Born in Massachusetts, Jaye Bartell moved to Asheville, NC, in the early 2000s where he began playing music among friends as a parallel activity to his work with poetry and other writing. Writing was his main focus for most of a decade; a time that involved constant traveling and moving around the U.S., mostly between North Carolina and the Pacific NW, where he lived on a small island in northern Washington.
After moving to Buffalo, NY, in 2006, he found the company of the writers and musicians of House Press, a publishing collective made up of friends from Buffalo and Chicago that produced small-edition handmade books and home-recorded albums. He released his first album, Feeling Better, Pilgrim, in 2008, after musician/writer Damian Weber taught him how to record. The album incorporated live incidental sounds (wind, chimes, traffic, birds), some of which were manipulated and processed as loops, but emphasized vocal melody and lyrics above all. A typical performance from this time included guitar and voice accompanied by a portable turntable that played field recordings of bird song, ocean waves, wind and other incidental sounds.
He moved back to Asheville in 2009 and recorded The Dog’s Dinner, which departed from the solo, self-production of his earlier work, and initiated the collaboration among Bartell and other area musicians, especially guitarist and composer Shane Parish of Ahleuchatistas. He collaborated with a number of visual artists in Asheville as well, including Ursula Gullow and Nathanael Roney, who have illustrated a number of Bartell’s albums and continue to influence his songwriting. Bartell continued to write, record, and perform intensively in Asheville for the next few years with Parish and other musicians, although most of the recorded output came from live performances.
The years 2012 and 2013 saw the releases of Elation, an EP recorded with J Seger, and Loyalty, a full-band record featuring Parish, Seger, and Emily Easterly, followed by a 2014 UK tour with like-minded troubadour, Angel Olsen.
Bartell’s move to Brooklyn, NY, in 2013, as well as the work of Spalding Gray and Eileen Myles, heavily influence the content presented on his latest record, Light Enough. In his own words, “Resettlement is an implicit theme in much of the writing, and the process of making the album was an act of resettlement: finding out where I lived as a means of coming to live there.” The record as a whole takes as a kind of informal credo a line from Eileen Myles’ Chelsea Girls: “I have waited all my life for permission. I feel it growing in my breast. A war is storming and it is behind me and I am moving my forces into light.”