By Bella Savignano | June 26, 2022
Equal parts psychedelic and soulful, rock ‘n’ roll and pure groove, Milwaukee-born songstress Abby Jeanne is leading the cosmic pilgrimage towards self-love and healing. The Queens-based singer, multi-instrumentalist, record label owner, festival organizer, and purveyor of melodic enchantment has the voice of an angel (it could also be likened to Amy Winehouse) and the spirit of an electrical storm– and she is one to watch in the New York City scene.
Surrounded by “freaks and weirdos” in her childhood and plunged into a world of art and theatre before she could talk, art became not just an outlet for Abby, but a lens through which she experienced the world. Though she spent her whole life around visual and performance art, for Abby, music became an entire, distinctly sacred, empyrean venture later in her youth. She discovered the ease with which music allowed her to “talk to people about the world and the human experience,” something she has a hard time doing with mere words alone.
At age 13, she stumbled down the rabbit hole and into Hi-Fi Cafe, a neighborhood joint with a jukebox that hosted “weird older guys” who came to swap 45s and talk comics. There, she discovered her love of analog music and the world that encompasses it.
“I was reading comics and listening to music. I was like, “this is really for me!”. When you’re young and looking for community, it means something more because of the tangibility,” Abby said. In a world encroaching on analog withdrawal, where the digital sphere is dictating the future, palpable conduits for interaction remain invaluable. Records have taken the form of spiritual amulets in her life, providing comfort, community, and magic when she needed it most.
“That was a way to escape for me, playing records and the magic of that moment. The feeling of putting a record on and having that music hit you, it’s just a ritual,” she effused. Abby has released seven 7-inch vinyl pressings and one full-length 12-inch LP through her independent record label, a feat she holds dear to her heart.
The day after her high school graduation, at age 17, she hopped in a van and drove down to Savannah, Georgia. She dabbled in writing music and busking but didn’t take it seriously until the tragic death of her sister in 2011, after which she made a deal with the universe to use her intrinsic vocal power to do something. Upon experiencing a lifetime of emotions and adventures globally, Abby returned to Milwaukee in 2017, where she formed a band and released her first album “Rebel Love.” She dominated her hometown scene, selling out Milwaukee’s Turner Hall, and receiving awards for “Best Solo Artist” and “Album of the Year” at the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards.
Now, Abby Jeanne is based in Queens, New York, and her history of nomadic traveling seemed to be– at least briefly– tamed by the city.
“In New York, the people here are incredible, and the vibes are incredible, and the events are incredible. Everything makes me feel like I wanna stay and at least sing for as many people as possible,” she gushes. But don’t expect to see her serenading the city forever.
“I want to get back to Los Angeles eventually because sometimes the city grinds you down a little. I’m a nature girl, so I want to be in the woods singing alone. When you’re by yourself, just the catharsis of innocence and nature is really important to me for self-healing,” she adds.
On Saturday, Abby and her band of roaming troubadours played an intimate gig at a friend’s birthday party. The next night, they detonated “Sunday Soul Scream” at Our Wicked Lady, a madcap weekly party whose consistently astounding lineup and late-night dancing, hosted by DJ and “soul proprietor,” Jonathan Toubin, pulls a substantial crowd of New York’s grooviest. This Sunday, the billing was set to feature the aforementioned Abby Jeanne as well as 95 Bulls, a raging punk outfit who just released their debut album “GO HOME.” Surprise features from Seattle garage rock band Acid Tongue and 1960s-tinged analog DJ Sarah Savannah rounded out the billing, setting up a night of immeasurable talent.
At 9 pm, Abby Jeanne and company sauntered on stage in garb that implied a trip in the time machine back to 1966– Abby herself in black cat-eye sunglasses, a black mini dress, and cigarette earrings. Their musical style melds blistering, heavy riffing rock ‘n’ roll (led by guitarist Jenna Rades) with a propensity for funk and soul so groovy it would be impossible not to dance. They put on an impossibly tight show, bubbling over with passion and soul that oozed over the crowd. Their set flew by at the speed of light, and by the end, a look of awe was dispersed through the audience, shell shocked by the musical revelation they had witnessed. The rest of the evening sustained the same buzz. 95 Bulls and Acid Tongue bled unbridled rock ‘n’ roll electricity and Sarah Savannah soundtracked the later part of the evening with funky 45s pulled from her vintage record case.
“There is a community in music, no matter what kind of music. You love music, you resonate with that feeling,” said Abby. “That feeling” can be illusory, fluttering and floating about, caught in-between bass lines or drum fills and wafting in the air at your favorite venue. It’s undefinable, abstract in the truest sense of the word, but for all of us who live and breathe live music, there is not a single notion of doubt that it exists within us.
In green room #5 at Our Wicked Lady, Abby Jeanne answered a few questions for the groovement.
What was your first concert?
I think the first concert I went to was actually multiple concerts, because in Milwaukee there’s a festival called Summer Fest. You pay for one ticket but you can go to multiple stages all day. It’s crazy that I don’t really remember it because I think I was so young. I can’t even remember what the first concert was, I’m sure we saw five or six! I would think it would be some magical moment.
What was the moment you got started in music?
When I left home I was 16 going on 17, I graduated high school and the day after I drove to GA. I was dabbling with writing and busking and I knew I should make music, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do it yet. It wasn’t until my sister committed suicide in 2011 that I made a really strong bond with myself and with the universe that I would use this voice and I will dedicate this to whatever the fuck I have to dedicate this to. From that point on I just started working really hard on writing and trying to express myself. Learning how to play guitar and piano better, because I self-taught myself both of those instruments.
How would you describe your music?
Like Otis Redding and The Shangri Las were a band. It’s refined and dirty all at the same time. My drummer describes it as “melding swift twee pop with gritty, hard-stepped soul.” That’s pretty to the point.
Who/what inspires you?
Traveling around the world, People who are themselves more than less of the time, records, rock ‘n’ roll, healing from the suffering of the human experience, tangible well-made things, intentional fashion, mind-expanding experiences, Primary colors, visions of beauty and love, graphic images, the psyche, navigating the unknown the feelings of joyous ecstasy…. I could keep going on and on.
What do you want to impart to your listeners through your music?
I serve my soul on a platter with hopes that I can act as a direct channel to the spirit. I project to connect, not to teach.
What’s your dream venue to play?
So many right now. Top three are Red Rocks (Morrison, Colorado), Colosseum (Las Vegas, Nevada), or the Margravial Opera House in Germany.
What has been your most memorable night in NYC? Or, what would your dream night out be?
Every night in NYC is memorable yet I can’t remember a thing…