Upper Decker

Cincinnati's Jane Decker brings a fresh perspective to her newly adopted Pop direction

Aug 26, 2015 at 8:38 am
click to enlarge ”There’s a math behind Pop music,” Cincinnati singer/songwriter Jane Decker says of her love for creating Pop songs. “It’s really difficult, but it’s so rewarding when you get your own song stuck in your head.”
”There’s a math behind Pop music,” Cincinnati singer/songwriter Jane Decker says of her love for creating Pop songs. “It’s really difficult, but it’s so rewarding when you get your own song stuck in your head.”


ane Decker is just barely into official adulthood, but she’s lived a virtual lifetime of experiences, both personally and professionally.

Her supportive mother and father encouraged her musical pursuits, and she was writing songs by age 10 — about the time both her parents received cancer diagnoses. Two years later, her father passed away and Decker recorded her first songs.

Three years after that, the Cincinnati-based vocalist joined her first band, a blistering Punk outfit called Formulas, but she began therapeutically writing distinctly non-Punk songs. Her brother John offered to pay for her to record those artier songs and enlisted friends to help. Formulas broke up, Decker’s mother’s cancer went into remission and the stage was set for a fresh chapter.

Bit by bit, between her brother’s friends and her own connections, Decker’s band Belle Histoire was born four years ago. Decker was 17.

Belle Histoire recorded a pair of Indie/Dream Pop EPs, and in 2012, the band released its magnificent, world-class full-length debut, Dreamers. Shortly after, guitarist Aaron Hunt left to concentrate on production. It would be the prelude to a difficult and transformative year.

In 2013, Decker put Belle Histoire — down another member with the departure of guitarist Austin Livingood for a solo career — on hiatus while she recorded and promoted a new solo EP. Not long after, her old management team suggested she audition for The Voice, NBC’s version of American Idol.

She didn’t have much energy for the idea, but she agreed. She did a Florence + the Machine song and wound up not advancing in the competition, but the exposure immediately made her tons of new fans.

“Belle Histoire was getting awful tours, playing awful shows, our guitarist had just quit. We did amazing in Cincinnati and that’s sort of where it ended,” Decker says. “So I did The Voice, and when I came back, I kept moving in a different direction, but everything at home stopped. We couldn’t push (the band’s) music; we couldn’t record. After The Voice, I wrote for awhile, did the EP, and it was more in that Indie range — more than the Pop I’m doing now. I decided that I needed to choose something that I think I can be good at.”

Decker’s near-miss on The Voice was of little consequence to her, other than to steel her resolve to continue down the path she had set for herself. Part of that path was a directional shift from the arty Indie Pop of Belle Histoire to a purer mainstream brand of Pop.

“I started listening to Prince — I like listening to ’80s music in general — and Haim’s album came out, and I hated it at first, but then I got super into it, and it’s just that ’80s groove. And Betty Who, I fell in love with (her) music,” Decker says with a smile. “There’s a math behind Pop music, and most other genres don’t have that. It’s really difficult, but it’s so rewarding when you get your own song stuck in your head. It’s cool. I know that sounds really full of myself, but it’s cool.”

Last summer, Decker played the huge local Bunbury Music Festival, doing an acoustic set with her collaborator Sean McGee on guitar, and her Pop ambitions were on full and effective display.

She announced that she’d been recording and a release would be imminent; the Stonewallin’ EP came out in April, two weeks before Decker’s 21st birthday. It was a major step toward her new goals.

“I didn’t want to write Belle Histoire music with my name on it,” Decker says. “When I was in L.A. for The Voice, (contestants) all had publishing deals and they were all Pop singers, but they don’t know how to write. And I was like, ‘I know how to write.’ ”

With her newfound love of straightforward Pop, Decker has some definite ideas about how to go about releasing material and marketing those releases. Although she teased an album at her 2014 Bunbury show, she’s certain the best way to get her music across at this point is through a series of EPs.

“We demoed 55 songs and pulled our favorites from those, released four of them,” Decker says. “Initially, it was going to be a full-length, but I think it’s weird when artists release full-lengths. No reason for it, it’s just weird. So I released the (Stonewallin’) EP, and I got some cool stuff from it. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Part of Decker’s new approach could be a result of her artist development deal with Brian Penick from the locally based Counter Rhythm Group. In all likelihood, it’s not Penick’s suggestion to record only EPs; it’s that he’s staying out of Decker’s way and supporting her judgment about her own career.

There’s a great shot of Decker on her Facebook page sporting a T-shirt that reads, “Confidence is My Favorite Drug.”

“He’s helping me get out of a bad contract I signed,” she says with a laugh. “He said, ‘There’s definite potential in what you’re doing, and I want to be here until the end.’ It’s the first experience where I’ve felt like someone (in the industry) really cares about me. There’s a song I wanted to take out of my set, and he was like, ‘Sure, fine.’ I love that he trusts me.”

To that end, the next Decker EP will drop just prior to her MidPoint Music Festival show in September, and she’s extremely anxious to enter this next phase of publicizing her new Pop stance.

With her release strategy figured out and the possibility of a booking agent looming on the horizon, Decker is looking at a rose-colored future through regular glasses.

When she considers what she specifically hopes to achieve over the near- and long-term, she smiles and says something rather profound for a newly minted 21 year old: “I don’t need to sign to a label to feel like I’m successful. I want to get good shows, I want to write music that I’m proud of and go from there. I’d rather be a solo artist and really like my music and actually care about what I’m doing. To quote The Good Wife, ‘I want to live a happy life and I want to control my own fate.’ ”

JANE DECKER plays a free 1:30 p.m. show Saturday at Washington Park’s Taste of OTR. More info:          tasteofotr.com.