Helene Jæger has an intriguing outlook on writing music and lyrics relying on the conscious and unconscious awareness plus intuition. She leans on stream of consciousness writing methods to create music under the moniker of Holy Boy. Helene was born and raised in Norway, completed much of her education in England and has been based in Los Angeles since 2016. At the time of this conversation, she had recently released a single covering The Doors classic ‘Riders On The Storm.’ It was to be part of a collection released as a debut album in 2020. Helene made the decision to wait, in light of the pandemic and its impact on the music business. We speak about this plus her writing methods, the music of her childhood, L.A., her band, plans for live streaming, and the future of that unreleased album.
When I started stream of consciousness writing, I found that over time it really helped me to tap into a deeper layer of my own creativity and my writing. It was a little erie, because the kind of stuff that starts to come out when you open to your own unconscious is surprising.
–Helene Jæger, Holy Boy
Mentioned in this Episode
Writing Better Lyrics, by Pat Pattison
The Doors : A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, by Greil Marcus
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My guest Helene Jaeger has a great outlook on writing music and lyrics relying on the conscious, unconscious and intuition. She leans on stream of consciousness writing methods, a practice that I find really intriguing. She creates music under the moniker of Holy Boy. She was born and raised in Norway, did part of her education in England and has been based in LA since 2016. At the time of our conversation, she had released a single covering the Doors classic Riders On The Storm, which we talked about. This is part of a collection that was to be released as a debut album in 2020. Helene made the decision to wait in light of the stinkin pandemic, and its impact on the music business. We chat about this, also about writing methods, the music of her childhood, LA, her band, plans for live streaming, and the future of that unreleased album. Here is me and Helene Jaeger.
Well, thanks for joining me. Um, I did note that you’re from Norway. I have another really good musician friend from Norway. who goes by the name Kidd Anderson. He’s in he’s in the blues world, but he plays everything. So he’s great. It was kind of cool to see there. From there. I suppose you speak the language, yes?
Helene Jaeger 2:41
Yes. I sure do. That’s how I grew up. I never made music in Norway.
Oh wow. So how long have you been playing?
Helene Jaeger 2:49
Kind of on and off for probably like almost half my life. I started in my teens, you know, picking up an instrument being really not very good for a long time. And then working my way into figuring out how I could make music that was a bit more special. That was more like the kind of music that I loved listening to myself. Yeah, and interesting process.
Yeah, sure. Are you approaching your mid 20s.
Helene Jaeger 3:15
Late? A littler later than that.
I talked to a guy who I told him I said, Look, I could I didn’t say it like that. But I was laughing. I said I could be your dad. But he released his first single recently. And he was kind of preoccupied with aging out at 25 years old.
Helene Jaeger 3:32
So but oh the pressures of being an independent artists, right?
Helene Jaeger 3:37
Yeah. And the adventures?
Yes, of course. And so okay, Norway to England and LA to LA. How are you liking la? You’ve been there for years, right?
Helene Jaeger 3:48
Yeah, I came first as a, like, kind of a tourist trip. And I had very little pre existing knowledge about the city apart from, you know, TV, popular culture. And I just loved it. I felt like it really spoke to my soul. And I wanted to go back as soon as possible. And so I’ve been in LA since, and I love it. It’s got this dreamy atmosphere that I I’ve never felt anywhere else. It’s got this. It’s almost like the borderline between this world and the other is a little blurry. So it’s pretty interesting.
I need to visit it again. It’s been so many years but my last memory was oh my god, this place is polluted and has way too much traffic. I know it still has the traffic. I hear the air is cleaned up a bit. But I hear a lot of good things about it obviously for entertainment for sure. And actually heard someone say recently that they grew up there and when they were a kid that couldn’t breathe air and they’ve cleaned it up so much so
Helene Jaeger 4:49
Yeah, there’s a lot of nature, which actually surprised me. So you get stuff like I sometimes have like a fox come to my window when I’m working late at night. That kind of I never had no way I grew up in a city. Just no animals around in LA, I’ve had like scorpions in my house snakes outside rattlesnakes, taranchulas. So if you live in the hills, like the Laurel Canyon area, it’s it’s very wild.
I think most people probably don’t think of it as being such. But that’s nice in a way as long as the don’t get your cat or something.
Helene Jaeger 5:22
Yeah, I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t tell anyone because it’s a well kept secret how nice it actually is.
That’s a good deal. So tell me I read a phrase in I think one of your bio, or your in your bio, dystopian imagery. Is that something that you relate to? Or speaks to you?
Helene Jaeger 5:43
Yes, and no, I think someone else said that. So maybe I do have this kind of dark vibe to what I do. To me, I felt like what I do is kind of dreamy, and that’s how I move through life. But is there is a darkness to and I’m sure. This year in particular, I’ve had so many feelings like, it’s like where, in the future looking back at ourselves with this, like, apocalyptic moment. It looks like we’re gonna get through it. But there’s been like this undertone in society, I guess the collective unconscious that there’s a lot of latent imagery that I like to pick up on from that. So yeah, that’s interesting.
Yeah, I wasn’t sure if it’s something you wrote sort of read a little bit when I read these great bios, I’m like, sounds like somebody wrote, and which is good that somebody wrote it for you. But okay, here’s another one, the only because I don’t know how much you this resonates with you. It may be much like the dystopian imagery, but mostly just for my own curiosity as to what what it means to you and to educate me but industrial drone of suicide.
Helene Jaeger 6:52
Well, that’s the band suicide, and you know how their music.
Ah… it’s all clear.
Helene Jaeger 6:57
Now you get, it’s like the train tracks of a subway train in, in New York in the 70s. Like, towards early 80s.
Yeah, capital S should have given it away.
Helene Jaeger 7:08
Yeah. Well, hopefully. I mean, it would have been kind of mean to say it otherwise, if it was referring to the other suicide. Yeah, I think that that bio was taken on up from this article about me that was in line of best fit for this release. I had a couple years back. So that’s where the descriptions come from. I’m probably Yeah, Suicide. Big fan.
I think I’m, I think I’m done with it. But now I now I see you going back to revisit your bio going, maybe I need to update this. Somewhat recently released, a single cover of riders on the storm when what was the release date?
Helene Jaeger 7:44
And that was in March this year.
Okay. Well, right at the beginning of things that still kind of recent in my eyes, but tell me about your interest in doing the song. And it would love to hear anything about the recording and publishing of it, if you can share any, you know, struggles or not about it.
Helene Jaeger 8:03
Yeah, of course. So I’ve been a fan of the doors for years. I particularly like their dark material, the fact that they’re so different for the time, and they have this kind of this air of danger. And I like that they some of their lyrics and some of their songs, I feel like they inhabited that apocalyptic landscape as well. And the nighttime LA atmosphere that I really love. So this song I was about to showcase at South by Southwest this spring. [Yeah.] And it was a couple of weeks leading up to it. I was preparing for the release of this cover, which was supposed to be like the lead in track my album, which I’m still waiting on releasing because of everything that’s happ ened. And it just turned out so creepy this song because I’m when I recorded it last, last summer, last fall. Obviously, we had no idea what was going to happen this year. And I was working with this animation artist in South America who was creating this skeleton moving up a staircase video that I was going to release with the track and justice, the release date was approaching, obviously, everything in society was going on lockdown. And I realized that it was so eerie these lyrics that Jim Morrison wrote 45, 50 years ago, is it 50 years?
A long time ago.
Helene Jaeger 9:30
Maybe even close to 60, but they really resonated with what was happening in an eerie way. So I decided to release it and it was already in the system. You know, when you put things out you it’s kind of tricky to stop them once they’ve gone through. So that went out and I’ve heard a lot of people really like it, they find it kind of, I guess you could say healing. But it’s kind of this calm, cosmic atmosphere version of that song. So, even though it turned out dark and a little disturbing, maybe that it’s, it spoke to them somehow.
That’s cool. I’m glad you’re having success with it. I was gonna mention or ask you, if you had, by chance heard an interview of John Densmore on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron, he was in a recent episode. And there were a couple reasons I wanted to listen to it. I Well, probably three, I guess, you know, I liked the podcast. I’m a drummer, and I kind of had the doors period in my youth. And yeah, just kind of curious what he would say it was he was pretty interesting. So if you have an opportunity and haven’t heard it, that’s a good listen.
Helene Jaeger 10:41
Yeah, I’d love to I’ve read his book. I think he did a book about their experiences. I pretty much read all the books about them my favorites, the growl mark as one. But yeah, I’d love to check out that podcast. But
Do you remember the title of the your favorite?
Helene Jaeger 10:58
The Greil Marcus book? I think it was a lifetime of five years or something about five years? I can’t remember. I’ve read it when it first came out probably six years ago now. Yeah, that’s good.
I think I read one called no one gets out of here alive or something. I don’t know where that one ranks in the others. It’s the only one I’ve read about them. But I, I suppose over the years, I’ve heard a lot of things and maybe read some articles. But yeah, interesting. And interesting. Guys. I have to know I, I’m pretty sure that you mentioned this somewhere. Somebody asked you about it maybe in an interview, but the music that your father listened to and how maybe influenced you but I’m curious to know what was the music that your father listened to?
Helene Jaeger 11:39
Oh, yeah, that’s fun that that’s like, wow. Yeah, I grew up in a home where music was on all the time. He was huge music fan, you know, played anything. But he was like music was his life. He had a regular job. But that was like, his identity. And he had a huge record collection. His favorite, favorite favorite band of all time was Led Zeppelin. And he had every single record of those and he still listens to them. He still says to me like they haven’t they have a new live video DVD edition of I don’t know, no quarter coming out. You have to watch this as to so great. He also had the Rolling Stones. He had all their records. The Who. He was a sailor, early in his youth before I came along, so he kind of collected a lot of records along the way. And he also loved reggae, world music. So yeah, just like a lot of strange discombobulated influences that I guess I picked up on in the background somewhere.
Yeah. And here. I share a lot of his his music tastes particularly from from my youth. That’s funny. And if he’s like me, he’s always like, oh, my god, there’s another bootleg on YouTube of Led Zeppelin. And listen to those even though Yeah, you feel like, you know, at a point, you kind of feel like you’ve heard them all. But you go listen, with fresh ears. And it’s, it’s fun. And the funny thing about YouTube, there are just so many things emerging of Be it all of our favorite bands to how to do something you never thought you’d find on YouTube that some eight year old shows you how to do, so funny. So I want to read something that I think, are your words not not written for you. You can tell me if I’m wrong, but I think it might be an int. Maybe this is this is definitely you, by the way. That’s so funny. You you I think it was for me, I think might be an interesting talk to talk about using intuition in the unconscious in songwriting, and music, which is something I work with a lot automatic writing, and more. There’s so much info out there about songwriting techniques, but I found that when we tap into our inner world, our work comes out much more rich and deep than working to a recipe or formula. [Yeah,] can you speak to that?
Helene Jaeger 13:58
Yeah, I’ve tried both methods. When I first started writing songs, I feel like looking back, I was writing for my mind, like, intellectually seeing what I wanted to write and then trying to put thoughts onto it, and it just didn’t have like a depth to it. Looking back, it was a little shallow or narrow. It didn’t have that profound emotional resonance that I really love in music because I grew up listening to music and I always loved music. So but when I started writing, stream of consciousness writing, I found that over time, it really helped me to tap into a deeper layer of my own creativity and my writing and it was almost a little erie, like a little creepy because the kind of stuff that starts to come out when you open to your own unconscious is surprising. Like you get imagery you gets situations people characters, that you wouldn’t have been able to necessarily think of intellectually. So it becomes this kind of weird treasure trove of like secret things that you didn’t realize you had in you. And it makes creativity really fun. And, yeah, just, I feel like everyone has a special innter world. And when we can go in there and collect out those things and express with that, it’s, it’s like having extra juice in the engine, you know, it becomes a lot easier to not get blocked, and also to have, I guess, a unique point of view. So I like to do that a lot.
When you start a conscious writing session, or do you start with a completely blank slate? Or do you use prompts to get going?
Helene Jaeger 15:50
Well, I’ve tried both. The original reason why I started doing this was this book by Pat Patterson, called, I think, writing better lyrics or something like that, like I came at it from an intellectual point of view. And then his advice was to start just writing a page, like 10 minutes a day, just write whatever comes out around, he calls an object writing, so say, a leaf, and they write everything about that. And I moved away from doing it about an object and kind of just let things come on to the page that wanted to come out, so to speak. And that’s when I discovered that over time, it just became more and more kind of weird and rich, like there was a deeper layer of me wanting to express itself.
Did it? Did the latter method come with a little practice? Or when you change? Did it sort of start happening very quickly for you?
Helene Jaeger 16:47
Well, I think that it’s definitely a long term project. For most people. Some people are probably really good at it. But for me, I guess it’s like a pipeline where you kind of have to cleanse out the conscious thoughts and just stuff you have in your mind. And then the richer stuff starts coming out. But to start with, it was a little stilted a little step, probably. But it was definitely worth doing.
How long have you been writing that way?
Helene Jaeger 17:19
About four years now? Yeah,
That’s a good while.
Helene Jaeger 17:22
I didn’t use any songs. But yeah, I didn’t need a song to start with. But I realized that all the the scenes and the kind of cinematic situations that were coming out, and they really lend themselves to music,
What was the original intention for the writing?
Helene Jaeger 17:38
It was to get better at lyric writing, really. Like, yeah.
So there was always the song possibility. Yeah,
Helene Jaeger 17:46
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You had an EP that you released in 2018. Was this one that you’re holding on to at the moment the follow up? Or was there something?
Helene Jaeger 18:55
Yeah, the one that I was going to release this year was my debut album. Okay. Yeah.
What’s the plan now?
Helene Jaeger 19:04
I still got it. I love it myself. The thing with that record was the songs were a little close to the bone in this pandemic situation like I have a, I guess, kind of a morbid sensibility as a songwriter. And I felt like it was almost borderline inappropriate. So also, it’s been very busy this year with, like, everyone expressing themselves on the internet now instead of in physical life. So I just wanted to kind of regroup and think of the best way to launch it moving forward.
And are you still working that out? Or do you have a tentative plan?
Helene Jaeger 19:45
Well, it looks like things will calm down into spring 2021. So probably around that. Yeah.
All right. Well, that might be good timing. I was looking at my publishing schedule for episodes and I believe I saw Are you into April? If I just do it all in order? So it could work out quite well?
Helene Jaeger 20:06
Well, that’s very cool. Um, so do you currently have a band? Or? Or do you work just with studio people are mostly yours?
Helene Jaeger 20:16
Well, I had a band around the EP, but the keyboardist moved to Austin. So I’m kind of again regrouping there for the when the record comes out, but obviously, no one’s been able to play live, per se. So I’m also working on figuring out a way to make the live or live stream really special.
Have you done any yet?
Helene Jaeger 20:41
I have not No. Okay, though is still working on how to make it really special and cool. And considering whether to make it just me with like playing omnicorp. Or how to do that set up in a way that really brings up the atmosphere of the music,
Who are some artists that you seen do live streams that you really like so far?
Helene Jaeger 21:05
I liked Angel Olsen, but she has obviously a really big set up a lot of the time. And yes, I’m kind of trying to figure out where to land on on that.
Yeah. Do you feel any hesitancy or resistance? In thinking about it so much? Or is it just is it very, just super intentional, that it’s kind of more part of your game plan? Or is it a little bit of a like, you’re putting it off, maybe a little bit.
Helene Jaeger 21:35
I was raring out to showcase a South by Southwest and Spring, I was kind of already I had the record. That was my new live show was based around the record. So with the record being postponed, I kind of have to rethink whether to Yeah, I’m going to do something now in the new year to kind of lead up to that, but I didn’t want to give away all the songs before they were actually released.
Sure. And I asked, obviously, because a lot of people, I mean, some people just don’t want to do it live streaming. And then most people that I’ve talked to independent musicians, the first times that they did it were just, you know, very stressful for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s tech. And sometimes it’s just the strange experience of the absence of actual people in front of you. So you know, I thought maybe you’re actually like, there’s some stuff there. You’re trying to work out in addition to how it’s gonna look. You know what I mean?
Helene Jaeger 22:31
Yeah, well, it’s definitely a bit of a weird situation, for sure. Maybe we get used to it a little bit more like with zooming? You know, a couple years ago, that would have been a bit weird to do. Yeah, it’s always interesting to be able to stretch your parameters and learn new things and, like, learn how your creative expression works in a new format.
Yeah for sure
Helene Jaeger 22:55
That’s always a good balance,
For sure I am. So I’m publishing my first single ever in early January, and I had a sort of a start stop on the video, but I thought, wow, this video thing is going to be a whole nother way to express it. Right. Okay. [Yeah], Right? But as you say, they’re just there are a lot of different formats, even within a format are a lot of different things you can do. Especially like I’m thinking with video, you know, you can do I guess what we consider a proper video. You can do a lyric video, you can do all kinds of snippets and things. So it’s
Helene Jaeger 23:29
Yeah, there’s like a world within a world within a world once you go in there. There’s like a whole new playing field. My ideal thing would be to do something like did you see Travis Scott played inside of fortnight? He was this giant character. I’m not a computer gaming person. So I don’t know if that’s the right word is Fortnight, the name of the game?
Helene Jaeger 23:52
So if I could do something like that, it would be like a ghost to kind of situation and I will be the ghost that comes and sings to the people in the game. Like, I find that really cool when you can use virtual reality and like, really, to not take the live format traditionally, and kind of put it on the screen, but to try and play with the whole expression of live music. That’s interesting. So people are doing with that.
Yeah, that’s cool. I saw a wonderful video today that, you know, kind of borrows from some things that have been done, but it uses animation. And the song was was great. So I almost like the first thing I wanted to ask. It was the young man I was talking about who’s worried about, you know, aging out at 25. But first thing I had to ask him was about the animators for when I first saw it, I’m like, Wow, did he do this? That’s amazing. But yeah, it reminded me of why you can there’s so many things you can do and never having, you know, not having published a video yet myself. I started thinking about it one way and because of some, you know, obstacles and having somewhat to do with pandemic but it made me think, oh, maybe I need to approach it differently. And you know, animation is certainly route and I love the idea that you have as well. It’s a very creative aspect.
Helene Jaeger 25:07
Fingers crossed. I get to Travis Scott level. And
Exactly, it’s cool. Hey, thank you so much for joining me for a chat. I dig your music when the release or anything else drips out, let me know.
Helene Jaeger 25:21
Yeah, I’d love that. Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun talking, for sure. And with your single,
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I’ll send it to you.
Helene Jaeger 25:30
Yeah, great. Take care.
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