Finding the Path with JOBIE
// Image courtesy of Lida Everhart
Local singer-songwriter Josie Arthur (she/they), also known as JOBIE, opened for Ezra Furman during her December 5 show at the Rockwell in Davis Square. The intimate venue perfectly complemented the raw vulnerability of JOBIE’s songs, such as in “Earworm Lullaby,” one of my personal favorites and their most recent single, and “Grendel,” the title track of her debut LP released early last year. Coincidence and a little bit of luck ensured our paths crossed so that I could interview her in person, as her lyricism resonated deeply with me, even (or perhaps especially?) as a first-time listener.
JOBIE began by detailing her lifelong background in music, starting with her mother performing while still pregnant with her and continuing up to the present with her recent graduation from Emerson College. Despite being involved with music all of their life, JOBIE does not consider herself “educated” in it.
“I don’t know much about music theory,” they told me. “I can barely play the guitar … I have been encouraged by my dad, he’s more self-taught. It’s also like I don't care to know [music theory], because I write songs from finding the path … and it’s through that discovery that I write my best songs and have fun writing songs. ‘Cause if I knew everything from the outside in, it wouldn’t be that organic.”
JOBIE wrote her first full-length song in the eighth grade and has since used the medium in part for emotional release. This comes through clearly in “Grendel,” a heartaching tune about carrying the weight of childhood ostracization and loneliness into adulthood. They believed it would be too personal to have much of an effect on listeners, but gigging around Boston and up and down the East Coast has made JOBIE see that “Grendel” and their other songs could help others find catharsis as well: “After people were reaching out to me about it, I realized that I could actually say stuff that mattered ... that song is about me, but it's about a kind of experience of people.”
Being autistic has played a profound role in the way JOBIE perceives the world and interacts with others, and thus in the way she writes songs. She said, “I know I’m on the autism spectrum. It’s a very genetic thing and unpacking all of that is crazy because you’re like, damn, there’s all this generational trauma encoded in my DNA.” Drawing from my own experience, I remarked that when people think about autism, they tend not to picture girls. She replied, “They don’t! They think they’re gifted ... my teachers were always like, ‘Well, Josie’s off in her own world,’ or ‘She doesn’t pay attention, but she’s efficient, I guess ...’ but they didn’t think about the social implications of everything, like how I was dealing with other kids, or how I felt about the world, or how I was actually stressed about doing homework, or how I wasn’t able to follow certain directions because they weren’t explicitly given to me in the way that I needed.”
When I asked what motivates her, JOBIE said, “I’m thinking, why am I being an artist? I got into it because I just loved performing and love singing ... But then for the past few years, I’ve really been thinking about it. With my music, hopefully in the stuff that I’m writing now, and the stuff that I’m hoping to put out soon, I really question a lot of stuff and I assert myself. Self-determination. Like, ‘You don't know me, and you don’t get to decide what I live and die for.’ I know there are a lot of barriers to entry for a lot of people, but I hope to be the change that I want to see in the world, try to lift up those around me while doing it, and give voice to people who have had experiences similar to me, who have been bullied when they were kids for being different or thinking outside of the box.”
She added: “I think of it like icing pipettes, and how there’s the little nozzles. Everybody has the same icing inside of them, but we all are different shapes for nozzles. If you want it, we can all tap into that creative energy that is the giant icing in the sky, but what makes you special is your pipette shape.”
// Ray Whitney ’24 (any/all pronouns) is a staff writer for Record Hospital.