10 Questions: Jupiter Winter on Creativity & Songwriting

by | Jul 22, 2020 | Creativity, Interviews

Don’t worry if it’s good or bad. That’s not your job to decide. Just keep creating.

 

Lelia Broussard and Royce Whittaker are two of the fiercest musicians we know, so it’s no surprise that their combined talents with Jupiter Winter are so stunning. Their sonic palette is nostalgic of the 1980’s and 90’s but with the intimate singer/songwriter approach informed by Lelia’s many years as a solo artist and member of Secret Someones (along with Bess). Their music is equally danceable and cry-able. 

Their newest single, “Atmosphere,” is a perfect example of that unique dichotomy. A driving and dreamy pop song that touches on feelings of escapism, wistfulness, lust and hope, it feels both effortless and purposeful. Once you hear it, you don’t ever want to turn it off. 

We’re so delighted to share their process of collaboration and creation with you!

Photo by Emma Cole

10 Questions: Jupiter Winter on Creativity & Songwriting

 

1. When you sit down to write a song, which elements tend to come first (melody, concept, title, lyrics, chords, beat, etc.)?

RW: Most of our songs (at least the ones I start) begin as a track. I will usually have a chord progression or a sound in my head and then, once I’ve put the basic idea down, I’ll start to fill out the track and structure it in a semi-typical way, thinking about where the vocal might fit in.

LB: It depends. When Royce and I write together he’s often the one starting a track and I’ll come in later adding the melody and lyric to help build upon what he’s started musically. When I’m on my own or in other situations, a chord progression typically comes first, then melodies and a subconscious rambling of lyrics. Sometimes the word soup really informs what the song is going to be about and sometimes it’s total garbage. Sometimes I like to get a little groove going in a track before I dive into the melody and lyric, sometimes I just write on a single instrument. Sometimes I’ll have a topic that I know I want to write about going in and sometimes I’m just searching for what feels right. I’ve started with a title a few times but that’s not my go-to.

2. How often do you write? Do you have a regular routine, or do you do it only when you’re feeling inspired?

RW: I try to make sure I at least pick up a guitar or play a keyboard once a day. For me, it helps to have some time on my instruments away from “writing” on them where I learn records or try to duplicate sounds, but doing this usually leads to stumbling on a riff or an idea, which helps keep me out of the “Okay, I’m sitting down and writing and here we go” mentality and keeps things feeling fresh.

LB: I don’t have a daily routine at the moment, although I’m always in various stages of different projects, so most days I’m writing or working on a part of the process in some capacity. For a while I was really diligent about doing the “morning pages” every day, which I found to be a helpful exercise. It helped me feel less stiff and rigid when writing and more in touch with my feelings. (The “morning pages” exercise is from the book “The Artist’s Way.” It’s just writing three pages in the morning of absolutely anything.) I’d like to develop a routine that’s a little more regimented because I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to show up and try to write whether or not you’re feeling particularly inspired in the moment. The times when you’re slogging through trying to piece something together are the moments that are preparing you for how to be able to fully utilize those really special moments when things are moving quickly and you’re filled with inspiration. We write both separately and together. I think even in an intense creative partnership it’s important to have some sense of autonomy.

3. Do you have any practices that help you find inspiration and collect ideas?

RW: I’ve really been enjoying going for a long walk around our neighbourhood and picking one or two albums to listen through all the way. I still really appreciate when an artist releases a full body of work and love to nerd out about the tones and themes that create a world for the listener. 

LB: I like to make tracks without any pressure to write a whole song. I have a lot of fun just making something without the intention that I’m going to finish a song at that moment. For me it can feel overwhelming to work on both production and writing at the same time. It’s a nice thing to come back to later to expand upon. Reading books, listening to music, watching a show or film, listening to podcasts, taking a walk. All of those things have inspired me both in unexpected and in very intentional ways. I’ve written songs about documentaries I’ve watched, or a phrase from a book has inspired a lyric when I’ve been stuck. Music I love has influenced the musical palette I use, or the type of song I want to try to write. I like to be a voracious consumer of art and media because everything we put in informs what comes out.

4. Have you ever felt creatively blocked and what did/do you do to overcome it?

RW: I feel more blocked than not most of the time. Getting out of the studio/work space, cleaning, or working in smaller doses throughout the day has been helping me a lot recently. 

LB: Definitely. I like to absorb myself in another creative thing that isn’t writing. Or sometimes just taking a break can give so much perspective and help you see things a bit more clearly. Working on other music or creative endeavors that I’m not so deeply invested in have helped me feel way more inspired to work on my own music. Knowing that some days are harder than others and you don’t have to do everything all at once. Showing up to try even when you don’t really feel like it but also giving yourself time and grace if it’s just not your day. Very often, I go down the rabbit hole of self-criticism and it can truly stifle me. My therapist recommended that I start a gratitude practice when I’m starting to go down the critical hole and that has been really helping snap me back down to earth.

5. Do you have a particular method or system of collaboration that works best for you as a team? How does that differ from your solo writing and other collaborations you’ve had?

RW: For Jupiter Winter, one of us will start a track on our own time and get it to a good listening point, maybe even put a scratch vocal down before bringing the other one in to hear it. I think this works great for us because you get to experience the other person’s excitement about the idea and are less focused on your own thoughts of, “Is this good? Am I good? Will they hate it?” You know, good old classic existential dread! 

LB: Usually Royce will start a track and then I’ll come in later and start adding a melody and lyric idea. From that point on, we’ll collaborate together on finishing the song and production. For me it feels exciting because oftentimes he has musical ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of or executed on my own. Or the track inspires something in me that I didn’t even know I felt. I love that. It differs from other collaborations I’ve done because I think we tend to take a little bit more space during the process. In other collaborations or sessions I’ve done we would usually all be together for the duration of writing the song and then that’s it. We take a little bit more space, but both of us are involved in the entire process. 

6. Are there any non-musical things you do that affect your art?

RW: Positively, exercise and eliminate any overhanging, unfinished tasks. Negatively, trying to force things at the wrong time. 

LB: I’ve recently learned how vital exercise is for my brain to function normally. I also require a lot of time to just “be.” Cooking is a great alternative creative outlet for me. Taking good care of myself is very necessary in order for me to be a happy, creative person. For me, that means getting exercise, eating well and doing my best not to compare my path to someone else’s. When I succeed at not judging myself and I’m able to just take the day as it comes . . . those are the days when I’m doing my best work and feeling happiest and most content.

Photo by Emma Cole

7. How do you know when a song is done?

RW: It’s been released . . . LOL 

LB: Who’s to say!? We’re always tweaking things and trying to make it better. It’s very hard to know when to stop that. I guess it’s done when you like it and nothing is sticking out or bothering you anymore.

8. What do you think your strengths are as a songwriter and how do you play to those strengths as an individual and as a collaborator?

RW: I try to think ‘big-picture’ of what the song is trying to say and how the music can complement the message. My main focus is the emotional impact of every chord, melody or accompanying arrangement to the message of the artist. 

LB: I think that my biggest strengths are in crafting melodies and articulating a feeling in a way that feels honest, intimate and real. I’m very opinionated about those things so that’s something I bring to every song I write whether it’s a collaboration or just myself.

9. What do you think your weaknesses are as a songwriter and how have you worked around them or worked to improve them as an individual and as a collaborator?

RW: I’ve always been really overwhelmed by writing lyrics and expressing myself. Lelia has helped me immensely in not being so precious of every idea and not being afraid to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. I’m getting better at welcoming that energy and making it a part of my writing routine. 

LB: I feel like I’m a little slow with thinking of lyrics and I have to push myself to come up with interesting ways to word things. I’ve tended to keep lyrics fairly simple and in plain speech, which can sometimes be great but there are times that I strive to be a little bit more crafty or poetic. I’ve been trying to push myself to think outside of what I would normally do and trying to write in different voices and styles.

10. What is one important lesson you have learned through your experiences as a songwriter?

RW: Write and record with intention. Even if it’s just a “demo,” I always try to pick sounds and play as if it’s going to be on the final product, because it always is. I really believe in the first take for emotional connection to the song and have spent so much more time trying to recreate that emotional impact later on—it’s never the same. 

LB: Don’t worry if it’s good or bad. That’s not your job to decide. Just keep creating. When you think you’ve written your best song, write another one. You don’t get to decide the fate of a song. Also, having a clear objective of what you are attempting to say makes things a hell of a lot easier.

11. BONUS Question: How are you finding your creativity in the time of COVID-19?

RW: I’ll be honest, the first few weeks of lockdown were rough for me. I felt really overwhelmed by everything and it was hard to harness that energy and use it positively. I’m in a much happier and productive state now and welcome the lessons of this uncertain time. 

LB: I’ve been all over the place. My emotions are still very up and down. At first I felt a lot of pressure to use the time well and be productive, but when I let go of “what I should be doing” I started feeling so much better and more connected to myself and creativity. The opportunity to slow down and to have all of this time to get to know myself more and work on whatever I want has actually been kind of incredible for me. After I stopped overthinking it. A common theme for me. Ha.

Favorite song to dance to:
RW: “I Wanna Be Your Lover” by Prince
LB: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston
Favorite song to make out to:
RW: “Sugah Daddy” by D’Angelo
LB: I think that the entire “Black Messiah” album by D’Angelo does the trick pretty well
Favorite song to cry to:
RW: “Perth” by Bon Iver
LB: “Mother” by Kacey Musgraves
Favorite song to work out to:
RW: “Strength Beyond Strength” by Pantera
LB: “Elevate” by St. Lucia
Favorite song to drive to:
RW: “Sore Loser” by Tierra Whack (so short but SO good)
LB: “Where Not To Look For Freedom” by The Belle Brigade or “Lisztomania” by Phoenix 

Follow Jupiter Winter online:

instagram.com/jupiterwinter
jupiterwinter.com
Spotify

Feature photo by Rob Bondurant.

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