Toronto-based indie artist Jeremy Voltz shows no signs of slowing down. An acclaimed songwriter and musician, he’s toured the world, seen his music featured prominently in media, and even had his song “One Day At A Time ” inspire an illustrated children’s book. He’s just released his latest single, “Miracles”, a collaboration with Oliver Charles – the song possesses undeniable emotion and a huge sound, with Jeremy’s vocals front and center as the star of the track. We caught up with Jeremy to chat about the new music, how he became a career musician after taking a break from being a mathematician, and his songwriting process.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new single, “Miracles”.
Jeremy Voltz: This was the first track I did with Montreal artist/producer Oliver Charles. We had just met at CMI’s artist entrepreneurship program, and I went and stayed on his couch in Montreal to work on music. I barely knew the guy, but I thought, what the hell, how bad could a week be? We started talking music, what we liked, what we listened to, and we both wanted to play around with a darker, edgier sound, distorted synths, crazy harmonies, and big vocals. We got to work, and we were freaking out when we came up with this track. We knew it was the start of an amazing collaboration. Miracles is about taking risks and believing that great things can happen through sheer force of will, and it kind of represented the risk I took on crashing on a couch to make music with a guy I had just met, and the magic that came out of that.
FTS: How did you get started as a musician?
Jeremy Voltz: After a short but hateful stint with a clarinet, I became obsessed with drums. I wanted to be a session drummer, and it was an amazing way to start a life in music. Having the rhythmic foundation before you start singing or playing guitar was ‘instrumental’ (ha) in my playing and singing style, and has influenced everything I do. Throughout high school I was drumming in bands but also started singing and playing guitar at open mics, and I basically just wanted to be Jeff Buckley, who was a huge influence. But my parents were all about those grades, so I focused on academics and music got pushed to the back burner for twelve years while I finished school. In 2016 I defended my Ph.D. in mathematics, and I was completely burned out. I decided I’d take a year and pursue a music career and see how it goes. I released my first single with NU Music, and then an EP in 2018 through Nightingale/APM that did really well, and I never looked back, ’cause I love making music more than anything else I’ve ever done.
FTS: Every artist has their own way of creating songs – what is your songwriting process like?
Jeremy Voltz: It’s changed a lot over the years. Now I always start with melody and lyrics. I bring instruments and chords in last. If it doesn’t sound good when you sing it in the shower, then it’s not gonna be a great song. And a lot of times my songs are conversations I’d like to have with people in my life, but I don’t have the courage to say it to their face. So sometimes I’ll open up an email and start typing everything I’d love to have the courage to say to them, and then take lines from it and that becomes the song. It’s a great way to say something as deeply as possible.
FTS: You’ve played on stages all over the world – what’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played?
Jeremy Voltz: Oh that’s an easy one, haha. I did this music competition called FundMeFest a few years ago. It was at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Toronto, which is a big soft seater venue, and there were about a thousand people in the audience. I go up to perform my song and the MC asks where I’m from. Now, I SHOULD have said ‘Toronto’, but I said my hometown, ‘Cleveland’. Well, I don’t follow basketball. And I didn’t realize that not 15 minutes before I hit the stage, the Cleveland Cavaliers had just beat the Toronto Raptors and put them out of the playoffs. When I said ‘Cleveland’, a thousand people lept to their feet and boo-ed wearing a “Fuck Lebron” T-shirt, haha. But for some reason, and because I knew they weren’t boo-ing my music, I sort of fed off the negative energy, like the villain pro-wrestler, and I just sang the shit out of the song and somehow managed to win over the crowd. People were patting me on the back after, haha. It was my favourite moment of my career.
FTS: All artists (save for the exceptionally lucky ones) experience writer’s block from time to time. How do you battle through a block when songwriting?
Jeremy Voltz: I’m the type of person that goes down a lot of rabbit holes and I commit myself to weird projects. So a lot of times I’ll be focusing on a ton of other things, go go go, and then when I have a day to actually sit down and write music, it sort of pours out because I’ve been neglecting that creativity for a while. That’s not a helpful answer, haha, but it’s what happens. My other answers are to write with other people and vibe off them, that will always unlock something. But in general, I find generating ideas is usually pretty easy, because there’s always something I’d love to say to someone I care about, or something that I can’t stop thinking about that needs to be put down. Or, you know, things pop in your head in the shower, and the key is to always record those ideas so if you do happen to be stuck, you can go through your old voice notes and find something that’s like, oh yeah, that was a great idea, I forgot about that! For me it’s never a lack of ideas, it’s a lack of time to execute them, to record it and arrange it and fix that one line that’s not working and everything else that goes into taking a great raw idea and turning it into something that will resonate. That’s the hard part. Setting out time for myself to just make music, instead of all the other things that go into a music career like graphic design and marketing and video editing etc… Those are the real writer’s blocks.
Check out “Miracles”, the new single by Jeremy Voltz!