Caroline Session Interview #2: Melissa Savcic and File Under Jeff

For the second on-the-road Caroline Session, Melissa Savcic and File Under Jeff played last Sunday at the Spacetaker ARC. Despite the occasional interruption by a passing train, they both played solid sets. In this 2-in-1 interview, Melissa, who is currently working on her second album, told us about moving to Texas from Venezuela, while Jeff talked about playing country music in a garage in Santa Barbara.

SCR: How did both of you get started writing music?
Melissa: My older brother played guitar when I was little, and he was my idol back then, so I wanted to learn guitar with him. So he was the one who taught me to play. I started performing when I was 15, in Venezuela, because my boyfriend at the time — yes, I had a boyfriend when I was 15 — was in a band, and he thought I had some talent. He told me I had a good voice and asked me to join. From there, I realized I could actually write my own songs, and took off.

SCR: What about you, Jeff?
Jeff: My grandmother played piano. She was very instrumental in my life, and she taught me a love of music.

SCR: Do you have a regular procedure for writing songs? If so, what is it?
Jeff: I spend a lot of time in my office playing guitar. I write little bits of songs and record them, and then eventually they turn into longer bits, and then into songs. And then Tom [Paynter, of Caroline Sessions] persuades me to play.

Melissa: I usually play guitar every day when I get home from work. I play around with random chords, and then suddenly I think, “Hmmm, this sounds like it could be a song.” I get the melody first, just the basic idea of it, then add the melody of the voice — but no lyrics. Then later, I start thinking about the song again, and start adding ;yrics. All my songs are about my life, obviously. So whatever’s going on in my life at the time, I’ll write about it.

Jeff (to Melissa): Do you ever have placeholder words? Like, words that you write to fill up space, and then when you hear them, they just sound ridiculous?
Melissa: Oh, yeah! And then sometimes it winds up in the finished song anyway. Sometimes, when I’m at work, I get lyric ideas and I’ll just type them up on my phone, and then when I get home I’ll pick up the guitar and try it out. Usually I end up changing the melody or the way I sing some of the words before the song is finished.

SCR (to Melissa): Do you ever write with other people? I know you have a regular band.
Melissa: Most of my songs I write with just me singing and playing guitar, and then I present it to the band and say, “this is my new song,” and then they make it magical. We’ve had a couple of times when I wasn’t too sure on some part of the song, and I asked them if they could help me come up with something. But it takes much longer to finish a song that way, with all that collaboration.

SCR (to Jeff): You don’t usually play with a band, but have you?
Jeff: I have in the past, back in high school and college. I’ve moved around a lot, so I just go out and see whoever wants to collaborate and play. When I lived in Santa Barbara I played at this country thing, where some guy had a garage, and people would come and play country music there… I met some really interesting people there. Then we’d go and play at midnight at University of California, in some big auditorium. Play some lonely country songs with that giant reverb. But, you know, I play with whoever’s around.

SCR (to Melissa): I know you moved to Houston not too long ago, right?
Melissa: Well, four years ago. Houston is definitely my home now.

SCR: What made you decide to move to Houston, and to keep playing here?
Melissa: I had a band in high school, but then when I went to college we stopped playing because, you know, I wanted to focus on my studies. And when I graduated, with all the political issues in Venezuela, I just decided I had to leave. So I submitted some resumes online before coming here, and I got some phone interviews. So when I flew into America, I had a personal interview the very same day, and got the job. After a year, just doing my regular job, I wasn’t performing at all, but my boyfriend at the time heard me playing guitar at home and told me that I should get more serious about my music. So he was the one to push me. Then I decided to start looking for musicians to play with, and now here I am.

SCR (to Melissa): And you have some songs that are in Spanish, right?
Melissa: Yeah.

SCR: Is it easier or more natural to write in Spanish? Or do you favor English now?
Melissa: Actually, I always write in English. I never really listened to much music in Spanish, even when I lived in Venezuela, because I’ve always listenend mostly to music in English. “Dame Mas” is about Venezuela, about why I left. So I decided to write that one in Spanish.
Jeff: But nobody in Texas can understand what you’re saying. It’s like a secret!
Melissa: [laughs]

SCR: So what can we expect to hear from both of you in the near future?
Melissa: I’m recording my new album right now. All the instruments are done, we just need to do the vocals. So it should be early summer when that comes out.
Jeff: I hope to record a song or two sometime soon. Other than that, no real plans. END

(Photos by Tom Paynter of Paynter Media.)

Interview by . Interview posted Sunday, March 13th, 2011. Filed under Features, Interviews.

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5 Responses to “Caroline Session Interview #2: Melissa Savcic and File Under Jeff”

  1. Tom on March 14th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Awesome stuff Robin!

  2. My Second Caroline Session Interview: Melissa Savcic + File Under Jeff « Hello, I'm Robin on March 16th, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    […] This is an excerpt from an interview I did with with Melissa Savcic and File Under Jeff at the latest Caroline Session at the Spacetaker ARC last weekend . To read the whole interview on Space City Rock, go here! […]

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Help Japan, Today at The Caroline Collective on March 27th, 2011 at 2:00 am

    […] Corey Power, retro-popster Chase Hamblin, Melissa Savcic, File Under Jeff (both also interviewed here) and the awesomely entertaining Benjamin Wesley, among […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Video Time: Talking with Benjamin Wesley on April 25th, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    […] — if you read this site at all regularly, you’ve probably seen some of the interviews around […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Jandek + Caroling at Caroline + El Birthday Metalfest + Jonathan Toubin Benefit + More on December 17th, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    […] Hearts frontman Corey Power, Melissa Savcic, File Under Jeff (both of whom our own Robin Babb interviewed several months back), and plenty of others. As always, it’s a potluck BBQ-type thing (with meat and veggies, mind […]

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