People come into our lives at the perfect time, so says my experience. In 1999, I walked into a store called Eleventh Step Books in Westmont, NJ and almost immediately my eyes were drawn to a counter on which was perched a CD called “Leap of Faith”. It resonated so clearly with me, since I had been recently widowed at age 40 and I was indeed taking huge leaps in my life, trusting that the net would be there to catch me if I fell. The singer-songwriter who created the CD was Jody Kessler. I listened to it on the way home and was instantly smitten by Jody and her music. Shortly after that I contacted her to let her know how much I enjoyed her music. We became friends and I am delighted when she comes into the area to perform. Her music has taken a beautifully evolutionary turn as you will read in the interview.
How do you live your bliss?
Through singing, praying, being in beautiful places in nature, writing songs, practicing yoga, eating coconut ice cream.
What was the turning point that had the school teacher that you were morph into a musician?
I was on the treadmill at the gym. It was 1995. I heard a voice (my own) say, “Jody, when you are on your death bed, do you want to look back at your life and ask yourself ‘why didn’t I do what I REALLY wanted to do?’ ”
How would you describe your music? I know it has evolved over the years.Well, I’m living in two musical worlds these days. I have my singer-songwriter music (original songs that are on my four solo CDs) which is the music that I’ve performed in folk venues, festivals, and various concert series that feature performing songwriters. I also include my original music in worship services and workshops at the many spiritual communities I serve though my interfaith ministry work. My songs touch upon themes related to connection with Spirit, mindful living, compassion, recovery, peace & justice, and personal growth. Through song, I share, stories about remarkable people and events that have touched, moved, and inspired me. I love being a songwriter and connecting with others through the uplifting power of song. That music can be heard at www.jodykessler.com.
The other musical love that I have is chant. The practice of devotional chanting, for me, is transformational, heart-opening, and often ecstatic. When chanting, the thinking mind melts into the boundless heart, and I feel fully and vibrantly alive. Because I have a very eclectic, interspiritual focus in my life, I’m naturally drawn to chanting from many different faiths, traditions and cultures.
What led you to chanting and to the creation of One Love?
I have always loved chanting, whether it was part of a Pagan festival, a Sufi zikr, or singing at the Dances of Universal Peace. Then, several years ago, my husband, Doug, and I attended the ecstatic chant weekend at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. That was my first in-depth experience with kirtan (call and response chanting from the Hindu tradition), and we were both completely blown away beyond words. A few years later, I attended Jai Uttal’s summer kirtan camp in Northern California, where I learned more about the art of leading kirtan and the practice of Bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion).
About three years ago, Doug and I formed the band ONE LOVE with a few other very talented musicians. We also have an extended family of musicians that join us at different venues, so often our events are a joyful, collaborative celebration.
We released our first CD, called One Love Devotional Chant, a year ago. Audio clips can be heard at www.onelovechant.com .
What chant artists inspire you?
Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Donna DeLory, Tina Malia and Shimshai, HARC, Deva Premal and Miten, Snatam Kaur, Yofiyah, just to name a few.
How does your music bridge spiritual divides?
ONE LOVE is unique because, in addition to the increasingly popular practice of Hindu kirtan, we draw upon the sacred music from many different spiritual traditions. We recognize that the juiciness and heart-opening qualities of kirtan can be found in other kinds of chanting as well. So we dive deep into the many wells to drink from the One Source.
What is the synergy that allows for unique musicians to blend so beautifully?
I think it’s very much the same chemistry that brings lovers together. It’s a kind of falling in love, when the right combination of musical passions, skill and creativity comes together in a mysterious and blessed union.