As someone who was taught at the Royal Academy of Music, Midori Jaeger makes music that is perhaps surprising. The artist, who was trained as a classical cellist, manages to blend multiple genres and create music that is refreshing and different. We spoke to her about her brilliant single ‘See’, what inspires her and how she uses her classical training to create something new.
RC: Hi Midori, can you describe the music you make in three words?
MJ: Rhythmic, personal, sensitive
RC: You were trained as a cellist before moving onto a completely different sound that mixes various genres. What made you make that change and how did you discover your particular sound?
MJ: Through my years training as a cellist I was amazed by classical music’s harmony, emotional depth, and the hard work required to physically play it. But everything I listened to outside of my training had rhythm and I frankly wasn’t getting enough of that through playing classical music. I always sang and composed music even when outwardly I was only presenting myself as a cellist, probably out of shyness. But I think the departure from classical music was always going to happen. The blend of styles in my music today is a result of me wanting to create something that doesn’t exist already, while incorporating things I like about folk, jazz, classical, soul, hip-hop, into one sound that I can express through the instrument I’m closest to. In terms of this upcoming EP, the co-producer and I certainly followed our instincts a lot while crafting the sounds on the record; I’m not sure how much of it was done consciously to try to discover anything. I think we each did our thing, got some great players to improvise, added some touches, stopped when it felt done, and thankfully ended up somewhere we both liked!
RC: What are you most inspired by? Do you feel your classical training still has a big influence in your music?
MJ: At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious, I’m inspired by the feeling of being moved aesthetically. It can come from anything: the way the clouds look in the sky, a beautiful-tasting meal, a dancer’s movement, a coffee, the pattern of rust, the look on someone’s face, a colour, a play. I think my classical training influences my work ethic (I still feel terrible when I don’t practise cello for one day), it still governs how unforgiving I am when it comes to my own playing and singing, and in terms of writing, probably it affects the sorts of chords I use!
RC: Your latest track ‘See’, was inspired by your sleep paralysis: what inspired you to use this experience for a song and what was the process of making it like?
MJ: I had originally written a whole different set of lyrics for ‘See’. The song used to be called something really strange like ‘Experts’ and the lyrics had a theme I was never convinced by. Then I woke up one morning in January 2020 after the sleep paralysis, wrote a few words down, and I knew this was right. I think as a songwriter you have to trust your instincts because (quite simply) nobody can write your song for you, if it is going to be truly yours. For me the subject matter suited the nervy, pacy energy of the music. It felt cathartic to put that experience into a song.
RC: Your first EP was released in 2020. How do you feel your music has changed over the time and how does your upcoming EP differ from your first one?
MJ: My upcoming EP explores specific experiences personal to me, things that I would have been afraid to write about a couple of years ago, for fear of people in my life finding out! Since then a major change lyrically has been to put as much of myself in there as I want to. Previously I had felt so exposed purely by the fact that I was writing a song at all, which meant I was sometimes still hiding behind my own words. Musically, since this EP was recorded entirely remotely during the isolation of 2020, the soundworld was crafted more deliberately and over a longer time than my first EP which was recorded with 3 other musicians in a studio in 12 hours! Both processes had their unique benefits, but I felt that the more detailed and personalised approach of the upcoming EP suited the newer songs which perhaps express more sides of my emotional world.
RC: After a tough year for the music industry, how has the pandemic affected your music-making process?
MJ: It has been such a challenging year. I’ve felt very blessed in that I’m based in a city close to many great friends who are also musicians and who have recording equipment. And phones. That was what made this past year still feel musical; I had remote recording projects, my friends and peers were releasing music, and conversations about music and creativity could still continue. The lack of external activity actually really helped my songwriting, as there were no distractions from listening to the stuff going on inside. That being said, absolutely nothing matches that feeling of losing oneself completely while playing music with others.
RC: Apart from the release of your upcoming EP, what are you most excited about for the coming year?
MJ: Traveling abroad?! My family all live in Japan and the US and I really treasure travelling to new places each year so I am extremely excited to do this again (and also sincerely hoping it’s actually possible). I am also eagerly anticipating the EP launch show which will be scheduled for the summer.
RC: Is there any particular venue you would love to play in and why?
MJ: I really like EartH in Hackney and would love to play in the theatre, simply because of the Art Deco aesthetic and how it’s a bit of a mix between a serious sit-down listening venue and something a bit more casual.
RC: Lastly, if you could perform with any musician, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
MJ: I’d like to perform – or even just play – with J S Bach because I’d like to gain an insight into how he thought about harmonic progression and the movement of bass notes. I’d also ask him what he thought about other music being written during his time, and what he thinks of some of the hits of today.
See is out now on all major streaming platforms.