The curators of Tracks Music Library say the music scene in Chapel Hill is special. In their bios on the Tracks website, they reference iconic venues, the community’s camaraderie and a range of genres and talents. They are experts on the subject: musicians, business owners and scholars who have been selected for their knowledge of local culture and their ear for quality.
One of their jobs as curators for Tracks, which is a commercial-free collection of music from over 70 Triangle-based artists, is to create playlists that highlight the best music the area has to offer.
Inspired by the “Celebrate the Women of Tracks” playlist by Kat Harding and by Women’s History Month, The Daily Tar Heel is profiling four local women featured on the track list:
A.yoni Jeffries: “I do create music that is genre-allergic, if you will. I really enjoy … exploring the boundaries of my artistry and my culture.”
When Jeffries was a child, her mother heard her humming unfamiliar melodies. As a songwriter and wordsmith herself, she enrolled Jeffries in classical training as a vocalist at only age 8. A North Carolina native, Jeffries is still singing; she currently lives and works in Durham.
Her heritage runs deep into her musicianship — her mother is Native American, and Jeffries grew up near her tribe; her father taught her about her Jamaican background. These influences show up in her work, which includes songs in her native tongue as well as reggae hits. Her most recent project, “Potential Gon Pay,” is a reclamation of her identity and a life spent at the intersection of two very unique cultures.
Rachel Kiel: “One thing I think is interesting about songwriters is there’s this friction between the idea that you have to be inspired to write a song and that you have to sit down and make it a job.”
Carrboro-based singer/songwriter Rachel Kiel nudges herself into creative mode by giving herself what she calls “homework assignments.” She challenges herself to write a song in an interesting tuning on guitar or writes a piece for an instrument she’s not particularly familiar with. One of Kiel’s assignments was to read part of the book “Songwriters on Songwriting” and write the song “Clara” in a style that one of the musicians in the book might have used.
Kiel already had the melody for “Clara” when she sat down; she’d dreamed it that morning. She sometimes has musical ideas in the space between sleeping and waking, which is also known as the Hypnopompic state. Her newest album, “Dream Logic,” continues to draw on dreams and discipline as a source of inspiration for her work as an artist.
Remona Jeannine: “I’m not really the kind of musician that is self-deprecating. I write music for myself, and I sing myself to sleep.”
One medium just doesn’t cut it for Remona Jeannine. Blogs, poems, doodles and other visual art are part of her creative process and what she provides for her audience. Although she’s drawn to artists with an air of mystery, what she puts into practice is the complete opposite. She unwraps each of her lyrics in other forms, making the topic of each piece abundantly clear; whether that be mental illness, familial spaces or the cultural differences between her upbringing as a missionary kid in the Philippines and the white, middle-class way of living.
Jeannine’s upcoming album, “Draw What You See,” chronicles her life. It’s a series of well-worn songs, the oldest being 10 years old. She’s excited again about the visual component — the cover art is a portrait of Remona created by her sister when they were children. Remona was trying to teach her how to draw, and her words of advice were “draw what you see;” the result, she hopes, will be hilarious.
Jess Klein: “If I’m writing a song about something that wasn’t a personal experience, I have to be able to find the universal in it.”
Jess Klein uses her music to tell stories that she feels are necessary to be shared. In February, she wrote a song about Wyatt Outlaw, the first African American to be elected town commissioner and constable in Alamance County. Outlaw was later murdered, and Klein was inspired by Black Lives Matter protests in the area to write about his life. She listens to what people tell her and what they experience, and Klein takes on the role of a narrator by trying to understand a person’s emotional reality in order to do justice to the stories she tells.
After 20 years of artistry, 11 albums and tours across the U.S., Europe and Japan, Klein has now landed in Hillsborough. She and her husband, who is also a musician, usually play a monthly show together at the Nash Street Tavern, which she said will be starting back up soon.
Having spent time in cities where the arts culture was more “dog-eat-dog,” she said she was particularly touched upon hearing about her inclusion in the playlist. She doesn’t take the attention paid to local musicians here for granted.