Austin is just full of interesting and creative people, with roots set deep into the history and culture of this town. It really is amazing to meet people working on their creative dreams, whose roots are deep in Austin and wound around some truly legendary musical icons. Local burlesque and jazz starlet Jolie 'Ampere' Goodnight is just such a lady, and has a lot going on. As a burlesque performer, a member of The Jigglewatts, and a vocalist, she is constantly popping up in Austin, Dallas, New Orleans, Chicago and elsewhere. Her burlesque routines are sultry, classy, and not just a little sexy, combining burlesque choreography with live vocal performance.
In 2011 she was awarded “Best Tease” and “Audience Choice” at the Texas Burlesque Festival, and she is constantly performing. I was lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions and learn more about this fabulous gal.
Check out her KickStarter campaign and be a part of her debut album - only 8 days left to contribute!
Patrick: Okay, first a little about burlesque...How much time and fuss do you put into your burlesque costumes?
Jolie: I put so much fuss into it that it requires an entire pot of coffee at the start of a sewing day, and a bottle of wine by the end of it. Though I do often remind myself that if the audience is looking at how many rhinestones I do or don’t have, I’m doing something wrong.
P: Your bio on your website mentions that you have an extensive perfume collection. Tell me a little bit more about that. I remember seeing once a little show about one of the fab perfumeries in Paris where they work with you individually to find the perfect scent. I know you've spent time in Paris. Have you ever been?
J: I adore my perfume collection! Perfume sets the tone for my day and the mood for my evenings. Though I have many perfumes, my favorites will always be Chanel Mademoiselle, Dior J’adore, and Bagara by Santa Maria Novella. My newest must-haves though are Chanel Noir and Tom Ford’s Black Orchid. They are both extremely sultry. I have not been to that perfumery, but it sounds like heaven.
P: If you could magically spend some time in another era, what would it be?
J: I would love to spend time in the 40s for a few reasons, one being that jazz and swing were suddenly the emotional support system for a country at war. Jazz was bringing joy to people during extraordinarily hard times and that’s a beautiful thing. Also, I would love to be around in 1947 for the moment when Christian Dior’s “New Look” emerged into the fashion world and created a new silhouette.
P: You have been blessed by the gods with your looks, and I’m curious about your waist. It’s quite an asset. If I may get a little personal, did you get that waist by cinching?
J: Oh my! Thank you! Actually, no I did not get it by cinching. I am pretty sure I must have received it from my Italian great-grandmother, because none of the women in my immediate family are shaped like me.
P: How do you feel about the tension and interplay between female empowerment (feminism) and objectification that is a burlesque performance?
J: Burlesque is theatre to me. It’s the same as any play, any ballet, any other kind of performance. So I don’t really feel as though there is an objectification element in burlesque. I’m simply telling a story, communicating an emotion, and entertaining an audience at the same time. It’s an art form, simple as that. I don’t feel any more objectified doing burlesque than I do performing a monologue from “Much Ado About Nothing.”
P: What are you thinking about just before you step out onto the stage?
J: I am also a theatre actress, so I use the same ritual I use before plays as I do before burlesque. I have a confidence boosting saying I repeat as many times as needed to get into character. And then I just think of bringing joy to every single person in the audience.
P: What is a Jigglewatts audition like? I’ll bet Ruby Joule has an intimidating assessment stare. :) Or maybe Coco?
J: The thing is, I really don’t love auditioning in any circumstance and auditioning with burlesque is my least favorite kind of audition because you are so vulnerable. Luckily, when I auditioned for the Jigglewatts they were actually very sweet and very encouraging. They made me feel wonderful about my audition and took the awkwardness out of the situation. I will admit though, I was shaking.
P: What is your favorite venue to perform at in Austin?
J: Every venue has its attributes and every venue comes with a different audience. So it’s really a pleasure to perform at lots of different venues because I get varying experiences. Thus far though, my best moments in Austin have been at the 29th Street Ballroom, the Beauty Ballroom and the Highball. My DREAM is to perform at the Paramount Theatre.
P: Let’s talk a bit about music. I think it was mentioned that you’ve performed in Paris. How would you describe the energy from the audience and is it different from American audiences?
J: I actually have not yet had the pleasure of performing in Paris. I have, however, performed in the South of France! I’ll tell you the truth, no matter where I’m performing, I notice that great audiences “speak” the same language: love. That’s really all a gal can want.
P: Okay, let's just assume that Ella Fitzgerald is the greatest jazz vocalist ever <wink>. Are there any other vocalists that really reach into your soul?
J: Oh yes of course! I love Blossom Dearie for her adorable and quirky qualities, Billie Holiday because she sounds like a horn section, Chet Baker for his feminine-like smoothness, Tom Waits for his gruffness, Big Mama Thornton for her guttural notes, Dean Martin for his vibrato… the list goes on and on. The bottom line is, the vocalists I admire the most have found their own voices. One may remind us of another, but ultimately they sound like themselves. I find that very valuable.
P: And have you had the thrill of seeing any of them perform?
J: In my imagination and my dreams, yes.
P: You’re having a terrible, stressful, sad and rainy day. What is the first song you want to start singing to an empty house?
J: I have two, which are actually very similar to one another. The first, “Singin’ in the Rain” by Freed and Brown. It cheers me up every time! The other song is “Pennies from Heaven” by Johnston and Burke, because it reminds me to be grateful.
P: Have you ever done any show tunes? I’m not sure if you’ve done musical theater.
J: Musical Theatre is my background! Musical theatre is where all this insanity started for me. I’ve been doing musical theatre since I was a tiny little girl and I miss it terribly. I have included a few show tunes into my burlesque acts for that very reason.
P: Tell me a little more about your album and why you’ve created a Kickstarter campaign.
J: I have this vision of creating a jazz record that pushes the limits in a sense. I want it to behold as much creativity as the musicians, my producer, and I can possibly muster. The thing is, the world already has the jazz greats who came before us to listen to. I don’t want to do what has already been done. So while the album will be made up of jazz standards and old dirty blues tunes, they will be executed in different ways.
I created my Kickstarter campaign because I tried to make this album already on a very limited budget and the final product was disappointing, to say the least. It was beautifully simple, but it wasn’t what I had envisioned. The Kickstarter is a way for the people who believe in me to be a part of this creation. When they listen to it they get to have the pride of knowing that it couldn’t have happened without them. They are essential to my music.
P: And to finish up...Readers may not know that you are an old school Austinite. Your dad was Joe Gracey who was at the epicenter of the Austin music scene in the 70s, and your mom is Kimmie Rhodes, also a musical icon. You left and spent several years in San Diego where you first began performing burlesque. What brought you back home to Austin after those years in San Diego?
J: While I was living in San Diego, my husband deployed to Iraq, my father was diagnosed with cancer, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, and my other grandmother had a stroke and passed away. I knew that while I loved San Diego and the life I had created there, that I needed to be with my family. I am so thankful that my husband and I moved to Austin, because it was a blessing to be able to spend time with my daddy before he passed away last November. Family is everything to us. Also, Austin is my roots, and sometimes you just need to return to your roots!
P: I know you love food. When I was growing up here, we could only dream of the explosion of options we have now in Austin. What are some of the places you love to go to?
J: My absolute favorite restaurant in Austin is Wink. The food is divine and the people are equally divine. I also love BarleySwine, Uchi, Counter Café, Bacon, and Fonda San Miguel.
P: Any words of wisdom to others who are struggling to follow their dreams?
J: Yes, I have a list:
Work. Work hard. Work harder.
Reach out to people you admire.
When you become overwhelmed, surround yourself with your favorite friends.
Social Media is your friend. --So is real life.
Realize = REAL EYES. If you can see it, if you write it on your calendar, if it’s visible on a vision board, if it’s on a post-it, etc. it becomes real. Don’t let your dreams just float around in the air. Ground them.
Take B vitamins (so you’ll stay positive).
Be in the fun business. If you aren’t having fun, then you are no longer in the fun business.
Get some sleep.
Be brave and stupid.
Thank you so much for your time Jolie!
Miss Goodnight needs your help! Check out her KickStarter campaign and be a part of her debut album. Only 8 days left to contribute!