The Illusion of Jihae
The multi-faceted musician talks about her fourth album.
Nothing about Jihae or her fourth album “Illusion of You” (out today) can be considered average. The musician, artist, and philanthropist was born in Seoul, raised in South Korea, Nigeria, and Sweden, and, thanks to a strict Christian boarding school, had limited access to popular music until her late teens. “It’s so ridiculous because most musicians have a really rich history from childhood from all these incredible artists and I wasn’t allowed to,” she says, laughing. “So now I’m just drinking it up.”
One name she did know was Leonard Cohen, who co-wrote “It Just Feels,” one of the songs on the album, with former-Eurythmic Dave Stewart. “I guess on January 1, 2012 was when I got this email from Dave Stewart about a poem he had written with Leonard Cohen saying, ‘I think you can do this justice,’ and I got really excited about this whole situation,” Jihae recalls. “Leonard Cohen is one of my living heroes, so that kind of propelled the excitement and the long ride of making this album.” And a long ride it was: Though she started writing the album in late 2011, it wasn’t fully finished until 2014, due to broken microphones, re-writes, sick editors, and travel time (the album was recorded in New York, L.A., and in Lenny Kravitz’s Bahamian studio). “I’ve never spent more than six months on a record and for an independent that’s an insane amount of time to record,” she explains. “It was very dramatic and had a lot of obstacles and a lot of issues. But, in the end I’m really happy about it so that’s what matters.”
Fittingly, travel and frustration are recurring themes in the album, as another standout track “Leaving NYC” underscores. “I’ve lived here too long,” says Jihae with comical exasperation, citing her nomadic childhood as the driving force behind her unfulfilled urge to pack up and move every few years. She pauses for a moment, but seems to have had a change of heart. “But I never got myself to do that yet. I love it here, I have to admit.”