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Ask JACKIE POP to describe her music and she’ll say, Heartfelt

Some singers make a lasting impression on you in the very first impression they make. In the first line they deliver, you find your own head panning to the direction of where this is coming from. 

In this case, the panning would stop on Jackie Pop. 

She’s made a solid place for herself here in the Central NY scene as a guitar-slingin’ Country singer. Proficient and extremely charismatic as a performer, she wows Country fans all across the state with her super hot group Grit N Grace.

As compelling as she is as a Country artist – soulful, elegant with a bit of grit – there is more to Jackie Pop than just that. She has a solid history of rockin’ hard. She became seasoned with the experience of living and playing in the New York City circuit for a while. Jackie’s been playing for all of her life, beginning with her family as a youngster. But the most impressive aspect of Jackie Pop is the beaming glow that comes from within this person. In her music. In her presence. In this interview. Her musical path from that point to now is a heartfelt story all its own.

Chuck Schiele: Hi Jackie, thank you for doing this interview.

Jackie Pop: Thank you, Chuck. Happy to be a part of it.

CS: Right off: How did you get started in music?

JP: My father really loved music and as a family we would always sing songs on long car rides or walks around the block together. He always encouraged me and my 3 sisters to use our voices and do things with purpose. I’m really lucky to have had truly loving parents and sisters who are my best friends and soulmates. For me singing always felt akin to being home, it was just comfortable and felt right to me. I was very shy as a kid but I remember gathering all my courage to ask my music teacher to reconsider me for a solo in elementary school, all my friends got one but I was passed over. I practiced singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and remember everyone singing along with me on the bus ride to school (the bus driver too). I was so nervous but I marched myself down to the music room at lunch and made myself do it. My teacher did give me a solo and I can’t help but think that was a big step. Not long after that, our family took a vacation to Niagara Falls and happened across a karaoke machine to record a cassette tape. Back then it was a brand new technology and my dad was so delighted to hear his daughters sing “Let’s Hear for The Boy” that he ended up purchasing a karaoke booth to run here in NY state. It was called Pop-Laski’s Sing Like a Star and became our family business. I was around 9 years old at the time and would go into the booth with many of our customers and help cue them when to sing. I looked up to so many of our regular customers, some of them were so good they might as well been famous. They were famous in my eyes anyway and I really loved it. My whole family would sing songs from the catalog of songs we had whenever business was slow (which was often). I learned all styles and types of songs. That was the start to my very long relationship with music. 

CS: How would you characterize the music you play?

JP: Heartfelt. I sing almost all covers these days. It doesn’t matter if the song is slow, fast, happy, silly, or sad. It doesn’t matter if I sang the song once or a thousand times. It doesn’t matter if I wrote it or someone else did. I just want to be connected to the song as an experience that I’m sharing with the people around me in that particular moment. To me a song is always new because the energy in the room is always different.  

CS: You have a number of influences in your musical path. Tell us a bit about that musical path.

JP: It’s been a long, long path. I’ve been playing out live for almost 30 years. My first band was called Zinnia and started when I got my first electric guitar in high school from my parents. My little sister, Julie was given a drum set and full permission and encouraged to practice in our room or the living room any time. We wrote original music and worked hard for years with a number of different bandmates through the years. We recorded our first CD and played around Syracuse. Many people jumped in to help us along the way including Scott Dixon who included us in the original music scene and booked us at The Lost Horizon and Styleen’s Rhythm Palace. I moved to NYC after graduating from Binghamton University with a degree in Sound Production. I worked in a bunch of projects and took every chance I could to play my originals. I was part of a few really great bands, Chester’s Copper Pot, Pop-a-roxi, and Carver. I had a ton of fun and met some of my favorite people along the way.

CS: How did you like being a part of the NYC scene? What did you learn most, or enjoy most?

JP: I loved being part of the NYC music scene. There was a place called The Raven Cafe that had a most awesome open mic night. It would run from around 6pm and go until everyone had a chance to play. Sometimes 4am. It was just so rich with people all working on their  music (it reminds me of the Maplewood Inn open mic night in Liverpool, very supportive scene). Many famous people would stop in to play, you never knew who you’d meet. My band, Pop-a-roxi, was an all-girl band I put together that really helped me learn some things about how to navigate being a live musician as a female. We played originals in showcases all around the city at CBGBs, The Bowery Ball Room, The Mercury Lounge, The Bitter End, and many, many more. I loved the camaraderie most of all. I played with so many amazing musicians and artists. It was always an adventure.

CS: What are your thoughts on the CNY scene?

JP: I’m always surprised by the CNY scene, there are so many really talented creatives. It wasn’t easy transitioning from the NYC scene. When I moved back home about 12 years ago I didn’t really know any musicians locally and I had to start basically all over again. I’m really proud to say I’ve been working with my current band Grit N Grace (Dave Brown, Bob Lett, Lincoln Tubbs) for over a decade. It took a few years, but we now have the most wonderful and loyal fan base of positive fun loving people. I’ve met so many brilliant and hardworking establishment owners, managers, and promoters. I’ve also gotten to know and work with so many CNY musicians and bands, it’s awesome. There is so much talent upstate. Many of them are now my friends and I love them. I’m also very happy to see more females working in the live music scene in CNY, the “‘boys’ club” element of it has shifted a good deal. Thanks to the efforts of so many people making room for women in music to be less of an anomaly or token. 

CS: Share with us a highlight or two from your musical career or path.

JP: When I had just starting playing out regularly with my sister in Zinnia, a sound man that we worked with was running the music for Blues Fest in Syracuse and played a few of our songs before B.B. King took the stage. Mr. King took notice of our song and gave us a shout out. To have B.B. King notice my song and think it was soulful was really incredible. It really meant a lot to me and still does.

CS: Any funny shareable anecdotes from your days as a musician? There are always stories.

JP: One story that always makes me and the guys from Grit N Grace laugh happened a few years ago. We opened up for Chris Cagle and it was a great show. By the time we were packed up and ready to leave most everyone had already left. I was walking out to my car when I noticed a slightly intoxicated gaggle of people piling into our bass player’s van. Bob was trying to shoo them out but they were very very insistent that he was indeed their Uber.  It was surprisingly difficult to convince them to evacuate his van. 

CS: Advice to aspiring musicians:

JP: Everyone has their own voice. Comparing yourself to others is a moot point. Be your own best and try to avoid people who make you feel like you’re competing. When your confidence comes from doing what you believe you are meant to do you hold an enormous power. 

CS: What is in store for the near future of you and your music?

JP: I’m looking forward to another year with Grit N Grace continuing to grow our incredibly fun live events and playing acoustic sets with Dave Brown (he’s an incredible talent). I’m also looking forward to working with Stacy Lyn and Bryce Marshall, two other CNY talents that I play acoustic with. I’m excited to say a 2nd annual Chicks With Picks showcase is in the works.   I look forward to showcasing another set of CNY females and also arranging a reunion with one of my NYC bands, Carver, to record one of our hits. Finally, I’m working on some solo material and doing my best to finally write something new! 

CS: How do we stay in touch with you and your music?

JP: Facebook is a great way, find me at Jackie Pop and the band at Grit N Grace.  Also websites: Jackiepop.com (http://jackiepop.com/) Gritngraceband.com (http://gritngraceband.com/)

Chuck Schiele
Chuck Schiele is a lifelong, award-winning musician, art director, producer, editorialist, artist, activist, member Quatrocollective.com and fan of the CNY music scene. To be considered for this column, please write chuck.schiele@gmail.com.