a cultural journalist.  I love to travel and hear other people’s perspectives about their lives and how these perspectives differ geographically and culturally. Right now I have two careers; I am a clinical social worker and currently work in a high school doing counseling and crisis work…but am transitioning out of it to pursue my music career full time.  I get a lot of material from the job so that is a plus.

PEV: So, what is next for Jill Cagney?

JC: I have a couple of exciting gigs coming up including opening for Peter Karp and Sue Foley at The Stanhope House in NJ, and my first T.V. performance/interview on The Tim Qualls Show airing on Comcast in Delaware. I am writing for my next record and working on touring this summer. I also am starting my own publishing company.   What’s next is more songs, more gigs and the jump into this business full time.

For more information, check out http://jillcagney.com/fr_home.cfm

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