Every Wednesday, WERS presents Wicked Local Wednesday, our program dedicated to bringing you music and interviews with artists in the Boston/New England area. Tune in at 9 p.m. every Wednesday night to hear songs from these local bands looking to share their music with the world! To learn more about the artists you hear on the program, check here on our WERS Music Blog for weekly Wicked Local Wednesday interviews.
In this interview, Emerson College student Josie Arthur — the singer-songwriter known as JOBIE — talks with Web Services Coordinator Nora Onanian about the story behind her signature red cowboy boots, what her dream collaboration would be, and much more.
I KNOW YOU'RE ATTENDING EMERSON CURRENTLY, SO YOU'RE BASED AT LEAST PARTIALLY IN BOSTON, BUT WHERE IS HOME FOR YOU?
JA: I'm from Richmond, Virginia, originally.
I ALSO SAW THAT YOU RECENTLY SPENT A MONTH IN GREECE. IS THAT RIGHT?
JA: Yeah, I did! Yeah, that was for a study abroad thing through Emerson. It was really fun.
THAT'S AWESOME. I WAS GOING TO ASK, DO YOU FIND THAT PLACE LIKE MANIFESTS A LOT IN YOUR MUSIC? DO YOU THINK YOUR SOUND OR THE TOPICS THAT YOU WRITE ABOUT ARE PULLED A LOT FROM YOUR SURROUNDINGS?
JA: Yeah, I think for sure. I think visuals and a general geographic location influence the mood and I guess sound behind a lot of songs.
Like in my song “Scorpio.” it's about this specific street. I mean, you would know because you go to Emerson. [...] The intersection of Boylston and Tremont and how that connects to the Common. My song “Scorpio” is directly influenced by that specific place. Every time I sing the song, I sort of envision being back there. And I envision the way that the street lights look and stuff.
And when I was in Greece, I actually wrote a couple of songs about the location. The subject matter of the whole song is not about the location, but I used anecdotes and stuff from my experiences there in the songs that I wrote. So yeah, I would say for sure!
THAT'S VERY COOL. I WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO BRING UP “SCORPIO” AS AN EXAMPLE [ I NOTICED] OF THAT.
JA: Oh cool!
DO YOU WANT TO TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT ["SCORPIO"] AND HOW [IT] CAME TO BE?
JA: Yeah. It was just about like this one person I knew kind of. I didn't really know them super well. But like I had just an experience with them that inspired me to write that song.
I kind of wonder if the person listens to the song and if they know it's about them. But also… it was more about me than it was about that person, I guess. It was the feeling that they created in me — [they] made me think about a lot of things. And I just sort of wanted to paint that picture through a song.
AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE SAID THAT THEY RELATED TO IT, TOO, WHICH IS COOL.
JA: Yeah! I really like getting messages and stuff from people. I primarily just get a couple messages from people who go to Emerson. They're like, ‘Oh, I really relate to the song’ and ‘This song is getting me through a tough time,’ or something, and I'm like, ‘Oh my God!’
But I think that's the goal — to, like, provide catharsis for people. Yeah, that's happening and I think I'm pretty satisfied.
LET'S MOVE ON TO YOUR BACKGROUND A LITTLE BIT. I SAW IN ANOTHER INTERVIEW THAT YOU SAID YOUR PARENTS ARE BOTH PRETTY MUSICAL WHICH KIND OF WORK INFLUENCED YOUR PATH TO BECOMING A MUSICIAN YOURSELF. SO I WANTED TO ASK WHAT KIND OF GENRES AND ARTISTS THEY EXPOSED YOU TO GROWING UP?
JA: Um… I'm trying to think of songs I listened to as a child. The song that really sticks out, I guess, that I'm thinking about, is — I think my mom showed it to me — “Sunshine on my Shoulders” by John Denver. A lot of ’80s classic rock, I would say, would just play on the radio when I was in the car with my dad. And my mom would show me a lot of singer-songwriter-y types of stuff. And I was listening to sort of light rock radio with my mom. So I heard a lot of early Kelly Clarkson or like early Taylor Swift and stuff playing on the radio. So I think that definitely influenced me.
My parents also, my dad plays a lot of bluegrass and folk music. So a lot of those old country standards, I think. My mom showed me a lot of stuff by Dolly Parton, I think. She would make these little CDs for me. And that's like I think where I first started listening to music. I also would listen to a lot of musical theater growing up. I would listen to Wicked and High School Musical.
But all of this I'm talking about is like when I was really little. I kind of don't have a great memory of everything.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST PICK UP THE GUITAR? I KNOW THAT'S KIND OF YOUR SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE STYLE OF JUST YOU AND THE GUITAR.
JA: Mmhm! I think it was Elementary school, I was starting to play the ukulele and stuff. And I was okay at that — I could play chords. But then I think when I was around 16, that's when I picked up the guitar. And I was like, actually really not good at it. But I could play chords and get by.
But actually, I started to get more self-sufficient at it over quarantine. Because I was practicing so much and writing so many songs in that time period. And I think that's when I realized that this kind of thing was really actually important to me in my life.
VERY COOL. ANOTHER PART OF YOUR KIND OF SIGNATURE PERFORMANCE STYLE — OR WHAT IT’S COME TO BE IS THE RED COWBOY BOOTS. I WAS GOING TO ASK ABOUT THOSE. WHERE DID YOU GET THEM? IS THERE A STORY?
JA: I can’t remember where I got them, but the brand that they are is Cheyenne, and I think you can probably get them online.
Probably why I got the red cowboy boots… there's two reasons. When I was a little kid, I really loved the show Adventure Time and the character Marceline, who's a vampire, she has like these red boots. And then also, a little bit later than that, when I was probably like 11, there's an episode of How I Met Your Mother where one of the characters wears red cowboy boots.
I feel like Red is just an accent color for me. It's kind of a theme in my life for some reason. I don't even know. I can't explain it. But it felt really fitting to wear red cowboy boots.
But also… the main reason, I think, was because in my song, “All For One,” I have a lyric about a girl wearing cowboy boots. And I was like, ‘Yo it would be so cool if I just wore some cowboy boots.’
OKAY. I WASN'T SURE IF THE LYRIC CAME FIRST, OR, IF IT WAS THE BOOTS THAT CAME FIRST, AND THEN THE LYRIC.
JA: Yeah, I think I think it was honestly the lyric that came first and then it was like self-fulfilling.
I HEARD YOU DESCRIBE HOW USING THE NAME JOBIE FOR YOUR MUSIC VERSUS YOUR GIVEN NAME, JOSIE ARTHUR, HAS TO DO WITH KIND OF SEPARATING THOSE PERSONAS, WHICH I THOUGHT WAS PRETTY INTERESTING. COULD YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT LIKE THE IDEA BEHIND THAT?
JA: I am Josie Arthur, but my goal is to make JOBIE like… I feel like if it's something separate from myself, then I can, like, actually put stuff into it instead of, like, me consuming everything. I'm almost providing a vehicle for my art and making it something outside of myself.
But also, I think it's kind of fun because I feel like it's always ever-changing. I feel like JOBIE is kind of like a character. But also, me. But in my life… I've always kind of felt like a character in a story. And I think JOBIE is kind of a representation that it's like me, but it's also not.
WE KIND OF COVERED OFF ON LIKE SOME OLDER ARTISTS THAT INFLUENCED YOU EARLIER. WHAT KIND OF MODERN ARTISTS DO YOU TURN TO A LOT FOR INSPIRATION?
JA: I'm not so sure. I think it changes all the time, because I feel like I absorb a lot of stuff through osmosis. I could say I really think that I started to be influenced to actually pursue this as a career when I listened to Phoebe Bridgers’ album Stranger in the Alps.
What she was doing, the type of music she was making and the way that she was singing and the lyrics and the subject matter that she sang about… It felt, I guess, really applicable to me and my life. And I think in my life I'd been apprehensive to do music. It was always something I liked and I was always writing songs and my parents were musical. But I think one of the reasons I maybe felt apprehensive to pursue it fully was that I didn't feel like my voice was strong enough. I felt like I had a good voice for theater, but I didn't think that my voice would be widely appealing to a big audience or anything like that.
But hearing Phoebe Bridgers’ voice — I mean, she has a great voice… but what she does, though, is kind of more raw and more stripped back. And I was like, ‘Oh, I love this. I think this sounds freaking amazing.’ And like, if she can do this… like if her voice is like this… I mean, my voice is kind of like that… Maybe it would be worthwhile for me to do this if people actually liked this music.
I didn't realize people liked music like that. And then I started getting into like a lot of female artists over quarantine. Like I was really inspired by Alanis Morissette. I would say her album, Jagged Little Pill. I listened to that a lot. Just kind of the angst and the honesty that came through in that album. I was really inspired by that. For my song “Scorpio,” I was kind of going into writing it, I think I'd been listening to a lot of Mitski, and I was like, ‘I kind of want to make this sound like a Mitski song.’
I don't know if this is true, but I think some of my rhymes or lyrical flow or like my rhyme structures — maybe not in the music that I have out now — [but] I think that it could also be subconsciously influenced by Kanye. Because I listen to Kanye a lot. I think that he's totally an asshole. But, like, he has good music. Which really sucks. I don't like when that happens.
But as of recently, an artist that I am really inspired by… just like the subject matter of the album that she just put out, but also the mood and feeling and the story that's being told… Ethel Cain. Do you know who that is?
YES, I LOVE ETHEL CAIN!
Oh my god, that album — Preacher's Daughter — is so good. So that's my current inspiration, honestly. I'm really inspired by that.
I SAW YOU RECENTLY FEATURED ON A SONG BY A FELLOW EMERSON STUDENT’S MUSICAL PROJECT LASTVIOLETS. I THINK THE SONG WAS CALLED “EVERYTHING CHANGES.” I WAS WONDERING, WAS THAT KIND OF YOUR FIRST FORMAL MUSICAL COLLABORATION?
JA: Yes, that was my first formal musical collaboration. Or like the first thing that ever got put out or anything. I one time recorded some vocals for this EDM type song by this guy at Berklee, but I don't know if that ever got put out. And then I worked with people in the past. But this was the first thing that was a collaboration that ever got put out.
And it happened really fast. LASTVIOLETS — Vincent — sent me the track and was like, ‘Oh, can you write a verse for this?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And then I just recorded it in my basement at home in Richmond, and then he put it out like a few weeks later.
HAVE YOU DONE A LOT OF INFORMAL COLLABORATION BEFORE THAT, OR ARE YOU LOOKING TO DO MORE?
JA: Yeah, I would totally do more collaborations with people if I feel that the project is worthwhile, I guess. Or, if I enjoy working with the person and if I feel like the project or song or whatever it may be, is aligned with the music that I'm putting out currently.
I feel like the song I just put out, “Supermodel,” that was a collaboration with this guy named Aiden, who went to Emerson. He goes by Sean Waters on music streaming platforms.
I felt good about releasing the LASTVIOLETS song and then “Supermodel.” I was glad that it worked out that they released sort of in conjunction because I feel like the mood is a little bit similar. It's more like pop than maybe what I would normally do.
But I think it is really cool. I worked hard on both projects and I'm proud of them.
VERY HYPOTHETICAL, BUT IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ANYONE, NO LIMITS, WHO WOULD YOUR DREAM COLLABORATION BE? OR YOU CAN LIST MULTIPLE IF THAT’S TOO MUCH PRESSURE.
JA: It's literally just Grimes. I would collab with Grimes
ICONIC. IS THERE AN EXPLANATION?
JA: I literally would just want to meet her. And because she's so baffling to me and so interesting. I really like her music.
Yeah. That's my dream collaboration.
I can't really think of who else would fit… Maybe someone like HAIM or like Maggie Rogers or something like that kind of vibe. I don't know, I feel like that would be interesting.
YEAH, THAT’D BE FUN! AND THEN RETURNING TO YOUR MOST RECENT SINGLE, “SUPERMODEL,” WROTE THAT IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY FIT THE STYLE OF SOME OF YOUR MORE CURRENT WORKS. SO I WANTED TO ASK, WHAT'S KIND OF HELPED YOU FIND YOUR STYLE? DO YOU FEEL THAT IT'S CONSTANTLY CHANGING OR DO YOU LIKE KIND OF HAVE A FEEL NOW OF LIKE, ‘YEP, THIS IS IT’?
JA: I do feel like it's constantly changing. But I think my style right now... I have this EP that I'm planning to release. I’ll release singles for it in the fall and then hopefully have it all released by January of next year. That is a pretty specific style. I guess it's kind of like indie-folk-pop, alternative indie-rock, folk-pop. It's just like that kind of thing.
And I feel like a lot of the music I've released in the past is more home produced. Aside from “Supermodel,”I did all of it in my basement. Like it was all just like home, DIY.
Before I do all the stuff with my EP, I hope to release another single that I did in my basement just to close that chapter and then move on to the next thing. I don't know why I do this, but I want to sort of define eras of my life and make it cohesive through my music and the stuff I’m about to put out for the EP, I'm really, really proud of it. I produced all of it. I did it at the studio. It was like a guy's home studio.So technically it's still done at home, but it's just like fancier than anything that I could do in my basement.
But that, I'm really proud of. I had a lot at my disposal and I feel like it really came out the way that I wanted it to sound. So I'm really excited to share that.
But I think in the future, I don't know. The music I'm writing right now, like there's kind of a lag time between, like, stuff I put out and then the stuff I'm writing. So the music I'm writing right now, I'm not totally sure what the genre is. I kind of feel like you can make a song any genre, whether you play it fast or slow or like what tempo you play it.
But I think what's most important is just writing catchy, honest, truthful songs. I think that's what people like the most— if something is witty, catchy, but also honest.
I mean, if you're trying to go for emotional vulnerability — which I feel like is part of my thing, just because that's what I enjoy about putting out music — it's kind of empowering to be like, ‘these are my feelings and deal with them. More than deal with them.. You're going to like them... It's going to be stuck in your head.’ I don't know.
But also, I think it's important to not limit yourself to genre so much.
AND I WAS ACTUALLY GOING TO ASK ABOUT UPCOMING PROJECTS. YOU KIND OF COVERED IT A GOOD AMOUNT. ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD ON TO THAT OF WHAT'S COMING NEXT?
JA: Yeah, so I think the EP I'm going to put out. I'm still working on all the logistics and stuff, but all the music is done. It's six songs. Honestly, you know what, I've got to think more about the whole theme of it. But the instrumentation is really cool. I think honestly, a lot of the instrumentation is super inspired by… it's kind of like early Taylor Swift vibes. But also a little bit like Mazzy Star. And then I'm also pretty inspired by the Lumineers, like their lyricism. I like that a lot.
THAT JUST MADE ME THINK OF ANOTHER QUESTION. DO YOU HAVE ANY NONMUSICAL INFLUENCES?
JA: Okay… I don't like Kanye as a person… I don't really condone his actions… but I do think that his artistic career is something that I really admire. That he’s just kind of like, ‘I'm an artist. I draw, I paint,, I do fashion, I do interior design, I make music. I just do a ton of stuff.’ And I think that Grimes is kind of like that as well, like creative-directing your own self.
Personally, I think the reason I produce all my music is because… first, I'm kind of a control freak and I care about it so much. I have such a specific vision for everything. So that's, I think, why I try to do it all myself. And it's very DIY
[...] I think I admire them non-musically because I might not be super directly influenced by their music, but their careers I admire. Not saying I would ever want to be as big as either of them. But I guess their outlook is interesting to me. Bbut I do recognize that both of them are kind of problematic in their own way at the same time..
I THINK THEY'RE BOTH JUST ARTISTS IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD.
JA: Yeah. And I feel like that is the way that I am.
Catch JOBIE’s concert tonight on Wicked Local Wednesday! Every Wednesday at 9 p.m. we play music from Boston-based bands you won't hear anywhere else.