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Jesy Fortino of Tiny Vipers

An Emotional Journey

For Jesy Fortino, touring solo as Tiny Vipers is a sometimes-tedious job. The singer-songwriter, whose arrangements are composed of minimalist acoustic guitar arpeggios topped with somber vocals, pours deeply personal thoughts into her songs. To share them with an audience on an almost nightly basis can be unnerving and disheartening at times, she said during a phone interview from the road outside of Salt Lake City. Her latest Album, Life on Earth, was released by Sub Pop this month. Tiny Vipers performs at the Hemlock Tavern on July 28th and at the Stork Club in Oakland on July 29th.

SF Station (SFS): Your tour schedule this summer is pretty extensive. Does that mean your days working at Bimbos Bitchin Burrito are over?

Jesy Fortino (JF): It just means I probably wont have a job when I get home. Hopefully they will let me keep working there though.

SFS: Would you prefer to not have a day job?

JF: Having a day job allows me to play music and tour. Its expensive to drive, especially in the United States. The drives are so long, most of the money from the shows is used for gas. I need to work to save money to go on tour.

SFS: Do you have a preference for where you perform?

JF: I like galleries or churches -- more mellow places. I like interesting places that are kind of different.

SFS: The woodsy, small town where you grew up in Washington is often cited as an influence on your life and music. Do you make it back to that environment often?

JF: Yeah, I live pretty close to the mountains and my boyfriend and I go out there all the time.

SFS: Why do you live in Seattle now?

JF: I need the money. Unless you have real work skills, you need to live where there are restaurants and other options. We want to someday move out there, if we ever find a way to do it.

SFS: Your music is very straightforward -- just you and your guitar -- without much manipulation. Is that intentional?

JF: I like to keep it simple; there are no keyboard parts or anything. Its just easy for me. I like to listen to music like that and Im kind of drawn to stuff with simple melodies.

SFS: How do you approach songwriting? Its not your typical verse-course-verse structure.

JF: I dont really have a formula for writing songs. I dont repeat ideas that often. I put a lot of work into writing songs and I dont like repeating things. I want to complete the idea, so I just wait until I think of how to make it complete. Sometimes it takes a really long time, and it comes out kind of crazy sometimes.

SFS: Before you recorded Life on Earth, you questioned whether you wanted to continue with music. What made you have doubts?

JF: Its a lot of work and its kind of emotional. Im a sensitive person and Im not used to getting attention. Performing is very stressful for me, and sometimes I wonder if its a healthy lifestyle for me to be touring. Its really emotionally taxing to have to perform every night. It gets to my head sometimes.

If things go well you can get an ego, then if things go badly you get really sensitive and bitter. Its hard to stay stable and keep a level head. It feels like its so extreme sometimes.

SFS: Its a little more emotional than punching a clock everyday.

JF: The variables of each show change your attitude sometimes, and even playing too many shows in a row can make me feel weird. Its hard to adopt a philosophy to make you feel good about what you are doing.

Its a challenge, so that is nice, and its made me more mature. Its hard sometimes, but its also extremely rewarding when you figure stuff out. I wonder if Im doing the right thing all of the time.

SFS: Thats a side of touring that people probably dont often consider.

JF: It depends on the kind of music you play. Rock bands have a good time. The music that Im playing is really quiet and some people dont really understand it. The songs are super personal and come from feelings within me. That is a recipe for disaster sometimes, but it is also really satisfying to express things for people when they get it and you feel some kind of mutual understanding.

Tiny Vipers performs at the Hemlock Tavern on July 28th and the Stork Club in Oakland on July 29th.