At the fresh age of 18, guitarist/singer/songwriter Jodi McLaren is one of the youngest and most powerful musicians to hail from Laurel, Maryland in recent memory. She's opened for bands such as This Day and Age, The Spill Canvas, and Andrew Norsworthy.
Influenced by many great lyricists and musicians, Jodi has the raw honesty of Chris Carrabba in early Dashboard Confessional days, the free spirit of Joni Mitchell, the self-driven motivation of Ani DiFranco, and flavors of the Indigo Girls.
Her inspirations range through Coldplay, Ben Harper, Damien Rice, Death Cab For Cutie, Brand New, Yellowcard, Counting Crows, Guster, Keane, Nickel Creek, Ryan Adams, Travis, and James Taylor. She is a solo act with heart-bursting honesty, beautifully layered melodies, and the raw edge of a Martin DX1 acoustic guitar.
She's played at the James Madison University Café, numerous High School talent shows and coffee houses, the College Park Coffeehouse, Stella’s Bar and Grill, and her own booking venue that has raised over 1,000 dollars for mission work in Guatemala; the Cedar Ridge Barn.
In 2005, Jodi released her debut album, Believe Me; a collection of 13 songs with woven melodies and heart-written lyrics that could match the passion of Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill, but with less rage and a lot more poetry. Jodi says of Believe Me:
"Believe Me is meant to showcase what an actual performance from me is like. So while I can't stand in each person's living room and make the funny faces I make when I sing certain notes or fumble around with new songs, I hope to capture my personality and vigor through the simple instruments of my voice and martin guitar.
The album really compiles songs from the past 3 years of my life. Those older songs (Don’t Stop, Without Knowing, Anywhere but Here) are kind of like the classics, the firsts, and I wanted them to be on my first real album. Then we date through relationships (What You’d Say, Spectacular), lack of relationships (So Ready for You), times of despair (Here I Am), and the title track, (Believe Me), which is sort of mapping out a thought process in a tough relationship with my Dad."
If anything, Jodi can capture an audience. Whether on the boardwalk of nearby Ocean City or in a moon-lit coffeehouse, she draws people from all walks of life because of her depth, honesty, and originality. Jodi says of her music:
"I try not to focus on what my genre is because within each genre there’s some sort of criteria to fill. I went through a few phases of music loving which included Michelle Branch, Dashboard Confessional, lots of punk music, and now I’m dating back to the old folk stuff and more progressive music… anything from Ani DiFranco to James Taylor to Death Cab for Cutie. My criteria for good music is music that is above all, honest.
Since I haven’t had the pleasure of working with a band, my music is largely based around 3 things: lyrics, guitar, and melody/harmony. I’ve used a conversational approach to writing melodies. My lyrics come at times of extremes; extreme excitement, extreme loneliness, and confusion or sadness or struggle. The lyrics do really just come; they are interpretations of life that are sometimes metaphoric."
Listeners will hear this honest, conversational technique in both Jodi's music and lyrics. This, mixed with Jodi's poetic but seering passion, can easily explain why this young, but talented songwriter is drawing heads from far more than just her local Maryland.