Singer-songwriter J.R. Rhodes believes that music is healing and that love is real. From her first open-mic performances at the O.K. Hotel, Seattle, to her latest album I Am, these beliefs in the transformative power of song are distilled into gems of quiet intensity that traverse blues, jazz, folk and rock. Aided by her guitar, she crafts songs that are pulled from a landscape of pure spirit.
Her full-length albums include I Am (forthcoming release), produced by Johnny Sangster, Elixir (2011), Afriqueen Stare (2003), and Songs of Angels (1999). Additional works that demonstrate Rhodes’ range and virtuosity are Lullabies (2013), a riveting performance of traditional spirituals, On the Boards, Seattle; as well as 2 Old Chicks (2005), a 50-piece orchestral film score, created in collaboration with Doris Bartha and Steve Brush.
Rhodes began writing at a young age, composing poems that “always had a melody, too.” Skipping class to stay home and learn new instruments, Rhodes found in music a way to go inside herself, and to inspire others to go inside themselves, to learn, to heal, to find love or to leave it behind. One source of continued inspiration for the artist is an autograph, from the poet Maya Angelou, that hangs prominently in her studio, a memento of their meeting at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.
Rhodes earned her B.A. in music composition from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT. Jazz luminaries Bill Lowe and Anthony Braxton were favorite teachers who encouraged her to explore and push beyond any self-imposed boundaries. These lessons have allowed her to continually grow and evolve her music. She has collaborated with musicians including Matt Chamberlain (David Bowie), Brad Houser (Edie Brickell & New Bohemians), Mike Dillon (Ani DiFranco), Eyvind Kang (Bill Frisell), Jeff Fielder (Mark Lanegan), Dan Walker (LeRoy Bell), Jessica Lurie, Keith Lowe (Fiona Apple), Amy Denio, Jessika Kenney, Mike Stone (Wayne Horvitz) and Skerik.
Rhodes muses, “It’s easy to be cynical. It takes a lot to be intentional. It takes a lot to love.” In her latest album I Am, that labor is felt in her meticulous craft that enmeshes the listener in a honeyed pool of poetry and strings. I Am takes the listener into love and then heartache, through rebirth, and finally, up into freedom.