Across the Board’s Jacqueline Auguste’s interview
Written by Kevin Tanza on July 12, 2019
First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this, Jacqueline. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. I wanted to start this interview with a very broad question: what makes a singer, according to you?
Thanks so much for having me here! Singers are made in two ways—either they are born with the talent or they work hard to acquire the talent. I didn’t sing a lick until 2014 when our original lead singer, Julian Peter, left to pursue his career in film. Instead of looking for a new singer, the band pushed me up to the mic and bam! I have heard my voice evolve over the last 5 albums and it’s so cool to see that you can teach an old dog new tricks!
And when it came to becoming a vocalist, what inspired you to pursue this role?
As I said, I was pushed a bit—but always a closet singer in the car and shower. And I sang harmonies in the band-I seem to have a knack for findings harmonies in the oddest places!! It’s like a party trick! I am inspired by vocalists like Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and Melissa Ethridge.
Would you say that it gets easier or harder to sing as the years go by?
Much easier—like any muscle—flex it, build it, sculpt it—emulate others, learn proper techniques, and find a style….style develops the longer you sing.
Let’s talk about the Across the Board album, Wild Ones. What did Andy and you wanted to achieve with this album in particular?
We wanted to explore the idea of the pack mentality versus the need to be independent. We are, like the wolf, uniquely tied to the circadian rhythm of the planet—and although we have to be able to stand on our own two feet and be autonomous, we all still need to have a pack behind us – to battle for us, to lift us up, or as a soft place to fall—a place to play- we need to be able to play in the sandbox of life with others, but lead when we need to.
On another note, the album is a collection of songs written at a time when I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. We were struggling with my diagnosis—with sudden idea of mortality for the first time. The idea of the wolf was born from that need to be strong, to fight, to lead—but to lean other others—our pack.
Wild Ones, the title track, speaks to the instinct we have to follow our biological directive on the planet, but the gift of awareness of ourselves that also allows to take a break from instinct, to step out of that connection with the planet and enjoy it—to dance, to play under the moon!
One thing I noticed about this album is that is somewhat eclectic, with you guys doing multiple music styles. Was that by design or was it that came along that way during the writing process?
I think it became more eclectic because for the first time we were collaboratively writing. We spent a weekend retreat with our co-writers and producers, Darnell Toth and Matt Makarenko of MC2 Music Media in Toronto. Each of us loves different kinds and eras of rock—Andy is a Pearl Jam fan, Darnell comes from a hard rock/metal background and Matt has a degree in music and has a solid progressive rock bent. Me, I am a Fleetwood Mac, Doors, Pink Floyd fan—so yes, all over the place.
How do you usually write songs?
There are two ways we write songs—I might take my guitar and come up with a chord progression that evolves into a melody and a few words emerge, then a theme, then the song writes itself. This time, three of the tracks came from Matt and Darnell as near-complete instrumentals that I put a melody and words to after the fact. This was a fun and new exercise for us in writing.
What bands and albums have influenced Across the Board the board?
I think as I mentioned before, Fleetwood Mac, the Doors, Floyd, U2, Pearl Jam, Joan Jett—can I say everyone?
Andy and you are obviously more than just bandmates–you’re also a couple. How does that influence the way that Across the Board functions?
Well, it means that when we disagree, we still have to sleep in the same house! It forces us to work through everything and be collaborative. It might look like I take the musical lead in the band, but Andy is the rock that holds us together. In the end, band members might come and go, moving onto other projects, but we are the core. And the relationship comes first. Family first. (He’s always wondering if I am writing about him!)
Across the Board started with a YouTube channel and that allowed you to gather a following with your cover videos. What is your perspective about the impact and influence of digital media on the music business?
It’s immense and incredibly important. In this day and age you do not need a label behind you. You are one influencer away from getting your music out to a greater audience. And organic growth is what labels drool after these days. It is very rare for a label to sign an artist who hasn’t proven themselves on social media- and statistics do not lie. It also allows you to document your journey and experiment along the way. The audience is potentially global, not just the 40 fans that keep coming out to your shows in your home town. Any band who is not using the internet is really missing a huge opportunity for a global following and there are countless examples of artists who have created impressive business models and established huge followings without the assistance of a label thanks to the internet.
You guys run the business side of your band, social media, pretty much everything. Would you like to stay that way if Across the Board keeps getting bigger?
Yes. Our team will get bigger, but it will still be OUR team.
What have you learned about the music business after all these years?
I’ve learned that you don’t need to sign with a major label to succeed. And possibly you shouldn’t—not until you have a big enough organic following to have something solid to offer at a negotiating table—to keep control of your own music. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t wait until your vlog, or cover video or acoustic jam session is perfect until you put it on the net….you will never have anything in the rabbit hole for people to fall down. We have 600 + videos on YouTube currently—some have 10 views, some have 20 thousand views—they all are our own ATB rabbit hole.
On something non-music related, you have worked with an Ovarian Cancer charity in Canada. What can you tell us about that cause in particular?
“She’s Listening” is a grass root movement of artists supporting the cure for Ovarian Cancer—the deadliest of female cancers, and the least researched of all. We play an annual benefit and contribute to an annual compilation CD that supports ovarian cancer research through Ovarian Cancer Canada. Please check it out!
Of what are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of our autonomy as a band, and our unrelenting drive to continue to make content, to create music, to move forward despite the roadblocks that can hold us back. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2018, and through all of the chemo and surgery and treatment—the band keeps rolling on.
Thank you for taking the time to do this, Jacqueline. It has been great. Any final message for our readers? Where can we follow you and Across the Board on social media?
Thank you so much… yes, please fall down our rabbit hole!
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