Taking the High Road to the Jazz Fest

Print More
Juliet Lloyd will perform at the Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Juliet Lloyd’s roots in the Finger Lakes region run deep.

Growing up in Bloomfield, Lloyd took piano and trumpet lessons in Rochester. She played music and performed with groups such as Nik and the Nice Guys while attending the University of Rochester. She also performed as a street busker during the Rochester International Jazz Festival before becoming a featured artist at the event in 2008. 

Lloyd’s latest tour has multiple stops in the Finger Lakes, including a show as part of the Roots & Americana Series at the Jazz Festival at the end of June, making it a homecoming in more ways than one.

“Getting that phone call that they wanted me to play, those were the best few minutes of the year for me,” says Lloyd. “I’m looking forward to seeing people who have been following me still, which I feel so honored about. I’m excited to see familiar faces but also new ones as well, which is something the festival does so well.

“It’s grown so much and it’s amazing to have a home for all these different types of artists,” she adds.

Lloyd’s last appearance at the Jazz Festival 15 years ago coincided with a decision to pull back from music full time. She had studied songwriting at an academic level and went on to release two full albums, but the strain of being an independent artist drained the enjoyment of music.

“When I started, social media was just starting to be a thing,” Lloyd reflects. “There were a lot fewer tools for someone who was doing it all on their own. There were also a lot of (record company) gatekeepers, especially being an independent female artist.”

Even after stepping away from full-time musicianship, Lloyd played small shows, which kept her love of performing alive. During that period, however, she stopped writing songs, an aspect of her artistry Lloyd was always proud of.

“I kept thinking, ‘If it’s been that long, can I call myself a songwriter still? If I sit down and try writing, will anything come out?’” she recalls. “But I think, by not depending on music for my livelihood, it actually gave me the ability to take the time to think through my process.”

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when venues were shut down, that Lloyd decided to pick up music again. The first song she wrote when returning was “Ghost Light,” an anthem dedicated to the resilience of the performing arts, drawing inspiration from the electric light that illuminates a theater stage when it is unoccupied.

Following that song, Lloyd says, the writing really began to flow, with those songs being collected in the EP “High Road” last year. While the musical tendency of her self-described “soulful roots-infused pop” took on a more country-folk vibe, the introspective lyrics found on her previous two records is still apparent. At the same time, Lloyd feels like this collection signifies turning a corner toward even more honest and personal territory.

For example, the title track, “High Road,” is a ballad filled with justified anger. The song is from the perspective of someone who has been wronged but took the high road by choosing not to confront the perpetrator. Instead, they’re left with frustration and a lack of closure.

“When you can’t tell someone how they hurt you because it wouldn’t go well or they wouldn’t understand, it feels gross. It’s this mess of frustration and resentment,” Lloyd says.

She understands how a listener could think the song is about a romantic relationship, especially when viewing the music video; she likes the ability of music to be interpreted differently by different people. However, “High Road” actually comes from a professional relationship and partly draws its anger from seeing the same patterns continue.

“There’s a line (in “High Road”) where the intent is I should stand up and say something,” Lloyd says. “That’s from being a woman in music and knowing this bad thing happened to me.”

Even as a deeply personal song from a specific emotion, the singer says it has received the most attention after performances, making it one of her favorites to sing live in front of an audience.

“As icky as it is to feel that way, we all end up bonding over it, I think,” Lloyd says.

While this tour features music from “High Road,” fans can look forward to new songs soon, with a new single likely coming in late summer. Lloyd says the lyrics feel deeper than anything she has written before and are a direct result of a new focused approach to songwriting.

“Having gone through (a music career) once before, I definitely feel like I have a new perspective now,” she says. “I’m really proud of what I’ve done so far.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *