Jocelyn Mackenzie Explains Her New Album ‘PUSH’ With A Track-by-Track

Jocelyn Mackenzie is ready to release her debut LP PUSH via Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records today. It was an album long in the making and inspired by a myriad of experiences.

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The Brooklyn-based singer, songwriter, percussionist, songwriting coach, artist, and stylist wrote PUSH to highlight a string quartet, her voice, and timely synth percussion while staying centered on healing through radical self love.

She is, perhaps, better known as the singing drummer from indie-pop trio Pearl and the Beard (2007-2015), where she was part of the unit responsible for creating a unique, infectious blend of folk pop music infused with luscious harmonies and deep joy.

Mackenzie is also founder of The Push Collective, a community of female-identifying musicians who are dedicated to restructuring the way music careers are born. Once a month, it meets as a collective to connect, commune, and create together.

She opened up to the readers of American Songwriter with a track-by-track.

This song was inspired by unconditional love, the kind that only someone acting with no other motive than to love freely can offer. The chorus “you make it better” is a reminder that we all have the power to make change. We do this by trusting our guts, being true to ourselves, having patience with incremental growth, and sharing our unique gifts and passions with the world one day at a time.

“The Brave Ones”
A dance between the divine feminine and the divine masculine, a reflection on our shadow selves. To be brave is not to be fearless, but to act in the presence of fear. This song sings to the parts of ourselves we reveal and the parts we wish to keep concealed, especially when we’re not the ones who get to make that choice. 

“Primate” came to me a few years after a miscarriage I’d had during an unexpected pregnancy. I found out I was pregnant when I miscarried, and it took several years for me to process the pain of what had happened. This song allows me space to be patient and forgiving with myself in a complex healing process, and I hope it offers some comfort to any grieving parents who have lost their children. 

“Love Begets Love”
Right before my friend Pam died, she asked me to take care of her husband, one of my best friends Guy, after she was gone. This song is an attempt to always remind him that he is cared for, even from afar, and even in new ways after his loss. The chorus also buoys the idea that I can’t heal anyone else, but putting love into the world creates more love, and more and more and more. I can’t overcome hatred with hatred, anger with anger, or grief with grief. Love is the only solution.

“Look At Me”
This song is tremendously personal. It was written about an experience with sexual assault and ongoing inapporopriate sexual behavior by a loved one. After these events, I was left with a choice – do I hold the pain of my experience and watch it warp me into someone who avoids looking at this at all costs, or do embrace the pain and terror of facing my truth head on? I chose the latter, and the ending of the song speaks of the acceptance and new self love I’ve come to find, which I hope will trickle out to help everyone involved. 

“Audubon Garden”
Well, it’s definitely not about birds! Each species of bird listed in the song feels like a different part of myself, the many shades of my ego, id, superego, conscious, unconscious, and subconscious. When faced with beauty, how do I tear myself apart? Who do I become when the shreds of who I think I am are left behind? 

“Sick & Suffering”
A glimpse at my dark sense of humor, “Sick & Suffering” pokes fun at my morbid sensibilities. I often find myself reaching for the worst case scenario of any situation out of default, and this number lovingly asks me to discern if that’s really the best use of my time on this planet. The end is a true mantra from my higher self, “I’m not afraid, I’m not ashamed.” 

“Beam of Light”
Written in a stream of consciousness automatic writing session after seeing my friend Jason Anderson play a show at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, I’ve never had a song come through quite like “Beam of Light” did. A song about how songs heal, about how music brings us together. In its realest form, hearing music with other people allows us to vibrate on the same plane for long enough to remember that we are in fact, all one. 

“There She Goes”
This song is about embracing our truest selves, inspired by the ending of a relationship I was in with someone who came out as transgender. From my perspective, so much pain for them, me, and our families could have been avoided if only the world were more kind and open-hearted to trans and non-gender-conforming people in the first place. It was too late for me to make any positive changes in that relationship, so I hope this song offers a space of acceptance and encouragement for anyone who feels they can’t be fully accepted for who they are. 

“Belly of the Beast”
The music industry will eat you alive.

“Mango Leather”
“Mango Leather” is a love song to my greatest fear, and a conversation between me and my higher self. It describes my brain’s instinct to translate mundane moments of inconvenience into life threatening circumstances, and how that upsets the balance between my life as an upright mammal and my awareness of myself as a conscious co-creator of the universe. This song reminds me that we are not human beings trying to be spiritual, but spiritual beings trying to be human.

“Little Islands”
Written on the edge of the Isles of Shoals, “Little Islands” brings me back home into myself. It was the natural ending to this emotional swell of an album, and always leads me back where I belong. 

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