Electronic composer and artist Jerrilynn Patton, known as Jlin, requested an 8 a.m. interview time so she could get a productive start on the day ahead. That small request is representative of how the Gary, Indiana native operates: She marches to her own beat, with incredible depth and intuition.
Jlin began producing music in 2008; her debut track “Erotic Heat” pushed her to the front of the up-and-comers line, and her 2015 full-length, Dark Energy, was also well-received. Her second album, Black Origami, was released in 2017 and met with massive critical acclaim, landing in the year’s top ten lists for industry influencers like Rolling Stone, Spin, and Pitchfork. Going from producing music in one’s home to appearing on a global stage in a matter of years would be a heady experience. But the humble artist will tell you herself that accolades are never—and were never—the goal.
Instead, Jlin’s main goals include authenticity and balance. “In order for me to do music, I had to make a conscious decision to be myself,” Jlin said. “That’s a personal constant decision when you choose to say, ‘I’m going to be authentic.’”
Her music has been described by critics as dark in theme and mood, and she emphasizes the beauty of balancing both dark and light when composing. “When a diamond is formed, there’s pressure put on that diamond,” she explained, “and that pressure isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Her music does not rely on melody; more often, it relies on the absence of melody and uses sound that, at once, feels foreign and familiar. She draws from a global percussion palette and often pairs rhythms with sounds that, while not sampled, still resemble those you might recognize from nature: birds, screams, the rhythmic dripping from a deep cave. She incorporates sounds into her compositions that seem to come from all places, and no place at all.
She cited her influences: Sade, Missy Elliott, and most importantly, her mother, “the queen of my heart,” as she refers to her. Though Jlin’s music is often mentioned in the context of footwork, a house and dance genre out of Chicago’s early ‘90s dance scene, she shrugs off genre tags. Refreshingly candid about the music industry, especially the tendency of musicians to get pulled into sounding like something or someone else, she explains, “Sometimes you see what other people can’t, and artists have to learn that that’s okay. It took me about three years to learn that, and I’m still evolving.”
Jlin’s most recent album is 2018’s Autobiography, a work commissioned by Royal Ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor to accompany his dance piece of the same name. In addition to her February 20 performance at TMA’s GlasSalon, she has a big year ahead, including a spring appearance in Paris with experimental great Max Richter. When asked what she would like audiences to take from her performance, she referenced the collective experience, just as her music often does. “I want audiences to know that it is okay to be vulnerable, and have no idea what’s about to happen,” she said. “Be vulnerable with me, because when I’m up there, I’m very vulnerable. Let’s have a human experience together.”
$12/members | $15/nonmembers
$10/military | $10/student
8pm | Thursday, February 20
GlasSalon at the Toledo Museum of Art, 2445 Monroe St.
419-255-8000 | toledomuseum.org/visit/events/music-jlin