with Stefanie Seskin
How did you get started playing music and what was your first
father was an actor who did sales as a day job. My mother was a
painter (but she would argue this) who was a housewife for a while
and eventually worked as a social worker. My grandfather was a professional
musician - alto sax and clarinet. He played with Machito's Afro
Cuban Orchestra, touring and recording (and even played with Tito
Puente, Charlie Parker and others!) My sister, 12 years older, played
flute. I wanted to also. In 3rd grade, everyone was offered the
opportunity to choose an instrument. I chose flute, excelled quickly
(was 3rd chair in my district band my first year of playing, and
was one of the only 3rd graders in the band), continued playing
and also taking private lessons until high school, when I stopped.
In order to still get lessons and play in concert band or orchestra,
it was a requirement to be in the marching band, and I didn't want
to go to football games in the cold in a uniform! Instead, I joined
the rock ensemble and sang lead and back ups. I was not allowed
into the jazz band. The teacher told me "Flutes don't play
jazz!" And I was not allowed to learn bass in rock ensemble.
I had a turbulent home life - my parents split up when I was 11.
So playing the flute alone in my room was a great release and escape
for me. Later, I studied classical guitar in high school. I was
a music major my first 2 years in college (UC/San Diego), played
classical flute and took up bass guitar, but dropped out of school
and moved back to the East Coast to pursue modelling. I got some
work, went to Italy for 4 months by myself, ended up rooming with
an Italian female musician, and helped her write songs. A few years
later, back in the US, I played bass with Bill Popp & The Tapes
for a while and recorded his album. I also sang back ups in other
else plays with you in the band and how did you get together with
am currently playing out with blue number nine. In addition to the
members of blue number nine, on my solo CD, I had Luca Santaniello
on drums, Jenny Hill on sax, Pamela Fleming on trumpet, Rob Susman
on trombone, my friend Pamela West on bassoon, my friend Dana Shellmire
did a killer back up vocal on "Jerking My Chains," and
Emi Yabuno on keyboards and Lloyd Nilsen on piano. Everyone contributed
their own flair. Jenny wrote a great horn arrangment for "Stay
Where You Are."
Nilsen is a friend of mine who helped build the "check other
records" recording studio. He was blue number nine's original
bassist, back in 1995! One day, he was at the studio and I played
him some of the tracks that were recorded. "Stay Where You
Are" was flat and dull and needed something, but I wasn't sure
what. I played it for him, and he sat down at the piano and played
along - this great Latin Piano riff. The part was perfect, so he
took home an MP3 and gave me back a midi file of his piano work.
what differentiates this project from your other recordings, and
why release a solo CD?
project began at the same time as the band's most recent release.
We actually recorded 23 songs. When choosing what to put on blue
number nine's CD, I realized that the band doesn't perform a lot
of the songs we recorded, and that those songs were highly personal
and too different from blue number nine (even though blue number
nine's style is so hard to pin down!) I wanted to have some fun
with these songs - add loops and samples and be experimental, without
anyone in the band getting upset that I was "changing their
sound", or whatever! I wrote the song "Be Like You",
which is about my niece Chase, years ago when she was 6. I just
don't think it's a blue number nine song. Also, we re-recorded "Jerking
My Chains"... that song is on the band's first CD, so I thought
it would be odd to re-release it as blue number nine. Once Dana
Shellmire added her vocals, I knew I had to release it, but not
as blue number nine. It just seemed like the right time.
are you from originally and where are you located? Also, does your
region affect your music?
from Willingboro, NJ, originally... close to Phili. For the past
eight years, I've lived in Jersey City, NJ, right outside of NYC.
Where I live definitely affects my music, especially lately, because
of the hustle and bustle and the impersonal life of no community.
This has been affecting me lately - I don't like it. So my lyrics
have been angrier of late than they used to be. I want to live in
an environment with more NATURE. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that
leaving this environment would enable me to write more songs.
me about your recording history? Any past albums? What's planned
for the future?
once was almost signed to a major rap label. I wrote a Christmas
rap song, before white chicks were rapping, before rap was huge,
and before everyone was doing Christmas albums. I had met a guy
whose name I won't mention, because I hate name dropping, who called
the head of the label and played my song. I started co-writing with
some known writers, but I got cold feet - I felt fake... a white
chick from the suburbs rapping... I've had other songwriting partners
along the way, and we tried to get something going. Then I picked
up bass and played with Bill Popp and recorded his album, but left
that project and gave up on music altogether. I wasted a few years
in a suit in an office. One day, a song came out of nowhere, and
I went home and wrote it. At that point, I decided to pursue my
own music. I found a producer and put out a demo tape and sent it
around. I got nowhere... didn't know much about the business. Meanwhile,
I performed to tracks at open mics and other events. Eventually,
I returned to college and got my Master's Degree in Media Studies,
all the while, studying the music business. I never wanted to be
a human resources manager, so I never had any interest in putting
a band together, but I realized it was the only way to get my music
heard by others. So I put a band together. We've recorded 4 albums.
I also have been recording other artists and producing them. Ultimately,
a publishing deal would be nice! I love performing. I think I'm
addicted to it, and I'm good at it, but I can't see myself doing
it forever, because the money isn't enough to live on, and it's
incredibly hard to have 3 jobs, which is what I have right now!
I would love to tour and write and tour and write, but that Master's
Degree put me in debt (although I'm paying it off), so I have to
earn a living.
do you get inspiration for your music? Favorite/ influential artists?
Other sources of inspiration besides music?
- I'm very emotional. And I struggle with clinical depression. These
emotions are usually triggered by unfair things in the world and
interpersonal relationships gone weird ... the creepy crappy things
people do to each other. Many songs I've written were cathartic
for me - getting stuff off my chest. I communicate much better in
writing than verbally, so some songs are communication to other
real people in my life - things that I simply can't get out of my
mouth in the moment. Sometimes, the words aren't so nice! Other
times, they are pure love. In terms of negative events and experiences,
I remain hopeful most times. I try to bring positivity into my songs,
because I find that even though people moan when they think lyrics
are corny, the corniest lyrics are what touch our hearts in most
cases. Life can really suck, but people need and crave love, hope
and positive things. I have listened to so many types of music,
and I include jingles and all things television in this statement.
So I can't really tell you that Prince or the Grateful Dead or Janis
Joplin or The Police or the Clash or Sly & The Family Stone,
or any other great artist is my hero, my main inspiration. My parents
and my older sister listened to all kinds of music - from Motown
to Country Joe and The Fish to Crosby Stills Nash & Young. All
of it has been lodged into my psyche, and hence, my writing. I ask
other people what THEY hear as my influences, and the answers I
get are all over the place!
me a bit about your process? How do you write? How do you come up
with new ideas?
varies - I need certain things in my life to be in place in order
to receive ideas from the universe. I need exercise, enough sleep,
nature, leisure time, and time to just goof off and let my mind
meander. If I don't have these things, I simply don't get anything.
When I do get something, the music pops into my head first sometimes,
other times, a lyric pops in, other times, both pop in at the same
time. Then, no matter where I am, I have to sing it into my cell
phone or some recording device. I don't come up with new ideas,
the ideas come to me. I know that sounds unoriginal and airy fairy
new age, but it's true. When I try to come up with something, it
usually doesn't work, unless I have no time limits and am just tinkering
around. Once, a song came to me while sitting at my desk at a corporate,
miserable job that I hated!
me some specific bands that you listen to now and that you listened
to during the formative years when you were influnenced toward pursuing
a career in music?
formative years list is way too huge, and I've gone through many
phases - from my sister, parents and my youth: Sly & The Family
Stone, The Beatles, Carole King, War, Cat Stevens, The Jackson Five
(I had all their records), Smokey Robinson, Crosby, Stills Nash
& Young, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Doors, Marvin Gaye, Stevie
Wonder, Seals & Crofts, David Bowie, The Brothers Johnson, YES,
Genesis, Jethro Tull, Talking Heads, The Police, The Cars, George
Clinton, Tom Tom Club, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Cramps, Blondie,
The Pretenders Later in life: Prince, Kid Creole & The Coconuts,
Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, UB40, Aswad, Nina Hagen, Neville Brothers,
Dana Dane, Rum DMC, Roxy Music, Babyface, Enya, Kitaro, David Byrne
(solo - I went through a Brazilian phase and liked his Rei Momo
album, though it didn't do very well), soca music in general (I'm
of carribean descent), the lyrics to all the country songs I had
to type at a former day job, I went through a Brazilian phase where
I studied the music and dance And I was classically trained on flute,
Handel, Telemann, Pachebel, Vivaldi, etc. I also sang in a punk
band when I first went to college in San Diego - we did X, The Clash,
The Dead Kennedys, Elvis Costello, Black Flag, The Specials, and
- The Radiators, Alison Kraus, Charlie Hunter, Sting, jazz, acid
jazz compilation cd's, Peter Gabriel, but mostly independent bands!
With 3 jobs, it's hard to listen to music, honestly. Plus, I started
a record label last year, so I'm listening to a lot of submissions
(and haven't signed anyone yet but a band called BELT.)
do you want to affect people with your music?
want them to feel as though they are not alone in their struggles,
but also remind people that many struggles are caused by those in
power, and it is important to look at these things. I also sometimes
want to just make people feel good! And I am thrilled when I write
lyrics that make people laugh. I've had a difficult life, in many
ways, because of depression and substance abuse problems, so if
people are encouraged by the fact that I'm not only still alive,
but doing something, that makes me feel like I'm doing something