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Jyothi Rao talks “Fortune’s Fool”

Senior musician discusses new EP, songwriting process
Jyothi+Rao+performs+her+song+%E2%80%9CBetter+in+the+Morning%E2%80%9D+during+the+coffee+house+portion+of+Spring+Fling+on+April+29.
Zoe Feinberg
Jyothi Rao performs her song “Better in the Morning” during the coffee house portion of Spring Fling on April 29.

Senior Jyothi Rao released her five song EP “Fortune’s Fool” on April 27. Rao has been working on the project for the last four years. Incoming Editor-in-Chief Matthew Chen sat down with her to discuss her inspiration, songwriting process and reaction to the release. 

PP: Tell me about your musical journey.

JR: I started making music with my dad, singing cover songs. He would play guitar and I would sing; he would teach me how to sing harmonies. Eventually I started writing poetry, then writing stuff on the piano, then finally combining it. I’m also classically trained in piano and used to take voice lessons. 

PP: At what age did it occur to you that music was really important?

JR: I think it was something that was passed on to me because my dad is a musician. My dad jokes that he was teaching me to sing while he was teaching me to talk. I feel like I was born with it. I always felt like [music] was really important to me and that this project was always going to happen. 

PP: When did you first start working on your EP?

JR: I first started writing for it before freshman year—I didn’t realize that was what was happening but some of that writing is in the EP now. One of the songs is my dad’s, and he wrote the song in the late 90s. But I really started working hard with the goal of an EP during junior year. The recording process began in September [and] lasted until March, with the space in between for polishing it up, then finally releasing it in April.

PP: Why did you feel inspired to make your EP?

JR: I had a lot of push from my dad. I’ve always been writing music but I started feeling proud of what I was writing. I had a lot of inspiration based on personal [experiences], relationships, and changes, and that made me really inspired for those months, and I felt like I was writing my best work. I felt like this was something I could be proud of, and putting it out there and showing people. 

PP: What do you want people to know about you when they hear your music? 

JR: [I’m] someone who is being really honest. It’s very vulnerable, but also I want people to understand that my music is very dramatic and kind of over the top, and I’m aware of that. I can laugh at myself a little bit. A lot of writers will embellish certain events in their life to create better art. Even though some of my music is kind of dark, it’s not all based in truth. 

PP: Did you have any challenges during the process?

JR: Definitely. There were so many times when I thought I couldn’t do it, like I was too embarrassed or I didn’t feel brave enough, or I felt like it was kind of silly and I would be laughed at—which hasn’t happened, which is nice. I struggled with writing lyrics a lot. It is embellished but it’s all based in truth.

PP: Why “Fortune’s Fool”?

JR: There’s a line in the beginning of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo says “I’m Fortune’s Fool”, which basically means I’m fated to be a fool. He’s in love with someone who doesn’t love him back and feels really silly about it. That was something that really resonated with me. In tarot, there’s a recurring theme of the fool, of someone who is just beginning their journey. As someone who is going to college, everything feels very new —that just resonated deeply with me. At the peak of the bridge of one of my songs, “Guest House”, I say “I’m Fortune’s Fool”. 

PP: What was the creative process of writing your music?

JR: I took a songwriting class with Mr. Fischer and my Dad always told me to write about a single moment when I’m stuck. So for the first song, I wrote about the moment right after I hit a car, which was a very scary experience for me. Although it’s embellished, in the beginning, the whole “I’m not afraid” part is about how being in a car accident put everything else and my fears in perspective. The rest of the songs are mostly about love, heartbreak, or getting over something. Some of the songs aren’t about my own experiences. Taylor Swift said once that her early music is about movies or fictional characters, and I was inspired by that. I would take a feeling or an event and expand on it into a fictional world where, me, “Fortune’s Fool,” is in the world. 

PP: What do you want to accomplish with your music? 

JR: I always say I’m a musician, and I want something to point to and say, “this is mine”. I play live a lot but I’ve never had something that was like, this is me. I’m going to promote [the EP] more, and hopefully play some live shows, nothing crazy, more of an intimate setting. The goal isn’t to be famous or touring, I really just want to be an artist. I have other goals; I’m going to college for psychology and I want it to be something that I can do on the side and also share with people. I want people to have songs that they can sing to and be like, “yes, I relate to this.” Songs that will make them feel better if they‘re sad or make them feel like they’re not alone. 

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