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Music Journeys: Jess Baldwin

Jess Baldwin

Columbus musician Jess Baldwin joins Music Journeys to talk about her forthcoming album "Anima." It remains in the crowdfunding stages, but she's been releasing digital demos and sharing acoustic versions of the songs. At 40, the vocal instructor found that recovery and songwriting go hand in hand. 

What I'm Not plays...

Whether absorbing it in church at a young age, earning two degrees in it, or teaching it now - music has always been a part of Jess Baldwin's life. But the 40-year-old never crafted an original album until now. It took a long time in large part because of developmental and religious trauma. 

"There was mental illness in my family that made it difficult for the grown ups to give the kids the space they needed to have their needs met," Baldwin recalled. "I felt it was my responsibility to be a caretaker and set aside needs. When you're little, you're not really sure what your needs are. There's a disconnection. That was compounded a bit by some of the religious teaching I grew up with where self-sacrifice is a major tenet of that. Later on, it was a reclaiming of self. It's okay to be a self who needs help and to ask for that." 

Home plays...

"I grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia and as the daughter of a choir director who came through a system of learning about music that's in our academic system," Baldwin said. "Both my parents went to historically-Black colleges so they were learning and being immersed in music that their teachers were promoting, so Jazz was really popular and spiritual songs, so there was just a really rich musical culture that I was growing up in."

Alarm Call plays...

"Music feels like something that allows me to bring a lot of those things together in one space - writing, design, healing, and teaching it also is a really big part of my life," Baldwin said. "I run a studio that helps singers but also to help people to figure out who they are as artists. It's a language I'm comfortable with. When it comes to self-expression and how I experience emotion, music is one of the first things that comes up. Singing and the piano really feel like home. There's a physical comfort that happens when I sit at the piano and play and sing. It's like my oldest friend." 

Wild Heart plays...

"Wild is the track where I actually came across the word Anima," Baldwin reflected. "Wild is about being tangled up in other people's stuff and the need to be yourself and say your own thing. The image of a tiger in a cage kept coming up. This person caged in that needed to come out in my fullness and not letting myself out was very much about not hurting other people. Feeling like a wild animal and yet knowing at the same time that to release myself was also to keep myself alive."

The InBetween plays...

"I woke up on what happened to be the equinox and had no sense of who I was or what I had to do that day," Baldwin recalled of writing The InBetween. "I thought I'm in the in-between. It was connected to work I was doing with my therapist on being okay in an in-between space when I don't know what step to take next. Make a choice, come back to the not-knowing. So, The InBetween was meant to capture some of those feelings."

April Fool plays...

Launching her tour and on the cusp of her first album at the age of 40, Baldwin admits the whole experience feels massive but right. 

"Something I knew needed to happen since I was 25 when I read The Artist Way for the first time," Baldwin said. "But there was something in there for a long time that was hard to articulate, a blurry vision in the distance that I hope someday to write my own music and make an album and be in spaces where people really want to absorb whatever that is and have a dialogue with me. When you're 40 you think have I done the things that if I looked back will feel really happy I'd done. This is one of those things that if I look back and it's something that happened, I'll be quite glad." 

Baldwin begins the first of three Ohio gigs at Natalie's in Worthington Thursday August 5. More information about the tour and her Kickstarter campaign can be found at

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.
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