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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Jessi Teich Puts Her Own ‘Twist’ On Jazz
Thursday, January 29, 2015

When Jessi Teich calls her album, Twisted Soul, “An album of achievement and victory,” she’s talking about more than just the music, as the album is the result of a series of victories that lined up to save her career, and in turn, Teich herself.

Due out March 3rd on Madame Freak Records, Twisted Soul, a jazz crossover project, tells the story of an emotionally abusive relationship Teich found herself in, and how she made her way out of it. This is the fist victory it represents.

The second victory of Twisted Soul is the fact that Teich was able to record it. This after doctors found a cyst on her vocal fold, and were forced to operate. Teich remembers, “They basically told me if I didn’t get the surgery then I wouldn't be able to have a career, and I wanted the career.”

While doctors were saving her career, the Philadelphia native was busy with some saving of her own, taking care of her two rescue dogs, Cooper and Chico, and continuing to support the rescue organization Philly Paws.

With Teich now readying the release of Twisted Soul, I caught up with her to find out more about her impressive victories, what it took to get through those experiences, and the patently Philly place where you might find her chowing down.

Adam Bernard: Let’s start by talking about your upcoming album, Twisted Soul. You’ve described it as a crossover album with a jazz spinal cord. Are you telling us jazz is holding everything together, and without it, the album can’t walk?

Jessi Teich: Kind of, actually. That’s a good interpretation. I grew up listening to jazz, and I went to Berklee College of Music, which has a different kind of genre now, but it grew up as a jazz school. When I was little my dad used to rock me to sleep to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Jazz is in my core.

When I recorded this in Paris I actually hand picked a jazz trio called the Thierry Maillard Trio, which consisted of Thierry Maillard on piano, Matyas Szandai on upright bass, and Yoann Schmidt on drums. They are a jazz trio, but I spent about two and a half hours in the studio trying to pull the jazz out of them, because I didn’t want it to be completely, 100%, saturated in jazz. I wanted the other elements in my life, the other genres of music, like blues, and soul, and pop, that have also effected me, immersed in that album, so I would say the spinal cord is jazz, but then the rest of the body branches out to the other genres.

Adam Bernard: Content-wise, the album is inspired by being in, and eventually getting out of, an abusive relationship. Does that make some of the songs difficult to sing?

Jessi Teich: That’s a really good question. It made the process of getting to the writing point a little bit difficult because I held on to a lot of the emotion that created the sadness in my life through that emotional abuse, but as I started writing the music it was very cleansing, it started to just kind of all fall out of me. Now when I go to sing the songs, or I think of the songs, it’s a very positive thing for me. It was a release. It was the way that I healed from that abusive relationship.

Adam Bernard: How did you get out of the relationship? Was there a moment, or a conversation with a friend, that opened your eyes to what was going on?

Jessi Teich: It was a process. I knew there was something wrong with the relationship. I started to reach out, and kind of go against the grain. I started to look for other studios to sing at. I started to try to find different places to write, because he tried to control my writing process for singing and songwriting. I started to kind of reach out that way.

I took a trip to Europe to try to explore a little bit. I was searching. I was ready, but I didn’t know I was ready, and that’s when it happened, when I was abroad. I had the choice to come back and try to fix the relationship, but I decided to pursue my music career, and try to find a way to unravel the abuse, and find myself again.

Adam Bernard: So your career wasn’t part of both of your options?

Jessi Teich: Well, it could have been a music career with my ex controlling that entire career, and telling me how to dress, telling me what to sing, telling me what to say, who I can see, who I can’t see, so it wasn’t my music career, it was him controlling this career that I had always wanted.

Adam Bernard: You got out of that while you were in Europe. How long were you overseas, and what were some of the cooler experiences you had while you were there?

Jessi Teich: I was there for three weeks. The plan was to do London, Paris, Belgium, Vienna, and Budapest. It was crazy because I had never been to Europe before, and I was always in love with the French culture, and the Parisian fashions, and the French language. I took French in high school for four years, and I love Coco Chanel, and the French food, and everything.

It was really cool because I had done some research and talked a little bit to my team about how my music would do over in Paris, with that jazz influence. They thought it would do really well. That's part of why I went over there, to explore that, and feel it out.

The French food is as good, if not better, than they describe it. It’s amazing.

The people were so friendly, and I really was able to work on my language skills over there. I’m semi-fluent in French, but it was very cool to be immersed in that.

Budapest was another one of my favorite places. It was so interesting, and kind of old world. The cakes, and the food, and the scenery, and the architecture, and the bathhouses, it was beautiful. It was just amazing.

Adam Bernard: I’m sensing a food theme.

Jessi Teich: {laughs} I love to eat. I love food, and I’ll pretty much try anything. Actually, when I was in Paris, after my relationship unraveled I was still over there, and I had been a vegetarian for 17 years, and I needed to eat meat, so I ate like a plate of bacon and I felt better. It was the first time I’d ever eaten bacon and I’ve never looked back.

Adam Bernard: You rediscovered meat while you were over there, but you live in Philly, right?

Jessi Teich: Yeah, I live right outside of Philly, in the suburbs.

Adam Bernard: So when you came back, how long did it take before you decided you were going to have a cheesesteak?

Jessi Teich: The ultimate question! Well, the ultimate question was which one of my friends or family members was going to be the first person to take me to get a cheesesteak. I actually ended up going with my best friend, and my sister. We went on my birthday. I had my first cheesesteak on my 28th birthday. It was after we had gone out, and we had this amazing meal, we went out dancing, and roamed around Philly for a while, and then we got hungry again, so I was like, this is the perfect time to eat a cheesesteak. I went and had a cheesesteak with them, and I loved it, it was fabulous.

You know Pat’s and Geno’s, we ended up going to Pat’s, because I hear the bread is better there, but I’m sure they’re both very good.

Adam Bernard: It’s good that you had a friend and a family member go with you, because if they just saw you at a cheesesteak place, the level of deceit they would have felt...

Jessi Teich: I know! I actually waited, because I had opportunities to eat cheesesteaks before, but they were like, “No, you have to go with us,” so I waited, and it was totally worth it.

Adam Bernard: In addition to having your first cheesesteak, you’ve had a couple of other major success stories in your life. We’ve already covered escaping the abusive relationship, but you also had a surgery to remove a cyst surrounding your vocal fold. Obviously that was a success because this album is coming out, but during that time when were you the most afraid?

Jessi Teich: Probably when I decided that I was going to have the surgery, because when I was diagnosed with the cyst on my right vocal fold I chose to try and go without the surgery. All the doctors, and the therapists, and the vocal specialists say it’s not necessarily going to help, or it could help, but maybe your voice will never be the same again. It’s scary because they tell you all these things, and you’re not quite sure what to think.

It took me like a year and a half to decide that I was going to have the surgery.

I quit teaching (voice lessons), I went on a very strict diet, I was on acid reflux medicine, I got a job where I didn’t have to use my voice much, and the cyst went down.

The cyst was caused by acid reflux, and overuse of (vocal) cords that were damaged by acid reflux. My technique, I even talked to my vocal therapist, she said my technique is perfect, it’s not that, it’s that I have this kind of wonky stomach, and I hold all my stress in my stomach, so when I get stressed I get reflux, and I sing on cords that have been burned by the acid in my stomach.

I had the surgery, and then I was on vocal rest for like two weeks, but before the surgery I was on vocal rest for like two months, and I had to carry around a white board, and people didn’t know what to think of me. They thought either I couldn’t hear, and I couldn’t speak, that I was a mute, or that I couldn't speak English. If you ever want to try a really good social experiment, just go on vocal rest for a day, and see what people do, it’s incredible.

After they took me off voice rest after the surgery I could talk one minute per day for a week, and then two minutes per day for the next week, then three minutes per day for the following week, until I got up to five, and then I could talk a little bit more, and then I started doing vocal therapy. It wasn’t a quick process. It was very long, it was very strenuous, it was tiresome, and it was nerve wracking because I just didn’t know what my voice was gonna sound like.

It ended up, obviously, being very successful, because I did everything by the book, and I followed all the rules. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t eat late at night, I get good nights of sleep now, and I rarely drink alcohol. I chose to really focus on getting better, and pursuing my music career.

Adam Bernard: When did you know your voice was really back?

Jessi Teich: I think I scheduled my first show probably like six months after the surgery, and I was able to sing notes that I could never sing before. It was almost as if I had the cyst for longer than I had realized, and maybe I had damaged (my vocal cords) earlier in life. I was able to really rip into my songs in a way that I wasn’t able to before.

I think it really had a lot to do with my diet, and the food that I put into my body. When you have acid reflux you have certain triggers, like chocolate, or caffeine, or alcohol, or tomato sauce, or certain spices, where it’ll trigger this reflux and then your cords get burned and they take several days to recover. I think that with my diet, and with pursuing a healthy lifestyle, I came back with a vengeance. It was pretty neat. It was exciting. It was a very personal success for me.

Adam Bernard: You’re pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but the cheesesteaks stay, the bacon stays...

Jessi Teich: {laughs} You know what, Adam, everything in moderation. Really, that’s what it comes down to. Absolutely everything in moderation. My grandmother always said that, and she’s absolutely 100% right.

Adam Bernard: Finally, since you can sing, and do whatever you want now, what is the most embarrassing thing you sing along to while in the car, or at the gym?

Jessi Teich: Oh no. Oh my goodness. Probably Taylor Swift.

You know, I’m not embarrassed to sing along with her music, though, because although her music isn’t necessarily my favorite, I love the message she gets out there to our young people. There are so many artists out there who glorify sex, and drugs, and rock n roll, and that lifestyle, and she doesn’t. She glorifies friends, and positivity, and doing things in a way where you control your life and you take care of yourself. I really admire her style, and admire the message that she gives to our young people.

Adam Bernard: Although sex, drugs, and rock n roll are fun... in moderation.

Jessi Teich: In moderation. {laughs}


Interview originally ran on Arena.com.

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