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Covington Musician Agreed to Perform Live Before She Could Even Play

Covington resident Jasmine Poole found her musical passion and talents by saying yes to performing live before she knew how to play.

Taking that risk propelled her career into forming the musical persona Wonky Tonk and now she has a brand new LP called Stuff We Leave Behind that took six years to make.

“I will say yes to about anything for a new experience so I tried it,” Poole said of making the album. “Recording is a very tumultuous process where you have to look inside yourself which was really hard to do since I had just learned how to play an instrument. I took a very long time and I felt like a faker early on if I would have put something out at that point, so it took about six years, four sound engineers, and a whole lot of life experiences to finally be able to take charge and own the songs enough that I was comfortable putting them out there.”

Poole grew up moving often with her family from one place to another. She didn’t make a great number of friends when she was younger and considered herself shy. She found herself agreeing to make music as a way to be social without having to talk as much.

“I play guitar and banjo. I grew up with punk rock, The Clash, Anti Flag, Bad Religion, etc. When I started playing music after I told people I could play, others started telling me that I am a folk musician, which I had never heard the word folk in my life.”

She was immediately influenced by folk and country greats like Loretta Lynn and allowed her sound to grow strong enough to carry the 11-track album throughout. Once the album was finally in order and ready for release, Wonky Tonk needed to be promoted which was easier than expected for an admitted shy person.

“If I were to promote Jasmine Pool, I would find that difficult, but Wonky Tonk is a product. I work in commercial photography and video and so I know the way marketing works and being able to separate yourself from the emotional aspects of it and seeing it as a business, is really beneficial,” she said. “It’s not all about me. I give so much credit to the other musicians. When I started playing and putting myself out there before I had the skill set, it was the actual promoting myself that got me out there and not my skill at all, but I had the means to make everyone listen so I think that’s the easy part. The hard part is the performing and staying true to yourself.”

By saying that she could play and perform before she actually could, the artist put immense personal pressure on her to learn and follow through on her promise. Poole said that it is her way of moving ahead in life and reaching new heights without psyching herself out.

“I feel like that’s the only way you really get things done, especially the way I grew up and being really shy and not having much of a social experience, if I don’t put that extreme pressure on myself, my head takes over and can think myself out of anything. If I put something out there, and I say I am going to do it to a bunch of people, then I have to do it because I am accountable to them.”

Besides learning on the fly and making new relationships with other musicians, another reason Stuff We Leave Behind took so long is because of how much Poole traveled during that stretch. She said that the process has been a grind but has brought a lot of talented local people together onto one project.

“Probably 10 to 15 local musicians played the album with their multiple engineers just because I moved to Denmark in between recording, I moved to Montana, Miami, Santa Monica, so each time I was pushing the restart button and building off of something that we already created. Everyone was really nice about picking up from someone else’s work but there was concern about the cohesiveness of the sound and the quality. I think it really turned out quite magical and is a great portrait of what I was meaning to do even though it took so long.

Wonky Tonk performs her new songs from the album at The Southgate House Revival in a  free show on November 16. Now that the album is finished, she is already looking ahead to the second one since she has written so many songs over the last six years.

“I have transitioned into more of a Billy Bragg thing with an electric guitar that I found in the basement of a bar that I’m playing through an acoustic amp which has a really interesting sound. It’s cool how transitioning to an electric instrument not only makes you louder, but now when people come up to me they will talk with me more about the stuff that really actually influenced me. The might say that this reminds them of Modest Mouse rather than this reminds me of Taylor Swift because of the boots and acoustic guitar.”

Her video for "Montague Road" came together thanks to her professional career in the commercial video industry and the small crew she worked with on it found it refreshing to produce video work that more creative and artistic license than their standard projects.  

“I do more art department in productions so we had a really tiny crew and we just went with it. It was really magical because we got to use all of the really expensive equipment but we all got to do something that we felt wasn’t so corporately directed. "Montague Road" was a direct result of working in that industry and the connections I’ve made. Also the kindness of those people for doing it for free and for jollies.”

Her songs are named after the places she’s lived, and the lead single "Montague Road" was named after the street in Covington.

“Covington is the spot. Crossing the river into Kentucky is definitely home.”

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor

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