Indie musician and singer-songwriter Caitlin Jemma speaks for the multitudes on her celestial new disco-folk album, True Meaning, out September 17th on American Standard Time Records. Conjuring the soulfulness of Norah Jones, the melancholy of Joni Mitchell, and the lyric-bending bewitchment of Bonnie Raitt, Jemma takes listeners on an atmospheric journey from heartbreak to hope throughout the ten dynamic tracks which make up True Meaning—a vulnerable-yet-spirited release exploring the full emotional spectrum of being human, while posing an age-old philosophical question: “What is the true meaning of life?”
True Meaning gives us sparse, inner-directed desert-folk hymns, ala Damien Jurado and Tift Merritt, juxtaposed with lush, full-band rockers featuring Van Morrison-like horns, Velvet Underground-meets-The Band-infused rhythm sections, and impassioned Motown-era backing vocals. Jemma’s songbird timbre sounds half-broken and half-resilient, accompanied by western slide guitar and evoking the feeling that the lights of the next city are just over the ridge.
Inspired by long, solitary drives on desert highways from windswept west Texas—through a quilt of New Mexican stars—to the sandy dunes of the Great Southwest, Jemma felt her life palpably transitioning at the dissolution of a long term relationship. Amidst a spectrum of emotions, Jemma made the conscious decision to start a new chapter. She reaffirmed her relationship to her art and realized that no matter what happens, music will always lead the way. “No one can ever take this from me,” she says. “And that’s comforting to know.”
After wandering through the desert for a few soul-searching weeks, Jemma experienced a rebirth at Mardi Gras, where she enjoyed her share of parades, street cars, and gypsy jazz. From there, she headed to the Great Smokies of North Carolina, en route to which she says, “I perfected the art of crying while driving.” Embracing the great human condition of dichotomy, she also experienced relentless bursts of laughter and pure WTF joy while singing along to pop radio in the middle of nowhere. Slinging handmade bolos from her Honda Odyssey’s trunk, Jemma absorbed the healing vortex magic of Asheville, took in some Appalachian string-band jubilees, and dreamed about one day being donned the official Yellow Rose of Somewhere, USA.
Off the road for a few months, a cathartic and powerful new album was being written through her by the ineffable forces of grief, grace, and love for the journey—this roller coaster ride called life.
Converging in Portland, Oregon, where the album was recorded and mixed by Sacha Müller, Jemma is backed by an all-star ensemble in Michael James on guitar, Nevada Sowle on bass, Cooper Trail on drums, John Craigie on harmonica, The Rainbow Girls on backing vocals, and many other talented guests on various instruments throughout True Meaning—the long-anticipated follow-up to 2018’s Love Notes, which was critically-acclaimed as “A genre-bending take on radical self love” (Vortex Magazine), “Unmistakable and infectious” (Oregon Public Broadcasting), and “Rich with sonic expansion” (Ear-buddy).
Furthering on that sonic expansion, True Meaning marks the next step of creative evolution in the alchemical artist’s young career. Stretching herself artistically, Jemma experiments with alternate tunings, writing “twin” songs—siblings which compliment each other and are featured back-to-back on the album—and co-writing parts for her bandmates, including some of the glorious horn lines and unforgettable harmonies.
From poignant pizzicato to soulful syncopation; from Another Side of Bob Dylan-equse “Morning Sun” to the Rilo Kiley-esque “Color;” from the eulogy of a departed friend in “Constellation in The Sky” to the idyllic yearnings of “To Know Love,” True Meaning is an album of depth, nuance, catharsis, playfulness, and resilience—all things the world needs now.
Since the making of True Meaning, Jemma has spent more time in solitude, experiencing much of the pandemic in her hometown in the mountains of Nevada. Reconnecting with her roots provided comfort during what was otherwise a tough year for us all. Meandering down dirt roads, appreciating the freedom and beauty of wild horses, while harnessing her inner child-like light, Jemma found rejuvenation in bucolic landscapes while pondering the meaning of being human.
“One part of being human is suffering and the other part is knowing when to say yes to what I know is good for me,” Jemma sings in the feel-good “Yes.”
True Meaning is available everywhere you stream or buy music on September 17th.
High Sierra Music Festival Top 5 finalist in Band Competition (2018)
Lightning In A Bottle (2018)
Lost Sierra Hoedown (2019, 2018)
Oregon Country Fair (2019, 2018)
Railroad Square Music Festival (2019)
Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition (2017)
Folk Alliance International (2018, 2017, 2016—Official Performer)