Thursday, December 10, 2015

Talking Books with Heather Jacks, author of The Noise Beneath the Apple'

Heather Jacks was raised on Indian reservation in southeastern Oregon, until age fifteen, at which time; she was chosen to be an ‘experimental exchange student’ to Australia. She went down under, with an organization called YFU, Youth for Understanding, and spent 10.5 months turning16 in the Outback.  When she returned, she attended college, and received an FCC license, followed by completing a B.A. from USF and two years of study at UC Davis.

During her twenties, she traveled extensively, worked in the music industry in various capacities; radio, production, A&R, booking and eventually, landed at a new and young company, called Starbucks, where she worked on a Star Team and opened new stores in remote markets.

Music has always been her passion and during her tenure at Starbucks, she helped launch Hear Music, which today is Starbucks Music Label. Eventually, she returned to the business side of music at a major indie label, where she had a number of roles, from concert production to glorified babysitter.

An avid TV Junkie, die-hard SF Giants fiend and unapologetic Twitter practitioner, she recently won a Book of the Year Award for her multi-media project, The Noise Beneath the Apple®; A Celebration of Busking in New York City, which was inspired by her love for street music, busking and the people who make it.

She currently hangs her hat in San Francisco and am is working on the Bay Area version of the TNBTA® busker project.

For More Information

Title: The Noise Beneath the Apple: A Celebration of Busking in the Bay Area
Author: Heather Jacks
Publisher: TNBTA Media
Pages: 200
Genre: Media & Performing Arts

The Noise Beneath the Apple® is a hardcover, Limited Edition Art-Style/Coffee Table book, presented in an elegant slipcase. It measures 12″ x 12″ and celebrates buskers and street music in New York City. It includes a history, evolution and culture of busking, photos, interviews and commentary with 35 of NYC’s prominent street musicians. A cherry red vinyl record, of 11 tracks of original music, mastered by Grammy and Academy Award winning Reuben Cohen, (Slumdog Millionaire, Frozen), is page 200. At the culmination of the project, 30 participants went to Grand Street Recording in Brooklyn, where they covered Billy Joel's hit song, New York State of Mind. A 12 minute short film and music video were created from that day and are included with the book, making this project, truly multi-media. The project won a Book of the Year Award in the category of Performing Arts & Music.

For More Information

  • The Noise Beneath the Apple: A Celebration of Busking in the Bay Area is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at her website for less!
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

Aloha! Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. What do I do when I am not writing? Oh my Gosh. Since the type of writing I do, requires so much in the way of research, interviews, scouting locations—I tend to ‘take a lot of meetings’! I’m always reaching out to people, asking them to get together for a glass of wine or a beer, and basically making friends. It’s a great side benefit of this work. I also work at Papyrus, the amazing card/stationary store. It’s terrific. I’m always surrounded by beautiful things and wonderful people celebrating life’s milestones and events. I also have a small business called, Rock A Record, in which I make one of a kind, messenger style bags and writing journals, from rescued vinyl records! If interested, here is a quick 2 two minute video of that project:

I’m also perpetual tourist in my own city of San Francisco. I have tons of books—(and am always acquiring new ones)—about the hidden treasures in this city; staircases, speakeasy’s, architectural wonders, wildlife—(yes, we have buffalo in the city!)—and I am forever creating self-guided walking tours and discovering what San Francisco has to offer.

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since a very early age. My poems and essays first got ‘published’ in the little country newspaper, where I grew up and appeared on Armentrout’s bulletin board— once I entered white school. Armentrout’s was a white man store on Indian land, so seeing my neatly scrawled Odes to a Cow and Barnyard Surprise, appear there, was quite a thrill.

Growing up in the country, with no electricity—(hence, no TV); my only friends were books and animals. My pet cow, Pepper—(named because of her speckled nose)—was the gracious recipient and audience to many of the tales that sprang from my imagination.

In college, I studied journalism and radio broadcast, eventually landing in the role of writing band bios, press releases, radio PSA’s and such in the music industry. That was loads of fun.

In my thirties, I wrote an advice column for It was more a humor column, which I wasn’t intending, but, that’s how it worked out. Apparently I have a skewed perception of romance and reality.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

For me, my ‘pivotal point’ had little to do with writing, but more about discovering an inalienable truth. Backing up for a moment; along this writing journey, I have been promised ‘big breaks’, a lot; we’ll get you on a television show, we’ll get you in this magazine or on that radio, or in the studio with that personality, etc... Sometimes it happens, many times it doesn’t. But either way, what I have come to discover is that, they are breaks, but in the long run, they’re not that big. Breaks give us a chance to do more, to continue showing up and moving the needle forward, and that’s the important part. You just can’t spend too much time chasing that ‘big break’, because that chase, gets in the way of doing your best work, the stuff that is really important.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

To be honest, I am actually writing my next book, exactly where I want to be. I came to San Francisco as a naïve country girl during that wonderful time of oblivion and excess, known as the eighties. San Francisco promptly handed me my ass on a platter. I was not ready for her, but, I vowed to return one day, and tackle her again. So, here I am…and I LOVE every minute of it. My current project is a book about the San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and it’s going to be AMAZING. The Sisters are a 21st century order of Queer Nuns that started here in 1979, and are today an international charity/activist organization. This project is absolutely revolutionizing the way I see the world. Everything I thought I knew, I am finding out, I didn’t. It’s fantastic. If you are interested in who The Sisters are, here is a 5 minute short film, by Fred Gebhardt, called Sisterhood. ( Fred is creating a ‘behind the scenes’ video of my next book; from inception to fruition. I think people are going to dig seeing and learning, how a book like this comes together, meeting the faces behind the paper—so to speak.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

Hahaha! That’s a great question, but the truth is; I schedule my days in such a way, that I always have time for myself. I make a point every day, to connect with a friend, have a beer or wine, take a walk, peruse record stores, talk to my City and tell her how much I love her and be present in the moment. I have a box, with San Francisco walks, neighborhoods, restaurants, cocktails, and all kinds of miscellany in it and I have a day planner on my desk. Each day, I draw something random from my box of discovery, and then I go do it! It might be going to a Taqueria in the Mission or for oysters or age barreled whiskey or to a staircase…but, each day, I do something for myself, and only myself, that gets me away from the blinking screen of the computer. I take a moment to break on through to the other side. J

Back to your present book, The Noise Beneath the Appe®, how did you publish it?

As you know, publishing has changed a LOT! People aren’t making art books anymore. To be frank, there’s no money in it, so the interest level is not too great. I really wanted to create something that would last; that would have longevity and would bring people together to collaborate, to throw their talents into the mix. I did and ended up with a big, multi-media project. That is pretty cool. 100% of these funds were raised independently, by me! I used crowdfunding, hosted events, did auctions, hit Twitter hard and was successful. I had lots of donations and it was amazing. The project couldn’t have happened without the support of such a fantastic tribe. Not all superheroes wear capes, but if I could send out two, they would go to my Patrons, Gaines Coleman and John Seiter, who came forward with supersized gifts, and helped deliver all the pieces of the project over the finish line. They=Awesome! Me=Grateful.

The real work begins AFTER publishing. How do you get it out there? How do you sell it? A cool thing that just happened for me is I just shipped my books to the NIQUEA.D boutiques in NYC! They will arrive in time for the holidays.  Now my physical books can be found at both NIQUEA.D Boutiques in NYC: Meatpacking District and 3rd Avenue.
This is amazing, as indie artists, like me, rely on supporters--like my newly extended Papyrus/NIQUEA.D family. This is a truly amazing feeling of accomplishment and support.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

In writing TNBTA®, I was able to write from my own ‘back stoop’, so to speak. The book is a NYC book and I lived in NYC. Everything you could need, dream or desire…exists in that city. New York is AMAZING.

For my current book about the SF Sisters, I will be traveling, and that is going to be great. With modern technology, one could use Skype to conduct interviews, but then you miss out on too much. When writing the histories and personal stories of people, you have to break bread—(and brew) with them. So, this book is taking me to Seattle (cocktails), New Orleans (cajun) and Tennessee (barbeque), which are all cities that I know and love.

Why was writing The Noise Beneath the Apple® so important to you?

I really like history and culture, which is why my books focus on those things, however niche and obscure they might be.  I feel like I am capturing a piece of time, before it is gone, or has changed into something different.  We’ve all heard great quotes and clichés about history, but, I think understanding the links between past and present is a basic necessity for understanding the human condition; the how and why of things—and so I think knowing history is not just useful, but that it’s essential. I love having my fingerprint, however small it may be, in that pie of understanding.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best ideas come from the things that interest me in everyday life; things that I will stop and participate in. For example; TNBTA®, came from walking the streets, stopping, taking a moment to listen and hear street music/buskers, which was naturally followed by wondering why these musicians were here? I don’t typically jump to assumptions, I usually ask; i.e.: instead of assuming buskers are playing the streets because they can’t get ‘real’ gigs, I ask them.

I tend to be a very direct, unfiltered person—(as is pointed out to me on a regular basis). My philosophy is always that, I can ask whatever I would like to know—and the other person can answer or tell me it’s none of my business. Either way is OK. So, I ask a lot of questions. I come from a very sincere space and people get that on an energetic level, and more often than not, they feel comfortable sharing really great stories with me. 9 times out of 10, people are not offended or put off; they find my ‘level of honesty, refreshing.’ But let me tell you…that tenth time can be a doozy. J

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