DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Oct 11 2007

Interview with local songwriter JuJu B. Solomon

by Jimmy L

Jujub_headshot JuJu B. Solomon, a resident of DeKalb County Georgia, was recently named Best Local Singer/Songwriter in the Creative Loafing’s Best of Atlanta 2007 issue.  His self titled debut album is out on New Street Records and can be found at Decatur CD.  Recently, I caught up with JuJu B. (known simply as Benjamin when he’s not performing).

Q: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Benjamin.  I really enjoy the strange and personal musings on your self titled album.  Many of them border on an uncomfortable awkwardness.  Do the songs come out of meditation, or are the songs a meditation in themselves to help you think through things?

My best friend suggested that I sings songs and play the guitar to soothe myself and explore my failures in a safe space. She’s a psychologist trained in a cognitive technique called EMDR, which is similar to hypnosis, in which patients explore painful memories while the therapist provides a bilateral movement for the patient to focus their eyes on (typically a finger moving back and forth across the line of sight).

Bilateral stimulation can occur in many different ways, one of which may be playing guitar, in which the player must coordinate both the left and right hands, moving his attention back and forth. This combined with the continual re-entering of odd, uneasy, difficult experiences, may result in some kind of catharsis for me.

Q: I understand that you live in the heart of DeKalb County, but that you’ve also lived in India for a period of time.  Do you consider yourself a local musician, or do your influences allow you to relate more to a larger global community?

I think the whole notion of what is local and what is global is exploding right now in our world. “Local” to me is my community of friends and acquaintances and familiar strangers wherever I happen to be living. “Global” is a sensibility, a recognition that we are all connected in intricate, often unclear ways. I feel deeply affected  and influenced by my local communities in both India and the United States. If a “global” sensibility arises out of that, then I am happy.

Q: Can you tell me  what it was like to be “the only American in Coimbatore” [India]?  Was this a self imposed isolation or one that arose organically?

It was self-imposed, although I didn’t expect it to be so extreme. I envisioned a small community of expatriates, united by our shared experiences of otherness and discovery, but Coimbatore was an industrial city, not a cultural destination, and the few Westerners I met there were business-people I had trouble relating to. I made many wonderful Indian friends there, but that did not quell the feelings of being an outsider, even an interloper. I had a job with a textile company which placed me in an awkward position of quasi-authority and subtly alienated me from my Indian co-workers. So in terms of isolation, I got what I asked for in a manner more complex than I had anticipated.

Q: You obviously place a lot of importance on words and lyrics.  What are some of your favorite books?  Also, what are some of your musical influences?

My criterion for a good book is whether it makes me weep. Recently I have been made to weep by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, J.M. Coetzee’s Slow Man, and Josè Saramago’s Blindness. Musically I am influenced by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (albums include The Letting Go and Summer in the Southeast), Sam Beam, and a Swedish folk singer named Cornelis Vreeswijk.

Q: What’s next for JuJu B. Solomon?

I’ll begin recording my next album in November or December. It will be very lo-fi, very quiet, and composed entirely of love songs. Meanwhile I am opening for Scout Niblett at the Star Community Bar in Little Five Points on October 31st at 9 pm.

Thank you again for your time, Benjamin.

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