Finding Your Voice with Jackie
Winnipeg-born Jackie Mohr moved to Toronto to pursue a career in music. She is fulfilling her dreams as the frontwoman of the rock band, The Mohrs. As my best friend’s little sister, I first met Jackie ( or Jacaay — as I like to call her) in junior high, and always admired her for her unapologetic, candid, and adventuresome free spirit.
Watching her grow up, I have witnessed her metamorphose into a tenacious, authentic, and unstoppable badass with a powerful voice and an unrelenting drive to succeed. I asked Jackie to share her road to success, what inspires and motivates her, and how she navigates being a fearless female in a male-dominated rock scene.
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or did something happen that made you want to pursue it as a career?
I think I knew when I was 18. I was already a guitar instructor and knew I loved playing music, but wanting to be a musician came after I started my first band, Living In Red. Pursuing it, as a career, wasn’t something I wanted until I started working with my producer, Hawksley Workman. Having the opportunity to work with him changed my devotion to music, and I haven’t looked back since.
What motivates you to keep making music and to keep fighting for your dreams?
Making music is one of my favourite things to do with my time, especially co-writing. When it works and everyone’s energy is on the same level, something magical can happen, and that’s a feeling I can’t get from doing anything else. Hearing positive feedback about the music you’re making is a great inspiration to keep making more. As for my dreams, well it’s not the most exciting answer, but I really can’t see myself doing anything else at this point. We call musicians like this ‘lifers’. We don’t know how to not be musicians at this point. That’s how I feel.
Have you faced any challenges being a female in a mostly male-dominated rock scene? How did you overcome these challenges?
Yes — absolutely! From being told, it’s going to be impossible to get a female on rock radio, to being told I have a nice enough face to not overly worry about my physique. I’ve played rock festivals where I’ve been one out of two, or more likely, the only female to play the festival. It motivates me even more to know that.
There are brilliant women in music and too often they’re somewhere in the background, behind a male singer/songwriter. I’ve never had a problem being confident around males, which has helped me navigate these challenges, but there are times you definitely get the feeling that it’s a boys club. I’d love to hear more women being played on the radio, especially anything that isn’t pop. I also try to work with many women in the industry. I love having strong women on my team.
* Photo courtesy of The Mohrs
Was it hard to leave your home, friends, and family to move to a new city?
It was very exciting to be leaving a city that I felt I outgrew, with a great opportunity on the horizon and my best friend (and guitarist) by my side. But, I’ve missed my family and pals a great deal. Not being at home has been a bummer at times. I definitely feel I am where I’m supposed to be, but who ever knows what the future has in store. I couldn’t pursue music the same way from Winnipeg, and truly believe I would have missed a lot of the lucky breaks and opportunities I have found here, had I stayed in Winnipeg. On that note, Winnipeg has a super rich and lively music scene, but I just needed a bigger scene, and I found that in Toronto.
Do you have a process for song writing, and where do you go for inspiration?
Inspiration comes and goes. You catch a wave of it and hopefully, if you’re in a good headspace, you can really write something great. We always start with the music and let the music inspire the lyrics. There’s no right or wrong way, but the act of sitting down to write is what’s important. It really is work sometimes, and takes time before you think you’ve really written something good.
How would you describe your on-stage style or persona?
Strong and fearless — at least that’s how I feel. Perhaps a bit playful, but only when we’re having a really great show.
Do you have a pre-show ritual or regime?
Get psyched! Positive vibes and excitement vs. nerves is key. I also do a 20-minute vocal warm-up before every show.
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years, both personally and professionally?
My hope is to be spending most of my time touring the world and writing new music. Any other time I had would be devoted to being with family. If I’m not touring, I’ll still be making new music and playing every chance I get.
Do you have any advice for other young girls that are dreaming of becoming musicians?
Get very good at what you do! It also doesn’t hurt to be something different, and create music that you really feel good about. Chasing a sound will never be satisfying, and it is easy to see through. Authenticity is something listeners can really hear and feel, no matter what.
* Photo courtesy of The Mohrs
If you could perform with any musician who would it be?
— Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders. She’s my number one.
What other band would you love to be a part of?
— Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tom is King.
What song can you not help but sing whenever you hear it?
— Since You’ve Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson.
If you couldn’t be a rockstar anymore, what would you do?
— Well, I wouldn’t call myself a rockstar (not yet anyway), but I think I’ll always try to find a way to make money in music. Even if I end up someone’s guitarist, or start producing music. It’s a hard thing for me to fathom giving up at this point in my career.
To learn more about The Mohrs, visit themohrsband.ca
* Photos courtesy of The Mohrs