Brooklyn Artist Jae Soto Embraces Authenticity and Growth in New Album 'Leave the Light On'

Brooklyn artist Jae Soto creates music that blends various genres, driven by authenticity and instinct. Collaborating with an indie label has provided her with essential support and renewed motivation. Influenced by a diverse range of musical styles and artists, Soto’s sound is a rich tapestry of her many inspirations. Her latest album, "Leave the Light On," delves into personal themes of self-respect and growth, reflecting her journey over the past two years. Soto's creative process varies, and she looks forward to exploring unconventional recording techniques in future projects. We had a chance to speak with her about the upcoming release!

Q: What is the basis for writing attention-grabbing music in this day and age?

I feel the best about making music when I'm not thinking about genre but rather when I'm thinking about what feels the most authentic to me. There have been times where I put down an initial thought, but then edit it a bunch of times only to go back to the original idea after giving it some space. It's sort of like when you change your outfit a million times but end up going with the first one. Editing is important, but our instincts are there for a reason!  

In terms of making music that might have more commercial viability, I would say that from what I understand, songs do seem to be getting shorter. Whether this is because of our waning attention span or not, I think that sometimes you can really say as much as you need to in a short amount of time. For example, my last release, “Honesty”, is 2 1/2 minutes long and I truly feel like I said everything I needed to say in that amount of time. I also think motifs that repeat in the background and serve as sort of a secondary musical theme can be a really crucial part of making a song feel good.

Q: What has it been like working with an indie record label as opposed to working on your own?

Working with an indie collective (like Switch Hit Records) has been much more rewarding then working by myself in the sense that I feel like I have much more support and validation for what I'm doing. When you have other people who believe in you and who will also hold you to deadlines, it really brings new meaning to what you're doing. I think I also reached several points of burnout over the last two years and they really helped revitalize the mission and helped me push through. It’s hard to do that alone. In the end, it's community care that holds things together and in a time where the music industry is very broken, it's much appreciated. 

Q: Can you pinpoint some specific songs and songwriters that changed the way you write music?

I would say my singing and songwriting style comes from listening to a lot of jazz standards when I was younger along with some of the bigger R&B singers from the 70s like Donny Hathaway. It's been very much a cumulative thing though. There's so much that's gotten in there throughout the years: 80s synth Pop, 60s songwriters like Joni Mitchell, 90s R&B, and experimental music. I think a lot of that just got swirled around and I'm trying to make sense of how it’s going to come out of me. 

Q: Do you find it hard to be inspired by artists that are younger than you, or are you motivated by their energy? Can you name any new artists you find inspiring?

I'm definitely motivated by people of all ages. I’ve been very into the newest ML Buch record recently. Really beautiful songwriting and just such well-crafted timeless production. It scratches so many itches! 

Q: For your new album, what inspired the lyrical content, album title, and overall vibe?

The album is a snapshot of the last two years and it’s very much a late-bloomer, coming of age story. Lyrically, it’s about learning how to be a person that respects and loves themselves. A lot of the songs highlight perspective shifts and the process of gaining sovereignty as a woman and a person and all the beautiful things that can bring. Many of the songs are also about grappling with transition and trauma and not knowing what to do with all the new revelations that come with it. It’s very much a gesture of solidarity with other people who have also waded through that.

The name of the album is "Leave the Light On" and the title track talks about what it’s like when you surround yourself with people who don't meet your basic needs and how that can affect your psyche and how you move through the world. The phrase "Leave the Light On" is about a really small thing you can do for somebody else to show you care. You picture your friend or partner getting home late and you don't want them to stumble around looking for the light switch, so you leave it on for them. It's a metaphor for learning how to care for yourself by choosing people who care for you.

Q: Do you find that you ruminate over writing songs and hold on to them for a long time before including them on a record? Or do you prefer to write them, release them, and be done with them? Do you ever revisit old material to do a re-write or once it’s done it’s done?

For this project, some of the songs I wrote really quickly, and some of them I pieced together over the course of two years. A lot of it was striking a balance between wanting a good composition but knowing that you can't wait forever for the perfect decision to come to you. Ideally, I prefer to write them, release them, and move on from them. Because I have ADHD, I often thrive in environments where I can work on a project and then leave it behind. The difficult thing is working on things over time, so bridging the gap between my need for wanting the compositions to be just right while maintaining the same level of excitement over the course of the project was challenging. I'm sort of a mission-based person. I really like going in, doing the thing, and moving on to the next thing. But I know that we make music because we care, and it's important to feel good about what you make. There is no rush.

Q: Were there any lessons you learned in the writing and recording process for your current release that you will take with you into your next project?

I think because I did it all myself, there were definitely some procedural things that I didn't even consider until the end. For example, having all of the songwriting finished and then going into the recording process is such a tried and true thing. There is something to be said about writing everything all at once and then going in after to put it down - that process makes so much sense. But because this was created over such a long period of time and because I was in such a state of constant transition, it was sort of just a slow, disjointed process. But ultimately, I'm really happy with what I've made.

In the future, I'd love to experiment with nonstandard recording techniques or even just use my iPhone to record vocals. I feel like the moments where I deviate from the standard procedure and do what feels right makes me feel really excited. Sometimes you can record something on your iPhone and all the ambient noise can feel texturally really interesting against the other recorded elements, so I’d definitely love to try a bit of that next time among so many other things.


Leave a comment