Jillian Bessett’s first solo album, “Electric Moon,” came out almost 10 years ago. Even then, Bessett’s piano technique and her vocal and lyrical capabilities were evident, and as the years went on, Bessett continued to post her musical projects on social media.
The songs became more impressive and engaging. She was the frontwoman of a band, Jillian and the Giants for a while. During the pandemic, she started creating music solo by looping her voice and instruments over each other into mesmerizing melodies. This looping method is the backbone of “Joy,” Bessett’s most recent solo album.
Recently, she formed Bessett and Callahan. Because as with life, artists change and refocus, and go in new directions. And sometimes we loop back to our foundations and find the joy in collaborations again.
After the release of “Joy,” Bessett wanted to move on from the more isolated looping approach that created “Joy.”
“After that got put to bed, there was this want and drive to play something very different from looping,” Bessett said on Che’s patio. “And it’s always been country for me.”
Bessett and her longtime musical partner, Chris Callahan, have been writing songs and performing as part of Jillian and The Giants for many years, where the return to more of a country style was already happening.
“I think that we touched on it a little bit in ‘Mr. Airplane,’ which was the Jillian the Giants album,” Bessett said.
“‘Rodeo Palms,’ and ‘I Don’t Know My Name’ specifically have these, like, western elements to them. And then that music that (Chris and I) started writing, probably about a month and a half ago, has been just a full turn into that country realm.”
While the Giants had Bessett as the frontwoman, and Bessett’s solo work had her steering the entire ship, Bessett and Callahan is far more of a collaboration.
“There was, I think, a magic in Giants,” Bessett said.
“I had my name in front of it, right? So, it was Jillian and the Giants, but I feel like the thing that made people keep coming back to those live shows was this one-two punch of Chris’ guitar and my vocals. And so I feel like we get to take all of the really cool beautiful parts of that and explore it in this really collaborative songwriting with Bessett and Callahan in this kind of new way, that also feels really familiar, because we’ve played together for 10 years.”
“She’s soft and I’m spiky,” Callahan said. “But I think that working together I think she’s come part in my direction, and I’ve come part in her direction.
“The music is new, though, and that’s really exciting,” Bessett added. “But it is kind of like a continuation, I think, of our musical relationship.”
Bessett and Callahan as a project has an easy give and take. “Chris will have a melody or some writing or poetry, and then he’ll volley it to me,” Bessett said. “And then I’ll look at it. Or I’ll write something and volley it to Chris. And he’ll take a look at it.”
“It’s kind of cool in a sad way that we started this when she was out of town for like a month,” Callahan said.
“The cool thing about it, though, is that all there really was to do was kind of work separately on little chunks and send things back and forth.”
Bessett and Callahan have played a of couple shows as this new duo, and have another show at Che’s on Sunday, Aug. 27, with fellow locals Freezing Hands.
They also have been working on an album as well as recording some videos at The Garage in Camp Verde with videographer Max Harms.
The video for “Amargosa,” just posted on YouTube earlier this month, shows Bessett and Callahan playing live, Callahan’s spiky, heavily reverbed guitar soothed by Bessett’s soft yet deep and dark vocals. “Down by the river/down by the lake,” Bessett sings, “I was just walking/I was afraid what I would find.”
It’s clear through their performances they are in sync with each other’s musical strengths. “Sometimes people — and maybe it’s not as common as I hope it would be — can set all their bullshit and all their egos aside, and make sure that the song is the best song that comes out,” Bessett said.
“And it doesn’t matter who wrote what, it just matters that the song is the best that it can possibly be. I feel safe enough to be able to do that with Chris in a really cool way.”
“I still say, you wrote the lyrics, I wrote the music, but it’s not really that, it’s just that that’s kind of where it all started and then it comes together,” Callahan said.
Bessett added, “Putting aside both ourselves for this project to make this music has been really fun.”
Bessett and Callahan
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27
WHERE: Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Avenue, Tucson
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)