Out of Kentucky, multi-talented singer songwriter Jasmine Poole has released her new single/music video “I Don’t Mind”. Wonky Tonk being about 10 years in the making, Poole is constantly on the road touring spreading her music all around the United States with dedicated and unmatched artistic ability. Below we dive into the mind of a committed stalwart, who is very strong willed more than most musicians you may know. All questions answered by Jasmine Poole herself.
When did you begin writing and playing instruments? What really inspired you?
At age 13, I moved in with my dad, he hired this man Rick – bald on top, epic red mullet. He would come over every Tuesday with his unplugged, cherry red flyin’ V and we would sit at the dining room table while he told me about friggian and dorian modes.
I had no idea what he was saying. Heck, just last month I learned what ‘gain’ is. Rick taught me CCR “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and I asked to follow that up with Sum 41 “Fat Lip.”
I tried really hard to understand the theory. My friends Duckworth and Jude and I formed this punk/emo band called “The Green Angels.” Duckworth would write the songs on bass, we would practice in Jude’s garage and I would be sitting on the floor trying desperately to figure out what Rick had taught me… scales steps and modes…what a ridiculous sight. Duckworth would always yell at me “THERE IS NO SITTING IN PUNK ROCK.” So, I stood up and played some terrible shit. A few years, 3 Warped Tours, and countless mosh pits later, I began playing guitar and banjo. I was really into The Moldy Peaches, The Cramps, Ugly Casanova, Rilo Kiley, Rancid, John Prine. We would play around the living room – kids my age and local music stars – … but still, at that point I would mostly just observe. Before ‘Wagon Wheel’ became the Freebird of our generation, I played banjo in an Old Crow Medicine Show cover band called “the Salad Units.” This band was formed for one purpose: to be the soundtrack of the high school play The Great Easter Egg Hunt. Jr. year of high school I had an epic chemistry class, Ms. Smith was the teacher. Our exams were to make some sort of movie explaining something involving chemistry. So, my friends and I made “the Drug Movie.”
This parodied: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Spun and Trainspotting. The main song, which accompanied the stop animation of how drugs affected your brain, was a rip off of “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches (like 6 years later, when Juno came out and I had many a laugh from people of the past telling me the movie stole “the Drug Song”…if they only knew!). Well, that song became such a hit that my friend Annie and I formed The Wonky Donkeys. We sang about green beans, taste buds, pathological liars, sunshine and various other innocent notions. I tried my hand at booking shows…our first show, and the one that my family (even my grandma) came to, was at “Doc’s Show Bar.” Yes, it was a strip club. There I was with my acoustic guitar, playing through an orange Marshall amp with strippers behind me, singing songs about green beans to my grandma in the audience. Needless to say, the owner said we were better than the Indigo Girls and we were always welcome back. Anywho, what really inspired me? Kids my age in bands like The Frankl Project, Black Tie Bombers, The Tillers, The Ass Ponies, The Heartless Bastards and so on. Live music saved my soul. I always likened myself to a weird mashup of William Miller and Penny Lane from the movie Almost Famous…caught in the middle of being “too sweet for rock and roll” and having nowhere else to go. I was young, I was shy. I am older now, still shy. Always on the outside. So if you can’t beat ‘em and you can’t join ‘em…then get on stage.
That is what Wonky Tonk is.
How long have you been writing under the name Wonky Tonk? Is there any other group you have written with/for?
“I can’t remember where the lines were fused. I reckon Wonky Tonk came about, oh dear Lord, 10 years ago. I am old enough to say that. You never think you’d get there. The Green Angels, The Salad Units, The Wonky Donkeys, Royal Holland, The Stick Figures, some other stuff. I was never one for keeping record, just for riding the wave.”
If you can remember, what did you grow up listening to as a kid? Were your parents passionate about music? If so, what did they listen to?
Mom listened to a bunch of Christian tunes… Point of Grace is all I can remember. She also loves Bonnie Rait, Prince, Disney movie soundtracks and all kinds of R&B. Mom had a great voice, she was always singing. She later told me my uncle was a great blues guitarist, Kenny Poole…I am working on channeling that talent, for all I have is passion. Dad: John Prine, Adam Ant, Dead Kennedys, Wilco, Rage Against The Machine, Bing Crosby, etc. My dad is always listening to music, and all kinds. Dad is a master at G, C, D.
Me: As a teen I freaking loved SaddleCreek records – Tim Kasher and Coner Oberst spoke to different sides of my soul. Modest Mouse/Ugly Casanova, GGAllin, AntiFlag, Guy Clark, John Prine, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Rilo Kiley, A Silver Mt. Zion, Sigur Ros.
What motivates you to keep working in this industry?
Well, it is the furthest thing from easy. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. And it is is what I am supposed to do. Your favorite song can not let you down, can not break your heart or promises. Your voice can never fool you. Music is my therapy. Is my soulshine. It is my vehicle for living and for reminding others to Live. Life is too short to pretend. This industry will kill me, but no one lives forever.
How would you describe your music to others who haven’t heard of you?
I hate this question. Realities are based on perception of an individual and the sum of their experiences. Most people hear the name Wonky Tonk and assume it is country. No one listens anymore. If you want to know what it sounds like, come to a show or listen to an album. It is like Kava tea, depends on where your taste buds lie.
My friend Dean asked this very poignant question: Why do you want to transition from the country world to the indie world, and have you had difficulty doing so (and why)?
My answer is below and I think it is all that needs to be said:
I never wanted to be country. I have never been country. I grew up on punk rock. I didn’t hear country music until AFTER I started Wonky Tonk. The media outlets and venues assume with the name “Wonky Tonk” we are country. Without even listening to the music… And perpetuate it. I’ve done my best in photos and other media to show that I am far from country. Country has become this: Garth Brooks. Country is dead. Old, Nashville country is punk as fuck I.e. Loretta Lynn – I’m takin’ the pill you Mo Fo! It is a mindset. There is nowhere to go in today’s country except self destruction. Just because I wear cowgirl boots and call myself a cowgirl that never meant I was country – Heck I’ve never climbed a tree or ridden a horse. Cowgirl is another name for badass. Strong willed and cunning. I just like the aesthetic. I prefer color to black and white.
I want to transition into the “indie world” because that’s where we belong, when folks actually listen. When we play shows people come up to me and say “holy shit I thought this was country. This Isn’t country. This is garage rock. You remind me of Janis! So great!”I tried with this video to show the transition (see image side by side). To show the journey. The transition. No more sparkly twang inspired by Kimya Dawson. I’m old now. The world has been mean. We’re making the dirge. We are putting country at the bass of dark and dirty, add a dash of glitter. Make it sparkle. “four letter word” won a bunch of song and video awards. White. Vulnerable. The country purge with four letter words. “I don’t mind” is the darkness. The Drone. The void of emotion, growing old. What heartbreak does to your soul. It is an artful journey. Just listen to the song. Heck listen to any song. It was never country.
We are making art. Garth Brooks doesn’t like art.
What albums/singles or icons influence your sound?
This is a hard question, as I don’t really think about my “sound,” I just think about writing a song and staying true to it to give it the best life possible. However, when I think about iconic sound memories these first hit my mind.
Modest Mouse – This is a long Drive for Someone with nothing to Think about
John Prine – Lake Marie, That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round
Raveonettes – You Want The Candy
Rilo Kiley – Portions for Foxes
Tom Waits – Long Way Home
Do you think by people perceiving you as a country artist has distorted or shaped things differently for you in this industry? If any of that applies please explain how so.
On an artistic level, regardless of themes, or subject matter, I want to establish Wonky Tonk as a living, growing, metamorphosing thing responding to the personal emotional environment of Jasmine, as well as the love starved environment that our contemporary society has become. I want a path upon which to continually reinvent, not unlike Bowie, or even Madonna, Neil Young or Prince. While shirking the limited, pigeon holing of the “country singer” label, but still maintaining the pure, simple honesty of my country and folk roots (as well as punk), the same way that John Prine, Loretta, et al have done. I want to explore themes of disintegration and rebirth, and the role of Love in transformation and transcendence, of and for myself, and of and for humanity at large. Like I stated previously, I never listened to country music prior to creating Wonky Tonk. Folks get hung up on the name. In this world of footnotes and interest silos, it is very rare that someone actually someone checks sources, read past the Headline or actually – now this is mind-blowing –
LISTEN. Wonky Tonk is a punk move…a trojan horse -insert any cowgirl reference if you may-, using a “country” monicker to get traditional folks to listen to progressive ideas. The paradox is that “progressive” folks and outlets get hung up on the Name and rarely look past or listen in fear of being subject to “country and right wing ideals.” We are all the problem. Wonky Tonk requires understanding and that takes effort. But if you ask the people who have taken the plunge, it is well worth it. I can’t tell you how many people who say “wow! I thought it would be some country crap but this is amazing!” The riptide of and this transitional surrender to, the Jasmine environment is represented especially in the song and video for “I Don’t Mind;” white descending to black, and the bursting forth of myriad color from the blackness…because, I LOVE color and things that sparkle. Also, I work really hard; what a simplistic and understated statement. Most can not even imagine how hard it is to be an artist, a vagabond and the kicker – a WOMAN – who is full of both grace and grit. While also striving to be true to myself, to love, to life – I am human and heck, I am also just trying to not go completely broke in the process would be nice ’cause as they say in the ‘hood, it’s hard out here for a Wonk! If you could give some solid advice to a musician just starting out what would you tell them? Listen to everything. Make time for silence. Play all the time. Travel. Don’t get drown in the booze and nightclubs. Love yourself.
Tour Dates Below:
MAY 31 THU Rose Music Hall, Columbia, MO.
JUN 1 FRI Replay Lounge, Lawrence, KS.
JUN 2 SAT Gillie’s, Kearney, NE.
JUN 3 SUN Swing Station, Laporte, CO.
JUN 4 MON Broken Shovels Farm, Henderson, CO.
JUN 5 TUE Elbow Room, Wichita, KS.
JUN 6 WED Westport Saloon, Kansas City, MO.
JUN 7 THU Foam, St Louis, MO.
JUN 8 FRI John brown, Marion, IL.
JUN 15 FRI Pigs Mind Brewing, Machesney Park, IL.
JUN 16 SAT Raccoon Motel, Davenport, IA.
JUN 28 THU The Southgate House Revival, Newport, KY.
JUL 7 SAT Jarfly Brewing, Somerset, KY.
JUL 13 FRI Casa Nueva, Athens, OH.
JUL 14 SAT The Whiskey Jar, Charlottesville, VA.
JUL 28 SAT Weasel Boy Brewing Company, Zanesville, OH.
AUG 2 THU Mile of Music, Appleton, WI.
AUG 7 TUE Bills Bar, Merrill, WI.
AUG 29 WED Storm Cloud Brewing, Frankfort, MI.
Follow Wonky Tonk here.