Photo by Brock Fetch
My daughter and I listened to singer-songrwriter Essie Jain’s album of orginial lullabies all the time when she was a tiny baby, and we continue to listen to Essie’s music now. It’s beautiful and relaxing for both parent and child. It’s also been proven that music helps develop communication skills in young babies, and that babies who listen to and play music are more sociable and smile more, too.
Essie Jain is an English singer-songwriter from London. She moved to New York City in 2001, where she still lives today. She’s trained in classical piano and operatic singing. Essie released two albums, before releasing Until the Light of the Morning, a collection of lullabies for children and their parents, under her own label in 2011. Jain is releasing a new album of modern chants and meditations called ‘To Love’ this month. She sat down with Inhabitots for this fascinating, exclusive interview on writing original lullabies and the importance of music for babies.
Photo by Shervin Lainez
ESSIE: Music made for children is often dominated by artists doing cover songs and especially with lullaby albums, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’… and as gorgeous as those classic songs are, they are always at the helm. I wanted to hit the re-start button on the lullaby genre somewhat, and I knew making the album would be so much more fun for me to make if I started from the ground up and wrote a wave of new lullabies. I also had a very specific idea that I wanted the album to unwind itself as it went along, so a parent could put the album on and then leave the room at a certain point and the music wouldn’t stir or wake a baby. It would just keep them immersed in that soothing energy field, so I knew I had to create that myself in order to make that happen.
INHABITOTS: Did you know that people found your music very calming and soothing? When did you discover this?
ESSIE: I’ve always been attracted to pretty mellow and gentle music, and so I was always inclined to touch on the softer side of things, as I knew my voice suited that form of expression. While I was touring with my earlier albums, people often came up to me and said that my voice made them feel better in some way, healed something, brought something up in them to look at. I’ve had some really interesting conversations about the power of music/sound with people, and it started the wheels turning in my head. At the same time, I had been looking after kids for many years in NYC as a part time job, and a lot of my friends had started having families – those two worlds suddenly fit together. It was definitely one of those “ah ha” moments.
Photo by Shervin Lainez
INHABITOTS: What do you think appeals to people and their relax responses in your voice? Tone? Rhythm?
ESSIE: That’s a tricky question for me, as it’s my own voice, so it all happens naturally, but I know I sing from my heart, and from a very grounded and balanced place in myself, and I think that goes a long way to connecting with people.
INHABITOTS: What do you think about the power of lullabies and how they can both stimulate and relax baby’s brain?
ESSIE: Sound is a powerful force and it has a tremendous impact on our eco systems. I think it’s the difference between standing next to a roaring fire engine and sitting in a quiet room; they alter our everything. Sometimes we want to dance if we are engaged by music, sometimes we want to rest with it. Either way, you are enveloped in it, and it takes you up, up and away, or can root you to the earth.
INHABITOTS: What was your aim in creating your album of lullabies?
ESSIE: This is a funny one, because several of my friends were going crazy listening to various children’s music, and wanted more of a ‘family‘ album that their whole house could listen to. Was that possible ? That’s what I tried to do.
Album Cover Art by Iker Spozio
INHABITOTS: Have you heard from parents who have had sleeping/relaxation success?
ESSIE: Yes, and such heartwarming messages too.
“I’ve had emails which moved me to tears also – one of the most striking ones was a couple going though a divorce, and the mother would play the album for their children at bedtime each night, and when they moved house, that ritual continued. She told me the songs were literally their security blanket, it helped calm and helped them sleep while they were transitioning through a very difficult time. That story really got me.”
INHABITOTS: Should we all sing and play music with our kids?
ESSIE: I think so. It’s so important to share and interact with one another through music and sound. It’s been something people have done together for centuries, and has been shown to positively impact our nervous systems and create immunity boosters, just like laughter.
“Even if you’re not a musician, anyone can play a drum and bang on a saucepan. It literally feeds the soul. Free medicine.”
INHABITOTS: What’s next in your schedule?
ESSIE: I’ve been chanting and meditating for a few years now, practicing yoga and now teaching, and I noticed that a lot of music in the new age/spiritual world is often sung in Sanskrit, and again, as gorgeous and truly sacred as this is, it can sometimes feel inaccessible for people, that they don’t know what they are singing ABOUT. A mantra should always vibrate and resonate with someone, listened too, or sung, and I think it can sometimes take a lot of practice to get there and feel that, and one path is not always the right path for another person, so I wanted to widen the field here and write a modern chanting and mediation album sung in English. The idea is that the music could accompany a yoga class, through a live performance (which I’ve just started doing with my husband and friends) or simply put on a music player, at home or retreat, or in studio. We are releasing the album this month and it’s called ‘To Love‘. Perhaps it will be a hit with babies too, it’s most certainly relaxing.