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Jay Som - Wisdom Beyond Her Years

Jay Som - Credit: Cara Robbins
30 April 2017

Photo by Cara Robbins
The fact that Bay Area resident Melina Duterte’s debut LP (last year’s ‘Turn Into’), is essentially nothing but a collection of self-released bedroom demos speaks volumes not only to the multi-instrumentalist’s penchant for smart song-craft but also to her enormous future potential. Garnering attention from the Polyvinyl Record Company, her debut was given the reissue treatment. Looking back, she offers, “They were the first label to be on board with me and were super patient and helpful. I’ve been buying records from them since I was a kid so it still feels like a dream! The reissue has the same audio files as before, I felt like it needed to stand alone untouched since it’s still considered a collection of songs. I probably would have been crazy stressed about making it sound “better”.”
Now that her second record ‘Everybody Works’ is out in the world, it is even more surprising how conservative her approach was towards her sophomore effort. She reflects, “I took more of a traditional approach since it was my first time releasing an actual album with a label. I spent more time thinking about the track listing/order and how cohesive each track flows. It’s still me doing all the producing, instruments, and mixing.” Her blend of indie pop prowess and intricate instrumentation is reinforced by the influences she shares.
Death Cab For Cutie and The Microphones! Both were crucial and the reason why I wanted to start recording and writing my own music. They taught me how to be vulnerable with my writing – also huge influences on how I play guitar.”
Jay Som live - Credit: James Broscheid
Photo by James Broscheid
Her fascination with instrumentation began at a relatively early age and has persisted ever since. “I realized I could try and play most accessible instruments when I picked up the trumpet after self-teaching myself how to play guitar. I was a band geek so I had plenty of instruments around me to experiment with!” Unlike, say, Andrew Bird, her limitations are self-evident, “I have a full band on tour because I hate playing solo and loops are too scary and hard for me!” Duterte took on a stretch of early Spring dates this year co-headlining with The Courtneys in which her excitement early on in the tour could hardly be contained! “(We) just finished The Drums tour and we’re on the third night of The Courtneys tour and it’s been incredible so far. They’re extremely nice and super talented and I feel like our crowds mesh well together. I’ve been super nervous every night because the audiences are so quiet when we play, maybe out of respect? It’s so nice.”
Despite her young age (22), she offers incredible insight from the perspective of being a woman in music. “It’s different and you have to work extra hard for people to take you seriously.” Continuing, “Luckily, surrounding yourself and connecting with other women in music is a rare opportunity and there are so many killing it in so many platforms (bands, agents, managers, promoters, etc.) right now (who) deserve to be at the forefront.”
Finally, Melina considers the scene she has become a part of and, when asked about her Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire disaster last year, offers a contemplative viewpoint beyond her years, “It’s awful that it takes a tragedy for greater society to become aware of the sometimes unstable conditions artists put themselves in due to lack of spaces and opportunities.” Her humility is on display yet again when she concludes, “Knowing there are so many hardworking people in every DIY scene makes me grateful for all the opportunities that are handed to me.”

Catch Jay Som this summer both stateside and abroad:

5/19 Brighton, UK @ The Green Door Store for The Great Escape Festival

5/20 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin

5/23 London, UK @ The Garage

5/24 London, UK @ Sebright Arms

5/28 The Gorge, WA @ Sasquatch Festival

6/3 Nelsonville, OH @ Nelsonville Music Festival

6/6 Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade

6/8 Brooklyn, NY @ Northside Festival

6/9 Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo

6/11 Chicago, IL @ Green Music Fest

6/17 San Francisco, CA @ Phono Del Sol Festival

7/29 Detroit, MI @ MO POP Festival

8/3+4 Happy Valley, OR @ Pickathon Festival

9/9 Santa Fe, NM @ Meow Wolf

9/10 Boulder, CO @ Fox Theatre

9/11 Omaha, NE @ Reverb Lounge

9/13 Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo Back Room

9/14 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean

9/16 Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern

9/19 Boston, MA @ Sinclair

9/22 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church

9/23 Washington D.C. @ Rock & Roll Hotel

9/24 Raleigh/Durham, NC @ Local 506

9/25 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade

9/27 Austin, TX @ Sidewinder

9/29 Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar

9/30 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar