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Soldier On Album Cover.jpg

Track Listing:

1. Hallelujah

2. Too High Too Low

3. Coyote

4. Something To Lose

5. Smoke Signals

6. Shoo Fly

7. Mermaid

8. My Last Day

9. Charlene

10. Soldier On

11. I Don't Feel Lonely

Pi Jacobs is a lifer. Born in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, she's spent two decades onstage and on the road, creating a rhythmic, rootsy sound that's every bit as diverse as her own upbringing.


"My dad's Filipino, my mom's white, and my step grandmother and cousins are African-American," says the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who moved between hippie communes during her childhood. "Growing up, our apartment looked like the UN. I didn't know it was unusual until I left the Bay Area, and that's one of the reasons I love Americana music. It's inclusive. It makes room for everything. Traditional genres have become so segregated, and I want to break that mold."


She turns a new page with Soldier On, an album that shines brighter light on Pi's bluesy interpretation of American roots music. It's her tenth release, and it captures a longtime songwriter at the peak of her powers, delivering stories of resilience and endurance while a hotshot band kicks up plenty of dust behind her. Co-produced with two-time Grammy nominee Eric Corne, Soldier On finds Pi looking inward, balancing some of her most personal songwriting to date with full-band performances that were largely tracked live. The result is the best of both worlds: a rawly autobiographical album punctuated by groove and grit, caught halfway between the intimacy of Pi's writing and the collaborative chemistry of her stripped-down band.


"Hallelujah, it's just me again," she sings on the album's opener, a joyous blast of blues, soul, and string-band stomp. Don't mistake the song for a breakup anthem; instead, it's the sound of an introvert celebrating some well-deserved alone time. "Hallelujah" is also a showcase for Pi's voice, an elastic instrument that swoons one minute and swaggers the next, its delivery whipped into shape by hundreds of live shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Those shows play a prominent role on "Two High, Too Low," another blues-influenced track whose lyrics find Pi on the road, gigging relentlessly, rolling with the ups and downs of a life largely spent on the run. Meanwhile, two familiar faces from those live performances — twin brothers Adam (dobro) and Zack Hall (upright bass), both of whom have played with Pi since 2017 — appear throughout the record, as does drummer Butch Norton (Lucinda Williams, The Eels). Together, the musicians channel the Wild West on the breezy "Coyote"; establish a funky, percussive pulse during "Smoke Signals"; and pay tribute to music itself with the album's closer, "I Don't Feel Lonely."


"The lyric 'I don't feel lonely when I sing' is a comforting idea," Pi says, quoting a line from Soldier On's final track. "I think it's easy for someone to question why they make music. It's exhausting. You're gone all the time. You basically work in a bar. Everything that surrounds music is so challenging, but actually playing music is amazing and wonderful. I try to remember that whenever I'm getting stuck on the challenging stuff. I think of music as a magic trick, because it takes you to a different place, it cheers you up, and it makes you feel not so lonely."


It can make you dance, too. One of the threads running throughout Pi's entire career has been her appreciation for good grooves, and Soldier On honors that longtime love. Raised on California country songs, blues standards, soul classics, and Laurel Canyon folksongs, she began playing bass at 15 years old and even studied the instrument in college, earning a double major in bass and vocal performance. After relocating to New York, she mixed acoustic guitar and hip-hop loops on her 2001 debut, Irrational. A move to California several years later brought her back to her musical roots, and her album Urbanicana found her assimilating country influences and southern rock textures into her music. During the decade's final stretch, she became a big fan of the TV program Justified — particularly the show's theme song,"Long Hard Times to Come," which mixed hip-hop percussion with country instrumentation. That sound inspired the arrangements on her 2020 release, Two Truths and a Lie, whose beat-driven backbone was supplied by drummer Butch Norton.


With Butch reprising his role behind the drum kit, Soldier On offers its own own share of grooves. Even so, the instrumentation is minimal, with Pi focusing the spotlight on her singing, storytelling, and songwriting chops instead.


"I wanted to pare down to minimal instrumentation," she explains. "I often tour without drums, using a homemade stomp box that I developed myself. I wanted to honor that vibe. Groove is very important to me, though. I hear it in my head, even when I'm playing alone, and I like being able to represent it at my solo shows. That's why I love working with Butch. He used a ton of percussion and almost no cymbals, and that suited the mood. The album almost sounds quiet at times, but it also rocks."


That sense of balance is another one of Pi Jacobs' magic tricks. Throughout the 21st century, she has straddled the dividing line between genres, creating her own Americana sound along the way. She's an artist in perpetual motion, evolving her music with each album, chasing her muse into unexplored territory and creating a soundtrack for the ongoing journey. With Soldier On, she continues the exploration.

Weed and Wine Remix Cover.jpg

Photography: Shots by Morrison



Track Listing:

1. Broken Cup Intro

2. Broken Cup Live

3. First Thing Tomorrow Intro

4. First Thing Tomorrow Live

5. Rearview Intro

6. Rearview Live

7. Party Girl Intro

8. Party Girl Live

9. Weed And Wine Intro

10. Weed And Wine Live

11. Diana The Hunter Intro

12. Diana The Hunter Live

13. No Sin To Be Poor Intro

14. No Sin To Be Poor Live

15. Good Things Intro

16. Good Things Live

Los Angeles musician Pi Jacobs is amplifying the concert experience on Live From Memphis, an inventive new album that places eight original songs alongside the personal stories that shaped them. Recorded with a full band, the project offers a sincere and sometimes funny look at her formative years, her family relationships, and even a few lessons she’s learned along the way. 


“I feel like with all art, there’s an important sense of connection for people,” she says. “It’s part of our humanity. We don’t want to feel alone. The only reason to put these stories out is to help people. That’s it. It’s not for my ego – in fact, parts of them are super embarrassing for me!” 


With a laugh, she continues, “In writing these stories, there’s been a little more acceptance of myself. I can’t even explain that healing feeling I had, but it’s been a happy side effect.” 


A blend of roots-rock swagger and storytelling soul, the music on Live From Memphis comes from Jacob’s live taping for Ditty TV, which was filmed without an audience. For the set list, she drew six songs from 2020’s Two Truths and a Lie and two others from 2017’s A Little Blue. But rather than using the between-songs banter intended for the viewing audience, she took a page from one of her favorite NPR podcasts and decided to share more of herself than ever before. 


“The band and I loved how that concert came out so much,” she says. “I thought, what if I write an intro that’s my very personal inspiration for the song? I was listening to people doing that on the Moth Radio Hour and some of these people are so brave. I thought, well, maybe I could do that, too. So I started putting these stories on paper.” 


Thus, Live From Memphis begins with a story, specifically how she met her now-husband (not to mention all of Jacobs’ self-enforced dating rules before they met). It’s a terrific icebreaker and also provides a gateway into the unique storytelling aspect of the album. 


“The conventional wisdom would say not to start with a slow song. But that song has always had a spiritual quality to it and I feel like it draws people in, in a quiet way,” she says. “It’s a happy story and a good way to introduce my more personal side to people… before I scare them.”  


All kidding aside, there’s little for listeners to fear in her detailed anecdotes, whether they’re about tracking down her absent father in Alaska or paying dues as a starving artist in New York City. However, other topics may feel immediately identifiable to anyone, like the impact of the #MeToo movement or growing up without money. 


“Listening to this album as a whole now, I’ve gotten OK with the stories,” she says. “When I first started recording them, I had a couple of panic attacks, like, oh my God, I can’t do this. But now I feel like everyone has stuff.” 


As a narrator, Jacobs’ voice is engaging and witty, while her pacing is spot-on, with none of her stories turning into mere ramblings. For example, “First Thing Tomorrow” calls to mind the disappointment and shock that many people felt after the 2016 presidential election. Jacobs admits that she stayed drunk for a long time afterwards, just like the character in the song, but ultimately found redemption in activism.  


However, for those who felt differently about that election, you can still relate to the lyrical theme of realizing that things aren’t going the way you anticipated – and that you’re not handling it very well. The animated music video, created by Turkish illustrator Mertcan Mertbilek, adds a fanciful and light feeling to the narrative. 


Jacobs understands that even if she’s considered a liberal by some, at least she comes by it honestly. Raised by a single mother in the Bay Area, she spent the first two years of her life within a two-mile radius of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. 


“I grew up with hippies, so back then I thought everybody was like that,” she says. “But my mom told me it was a bubble, especially in Northern California. So, not everyone is going to relate to being a hippie kid but I think anybody who grew up out of the mainstream will relate to being different.” 


Throughout her childhood, storytelling was always around. She learned to read as a toddler and started singing by age 3 in her preschool chorus. Her mother, an avowed hippie who later became a schoolteacher, has been acting in community theatre productions for years, while Jacobs was a theatre kid in school. Pivotal memories from this era come to life in the stories for “Weed and Wine” and “Party Girl.” 


Jacobs learned to play guitar at 11 but gravitated toward bass in college, where she also studied jazz and vocal performance. Although she played a few gigs accompanying herself on bass, she made it a point to get better at guitar when she decided to become a songwriter. She moved to New York after landing her first record deal and issued a debut album in 2001. 


But when her boyfriend (and now-husband) got a job in Los Angeles, she reluctantly decided to come along. As a native Californian, she says she always dismissed LA, but within a few years she realized how many friends she’d made. “LA is so huge and the Americana scene is small and tight-knit. I found a haven and a supportive community there,” she says. 


Tellingly, Live From Memphis concludes on an upbeat vibe with “Good Things,” a rousing song brimming with positive energy that she frequently saves for encores. 


“It just has that feel. It’s uptempo and happy and that story has a nice message,” she says. “Just when you think things are darkest, the thing you least expect to happen will be a good thing.” 

Publicity ~ Devious Planet PR ~ Pati deVries:

Label ~ Blackbird Record Label ~ Manda Mosher:

Radio ~ Upstart Entertainment ~ Joe Estrada:

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