Singer-songwriter Jessa Graves put the children of the world on notice this year.
While most kids show up for Mother’s Day bearing roadside flowers and a hastily signed Hallmark card, Graves, 31, gifted her mom a whole damn record label.
To be fair, the label, Illumin Records, already belonged to Graves’ mom, Annie. She started it in the ’90s as a means to release her Christian pop recordings. As the elder Graves’ artistic ambitions went dormant, so too did her indie imprint—a turn of events that never sat right with her daughter.
So much so that, as Jessa was preparing the gloriously spiky, confessional rock that would make up her forthcoming EP, Deathbed, she had a late night epiphany.
“I actually hit my head on my lap because of how abruptly I woke up,” she says. “I needed to restart this label, I needed to do it now, and I wanted to surprise my mom with it.”
After doing a lot of research that involved sneakily interviewing her mom about her experiences running the label, Jessa dropped the first new release on Illumin in nearly 30 years: her own single, “Lo the Mourning,” a jagged breakup song that spits and sputters like an angry combustion engine.
Unlike her mother, Jessa isn’t just looking at Illumin as an outlet for her own sounds. Working with the organization Women That Rock, the label will also be releasing new music from a pair of rising female-led groups: Texas garage-meets-dream pop ensemble Van Mary and L.A.’s glammy Egg Drop Soup. Illumin is also co-sponsoring an upcoming livestream event called Listen to Womxn to showcase three women and nonbinary artists from the Pacific Northwest.
“I want to help women and gender-nonconforming folks put music out into the world,” Jessa says. “There are so many talented people out there that deserve to be heard, and I want to help them get there.”
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