The snow has put a lovely glow on the city, but it has impeded many a personal appointment lately! Thanks to Jamie Corff and Val Blaha for being willing to do a remote interview to introduce us to the new duo Luminous Heart.and their debut album Possibility. You can catch Luminous Heart at the Next Local Roots live series show this coming Wednesday, January 11. I am loving how they answered these questions together. This duo is a solid pair of friends with a heart for connecting to the audience.
PN: How did you two meet?
Jamie: I signed up to take guitar lessons from Val. Eventually, as I became more comfortable with the guitar, I co-founded a different duo, Awaken Jane, and I began to bring the songs that we wrote or were working on to Val for my lessons. She apparently liked them and one day she asked if we wanted a bass player, as she wanted to have more opportunity to play bass. I was kind of a Val fan-girl at the time, and jumped at the chance to make music with her. It was fun, but before we got a chance to really get out there as a band, our friend had to drop out due to family commitments. So after awhile, we morphed into Luminous Heart.
Val: I was really impressed by Jamie as a student… she was a natural, and also just a great person to spend time with!
PN: You are both lifetime musicians – when do you first remember knowing this is what you would want to do?
Jamie: My dad was a musician. He played rhythm guitar and sang in several different hair metal bands when I was growing up. I loved watching them practice. I only got to see him perform every once in awhile because he usually played in bars. He was a very entertaining performer and I idolized him. Though performing made me nervous for a long time, I always wanted to be just like him.
Val: I’ve wanted to sing as long as I could remember. I was an only child, and would spend hours in my room singing along with records from at least 8 years old. And I performed as a classical pianist from a very young age. But it took until I was in my 30s before I really found my voice and my confidence to stand up and sing on a regular basis. And now that I’ve been writing songs for about 10 years, it’s my favorite thing to do… each new song feels like a new child!
PN: What’s the first song that connected with you as a child?
Jamie: My sister and I were obsessed with the album “Brigade” by Heart. We would parade around in our room and lip sync to every song.
Val: Probably “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by Pat Benatar. Also, the entire Grease soundtrack.
Jamie: oh yeah! The Grease soundtrack, of course!!!
PN: What’s the first album you bought, or the first show you stood in line for?
Jamie: It’s too embarrassing to answer the first question, but the first concert I stood in line for was Staind, the summer of 2001 at the Salt Lake City Palace. I was 18 years old. I grew up in rural Wyoming, so I didn’t have many opportunities to go to concerts until after I graduated high school. Being there gave me an incredible sense of freedom…even though I felt like I was going to pass out from being in the middle of a huge, hot, sweaty pit!
Val: I grew up near Los Angeles, and my dad would take me to shows, or drop me off with friends. I remember being ridiculously excited to see Duran Duran in 1983 or so.
PN: Did your families expose you to music, lessons, etc?
Jamie: Both of my parents were into music. I never got any formal training, but I played flute in symphonic, concert and jazz bands, as well as sang in many choirs in school.
Val: I started piano lessons when I was 6, and was playing Mozart sonatas by age 11. I performed a lot as a child, although to tell the truth, I resented it somewhat. I had to get up early every morning and practice an hour before school started. And I missed out on some activities with my friends (like Outdoor School) because I had performances. Now I’m glad I put in all that time though! My dad also exposed me to a lot of 50’s music… he’d quiz me on recognition of singers like Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, etc.
PN: You seem very community oriented and purposeful in your writing – what, if any, is the message of your latest album?
Jamie: I think it’s safe to say that we’re very community oriented in our individual lives, and we both have many causes that we are devoted to and that have shaped us. “Possibility” has messages of hope, renewal, and recognition of the undeniable cycles of life.
Val: Yes, and also a message of hope and independence for women… not being bound to gender or societal roles. The lyrics for the title song were inspired by a wonderful children’s book called “Rooftoppers” by Katherine Rundell.
PN: You also seem to have a really devoted fan base – it’s not just the music – you seem very accessible as a duo, and you seem like actual friends – is that true? Would you be friends if you didn’t play together?
Jamie: We are dear friends, indeed. I’m super grateful for Val’s friendship and love making music with her. Even if we weren’t a duo, I’m certain we would be friends, because we have a lot of the same ideals and philosophies, and we run in the same circles in Yamhill County. However, I don’t think we’d be as good of friends as we are. There is something special about creating music with someone; it bonds you together in a very deep way.
Val: Aw! I’m so grateful also for Jamie’s friendship. This is my first time being in a musical collaboration with another woman (apart from my brief time with Awaken Jane), and I absolutely love it and adore working with Jamie in particular! We get along wonderfully, and when we’re working we are able to communicate very well, which is so important if you’re going to progress and move in the same direction musically.
It’s also nice to be making music in Yamhill county… we both feel very connected to so many people here, and we’re very thankful for the support that our friends and fans have given us.
PN: What are your goals in the next few years?
Jamie: We want to continue improving our performances. We want to bring more instruments into our songs and find different ways to be compelling for our audiences. We also want to write and record more music, and continue to play shows. Maybe it’s not that specific, but we are trying to keep ourselves open to opportunities. Who knows what may come?
Val: Writing more music (especially together!) and reaching a wider audience. It would be great to start playing some festivals as well. We’re definitely hoping to play new venues, both in Portland and beyond, around the northwest and California. We think our music is especially well-suited for house concerts, given the emphasis on the lyrics, so in the near term, we’d love to start doing more of those. We’d also love to get some of our songs into movies or tv, so we hope to make connections that help with that, and raise funds to do some more recording.
Jamie: Yep, Val sums it all up perfectly!
Now that you’ve gotten inside the hearts and minds of these creative women, check out their music at CD Baby, ReverbNation, Bandcamp or on their website. Corff and Blaha do a terrific job keeping current with their social media and gig updates as well. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and get current news about their activities on their website. To see them live, check out the gig schedule. I’m so excited to see them play next week, January 11, at Alberta Street Pub with the Local Roots Live Series. Hope to see you there too!