Thursday, December 3, 2015

PUYB Chats with Heather Jacks, author of 'The Noise Beneath the Apple'

Heather Jacks was raised on Indian reservation in southeastern Oregon, until age fifteen, at which time; she was chosen to be an ‘experimental exchange student’ to Australia. She went down under, with an organization called YFU, Youth for Understanding, and spent 10.5 months turning16 in the Outback.  When she returned, she attended college, and received an FCC license, followed by completing a B.A. from USF and two years of study at UC Davis.

During her twenties, she traveled extensively, worked in the music industry in various capacities; radio, production, A&R, booking and eventually, landed at a new and young company, called Starbucks, where she worked on a Star Team and opened new stores in remote markets.

Music has always been her passion and during her tenure at Starbucks, she helped launch Hear Music, which today is Starbucks Music Label. Eventually, she returned to the business side of music at a major indie label, where she had a number of roles, from concert production to glorified babysitter.

An avid TV Junkie, die-hard SF Giants fiend and unapologetic Twitter practitioner, she recently won a Book of the Year Award for her multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple®; A Celebration of Busking in New York City, which was inspired by her love for street music, busking and the people who make it.

She currently hangs her hat in San Francisco and am is working on the Bay Area version of the TNBTA® busker project.
For More Information
About the Book:

Title: The Noise Beneath the Apple: A Celebration of Busking in the Bay Area
Author: Heather Jacks
Publisher: TNBTA Media
Pages: 200
Genre: Media & Performing Arts

The Noise Beneath the Apple® is a hardcover, Limited Edition Art-Style/Coffee Table book, presented in an elegant slipcase. It measures 12″ x 12″ and celebrates buskers and street music in New York City. It includes a history, evolution and culture of busking, photos, interviews and commentary with 35 of NYC’s prominent street musicians. A cherry red vinyl record, of 11 tracks of original music, mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning Reuben Cohen, (Slumdog Millionaire, Frozen), is page 200. At the culmination of the project, 30 participants went to Grand Street Recording in Brooklyn, where they covered Billy Joel's hit song, New York State of Mind. A 12 minute short film and music video were created from that day and are included with the book, making this project, truly multi-media. The project won a Book of the Year Award in the category of Performing Arts & Music.

For More Information

  • The Noise Beneath the Apple: A Celebration of Busking in the Bay Area is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at her website for less!
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Can we begin by having you tell us how you got interested in music? 
Heather: The very first album, I heard was, David Bowie’s—The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust. I was 6 or 7 years old, living on Indian reservation, in the southeastern part of Oregon. We had no modern amenities, including electricity. This album arrived in the form of a cassette tape, via the hippies; those odd folks who were on a quest to escape ‘the man’ or ‘find themselves’; which might have been the same thing.
It was in the early seventies, and I was absolutely mesmerized by the magic of this contraption. I trekked that little battery powered player and lone tape everywhere with me. Starman, Rock & Roll Suicide, Moonage Daydream and the entire Ziggy saga, became the background to my days. I LOVED everything about this album; the story, the emotion that Ziggy evoked and the way my imagination would chase him over the sand dunes of our land.
Time marched on, and I left the rez at the age of 15; but, music, in all its incarnations, continued to be a constant. I love discovering the stories behind the songs, knowing that they too will pass; but, in some way they capture a moment in time, and hold it there for others to stumble upon. 
I still listen to my records and I still love The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust. My son recently discovered Bowie, and the timeless journey of Ziggy, starts anew. That is some kind of magic.
For those who don’t know, what exactly is “busking”? 
Heather: In its simplest definition, busking is performing on street corners in exchange for money. It can be any street performance; mime, music, poetry, dance.  It is a profession and culture that has been with us for over 8,000 years; pre-dating the Roman Empire and the Latin Language. It exists—(and has existed) throughout the entire world. The next oldest profession is also an exchange for alms: prostitution.
What kind of street music that you have seen in either San Francisco or NYC that really stood out and was unforgettable?
Heather:  Oh, I love this question! I’ve interviewed over 500 street musicians across the country, and the great thing is; no two are ever the same. An amazing aspect to the busking culture is that it changes every day. You can step outside your door, amble down a sidewalk and discover something new EVERY time, in EVERY City; NYC, St. Louis, NoLa, San Francisco, and on and on...  And everything is represented, from Kora’s to Sitars, Bucket Drummers to Opera Vocalists. You cannot say the same thing about mainstream music.
The best music being made right now, is being made in the streets; and that’s part of the reason there is such a current interest in it; case in point; Fantastic Negrito. I am digging the music and sound of this Oakland, California, artist, in an almost ‘stalkerish’ way.  Honestly, he will revolutionize and impact you at a core level. Just give him a listen, and tell me if I’m wrong!
Every city is different; St. Louis introduced me to Franglais—this crazy, great French/Jazz duo; NYC introduced me to Kip Rosser, who plays a Theremin, of all things. San Francisco is delivering everything from Mariachi to Urban Roots. If you dig music, all music, the street is the place to find it.
Your book, The Noise Beneath the Apple is a limited edition art-style coffee table book. Why did you decide that this was the kind of book you wanted to put together? 
Heather: I’m really glad you asked this, because I get it a lot. I wanted to do an art book, to help celebrate the culture of busking and break down some of the myths surrounding it—you know the ones; they’re homeless, talentless, can’t get real gigs. This is largely untrue. No one has ever sought to capture street performers in this very artistic way.

Of course, I then learned that the number of traditional publishers, who produce art books, dwindles every year. There’s no money in it. Production costs are high and return is minimal. I had one publisher express interest in backing the book, but, there were a lot of strings attached; one being that the focus was to be on the hard times buskers’ face, which wasn’t at all in alignment with my vision—(although heartache and misery, sells better!)
I made a list of pros/cons, and realized that doing a book of this nature, on my own terms, required exactly that; me doing it on my own terms. This is not a project you are going to find at B&N; nor does it really belong there. It is an artistic expression; which belongs in a different venue.
I could have created a smaller book, a paperback, something a little more mass media, but again; I wanted to create a piece of art; something bigger than all the individual sums. We definitely did that, with book, film, vinyl record and cover song! I think it is timeless.

Your book won a Book of the Year Award in the category of Performing Arts & Music. How did that make you feel? 
Heather: To say it was a huge honor, is an absolute understatement. I was terrified, because here I was, with a very niche project about busking—(most people didn’t know what it was)--that I had independently financed, produced and created via crowdfunding—(thank you Rockethub!), very amazing supporters…and two Patrons, who simply believed in me: Gaines Coleman and Sr. Oso--John Seiter.
So, here I am—a little nobody- sharing the category with these Big Kahunas; Rizzoli, SUNY Purchase, Harvard Business. So to win, was stellar and shocking; but, perhaps most important, it inspired and emboldened me. Every step of this process had been new and rife with challenge. I had never done it before. But all things are hard, until you know how to do them. That validation encouraged me to continue on documenting, celebrating and creating within this curious culture of busking.
And it was really cool, to share that success with those who got behind me from the beginning.
What’s next for you, Heather?
Heather: A very cool thing just happened, and that is that NIQUEA.D in New York City is going to carry my TNBTA®: NYC Book Project, in their two beautiful boutiques. It’s a big deal for a project of this nature, because it is so unique and different, and people don’t know what to do with it!
Currently I am working on the Bay Area version of this project, complete with book, film and music. I’ve been trolling the streets of the bay, interviewing, getting ready to shoot the photos, etc...

1 comment:

  1. Wow - I'm impressed. You know, I never understood what busking was until now. I'd heard of it because Russell Crowe's band talked about it but never really knew what it was. Since I live in the San Francisco Bay Area this is significant to me. I wasn't aware there was true talent "on the streets", so to speak.