DT: JULY 12, 2021
FM: MITCH SCHNEIDER/MARCEE RONDAN
Acclaimed Americana singer, songwriter and musician PI JACOBS has shared the first single and video, “First Thing Tomorrow,” from her new album LIVE FROM MEMPHIS out August 13 via Blackbird Record Label. Watch the video for “First Thing Tomorrow,” written by the Los Angeles-based artist in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, here and read a Q&A below. The animated video was created by Turkish surreal artist Mertcan Mertbilek and premiered by Glide Magazine. Listen to the song and its spoken intro here and pre-order the album here.
“The burst of creativity unleashed when Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter, and musician Pi Jacobs lets loose her pipes is one of an explosive strength that runs back to eras of rock past and present,” notes Glide. “Think a mix of Melissa Etheridge, Beth Hart, and Wynonna Judd wrapped around snug vintage musicianship.” Glide also offered this praise: “With heartfelt gritty vocals atop a melodic punch that tugs the listeners’ ears to their favorite twang recordings, Jacobs enthralls with that resourceful musical pull effect, enabling her live renditions to evolve immediately into that of true musical keepers.”
With LIVE FROM MEMPHIS, her first for the label and ninth overall, PI distinctively amplifies the concert experience on the album: it places eight original songs alongside her self-narrated personal stories that shaped them. Recorded with a full band, the project offers a sincere and sometimes funny look at her formative years, her family relationships, and even a few lessons she’s learned along the way.
“I feel like with all art, there’s an important sense of connection for people,” says PI, who has released four albums since 2013 (and nine overall), toured worldwide, and developed a global fanbase. “It’s part of our humanity. We don’t want to feel alone. The only reason to put these stories out is to help people. That’s it. It’s not for my ego–in fact, parts of them are super embarrassing for me!” With a laugh, she continues, “In writing these stories, there’s been a little more acceptance of myself. I can’t even explain that healing feeling I had, but it’s been a happy side effect.”
A blend of roots-rock swagger and storytelling soul, the music on LIVE FROM MEMPHIS comes from PI’s live taping for Ditty TV, which was filmed without an audience. For the set list, she drew six songs from 2020’s Two Truths and a Lie and two others from 2017’s A Little Blue. But rather than using the between-songs banter intended for the viewing audience, she took a page from one of her favorite NPR podcasts and decided to share more of herself than ever before.
“The band and I loved how that concert came out so much,” she says. “I thought, what if I write an intro that’s my very personal inspiration for the song? I was listening to people doing that on the Moth Radio Hour and some of these people are so brave. I thought, well, maybe I could do that, too. So, I started putting these stories on paper.”
There’s little for listeners to fear in her detailed anecdotes, whether they’re about tracking down her absent father in Alaska or paying dues as a starving artist in New York City. However, other topics may feel immediately identifiable to anyone, like the impact of the #MeToo movement or growing up without money.
“Listening to this album as a whole now, I’ve gotten OK with the stories,” she says. “When I first started recording them, I had a couple of panic attacks, like, oh my God, I can’t do this. But now I feel like everyone has stuff.”
As a narrator, PI’s voice is engaging and witty, while her pacing is spot-on, with none of her stories turning into mere ramblings. For example, “First Thing Tomorrow” calls to mind the disappointment and shock that many people felt after the 2016 presidential election. Jacobs admits that she stayed drunk for a long time afterwards, just like the character in the song, but ultimately found redemption in activism.
However, for those who felt differently about that election, you can still relate to the lyrical theme of realizing that things aren’t going the way you anticipated–and that you’re not handling it very well. The animated music video, created by Turkish illustrator Mertcan Mertbilek, adds a fanciful and light feeling to the narrative.
Tellingly, LIVE FROM MEMPHIS concludes on an upbeat vibe with “Good Things,” a rousing song brimming with positive energy that she frequently saves for encores.
“It just has that feel. It’s uptempo and happy and that story has a nice message,” she says. “Just when you think things are darkest, the thing you least expect to happen will be a good thing.”
Q&A with PI JACOBS ABOUT “FIRST THING TOMORROW”
SONG AND VIDEO
What inspired you to write the song about the outcome of the 2016 election?
The beginning phrase, “Oh I’ve been drunk since the election” just popped into my head. It was funny, but also a little poignant. I wanted to try and write something light because I was having such a difficult time emotionally with the political atmosphere. I was depressed, drinking more than I should, and had a sense of impending doom that had started on that day in November. Music and humor seemed like a good way to deal with what I was feeling.
How did subsequently becoming involved as a social activist ultimately lessen the heartbreak of the election result?
I’m a “do-er” by nature. At first, I was so devastated that Trump won, and by all the subsequent actions (the wall, the Supreme Court, etc etc) that I found myself incapable of really doing much. I finally decided that action, even if it was futile, was better than sitting around feeling bad–and that I should stand up for what I believe even if it changed nothing.
What are your thoughts about the video and how the animation matches up with the song’s sentiment?
I think the video is hilarious and whimsical. I wanted it to be light-hearted, and Mertcan (Mertbilek) is such a humorous and surreal artist, he really delivered that. At the same time he really grasped my personal pain and struggle, and I love how my character goes from miserable to joyful and silly.
The LIVE FROM MEMPHIS track list is as follows:
“Broken Cup” intro
“First Thing Tomorrow” intro
“First Thing Tomorrow”
“Party Girl” intro
“Weed And Wine” intro
“Weed And Wine”
“Diana The Hunter” intro
“Diana The Hunter”
“No Sin to be Poor” intro
“No Sin to be Poor”
“Good Things” intro
(Photo credit: Deb Morrisson Little, @shotsbymorrison)
PRESS ACCOLADES AND MEDIA REACH
Pi’s previous album Two Truths and a Lie was released Feb. 21, 2020 has been heard on NPR, DittyTV, Austin Music TV, The Alternate Root Magazine, Americana Highways, American Songwriter Magazine, and regularly on Radio Tastemakers, KCSN (LA), and WFUV (NYC), as well as stations across the nation, reaching #27 on the Alt Country Chart, and #25 on the Relix-Jamband Chart.
“Jacobs creates vivid images on par with masters like Tom Waits” —Americana Highways
“…a sultry, feminine, outlaw kind of sound” —American Songwriter
“the ease and wisdom of greats like Dolly Parton and Kris Kristofferson, she belongs in their company.” —Rock and Blues Muse
“nothing here that doesn’t impress at every turn. Hot. This’ll do to you what Lucinda’s white album did to you.” —Midwest Record
“Divorce…whiskey…legal problems…cheaters…lies. Whatever story comes next, it’s going to be a good one.” –Twangville