Jocelyn Gould talks new album Golden Hour and jazz guitar: ‘I’m always trying to sing on the instrument’

Juno-winning guitarist, vocalist and composer Jocelyn Gould is getting ready to release her second album Golden Hour.

The new recording marks the Manitoba-born, Toronto-based musician’s followup to her breakout debut album in 2020.

Golden Hour features six original compositions and four songs from the Great American Songbook. Gould’s ensemble features bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Quincy Davis and pianist Will Bonness, mirroring the classic lineups of guitar quartet albums that have inspired her.

Gould is hitting the road this summer in support of the record, including a performance as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Before then, she joined us to talk about Golden Hour, the early days of her career in New York, and her work as an educator.

You’re in New York right now. What’s going on there?

I got here about a week ago. I was playing with an amazing band at Lincoln Center on this beautiful stage just outside the Met. I’ve got a few more club performances this week before I head out.

You cut your teeth there, just showing up to play, right?

I still think there’s no better way to do it than to just throw yourself in the fire. In New York, there are so many incredible musicians, so it’s a great place to come and do that.

Was that decision an easy one, or does the weight of it become overwhelming?

There’s always a little bit of nerves. Moving internationally requires a lot of preparation. But once I decided to do it, it was exciting. The learning, the atmosphere, it’s really infectious once you get in there.

Golden Hour is in some ways a tribute to your favourite guitar quartet records. I know you’ve got your big four of Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Green and Joe Pass. Tell me about how those musicians got into your soul.

Both of my parents were hobbyist guitar players, so I grew up around the instrument. I always wanted to play it but didn’t start until I was a little older. Someone gave me the album Smokin’ at the Half Note by Wes Montgomery, and it turned on some switch in me. I listened to it in my car and I’d get made fun of by my friends because it’s like, ‘Okay, the guitar player won’t stop listening to Smokin’ at the Half Note.‘ I started learning harmony, theory, rhythm and took it from there.

Did it seem natural to hear those notes on the album and then start playing them on the guitar? Did you feel there was some serendipity with jazz guitar and the ease of playing it?

I grew up singing, so I’m always trying to sing on the instrument. No matter what instrument I’m playing, I approach it from a very vocal way. I hear the melody in my head and try to play it on the instrument. I tried to study piano when I was little, and it didn’t grab me. The guitar grabbed me somehow. I’m not sure how. Maybe some people are just more inclined to certain instruments.

You sing on three of the tunes on the new record. I was going to ask if that was a leap, but as someone who grew up singing, I guess it wasn’t.

Not too much. It was a little bit of a leap in terms of being brave enough to do it. I grew up singing in a million choirs as a kid. It felt like the next logical step for my second album, to add some voice.

When you were writing these tunes, were you thinking that you were going to sing on them, or did the material bring it out?

It was the latter, for sure. There’s a song called Cottage for Sale, and the lyrics are so important that I came to the conclusion that if it was going to be on the album, it had to be sung.

Recommended Links

On this album, I look at both the originals and the standards and there seems to be a hopefulness in the material. Is that fair? Do you feel hopeful in this crazy world?

I think so. I tend to gravitate toward the joyfulness of music and the spirit that it can give other people. I think the most beautiful thing about music is that you can bring people joy with sound. That’s part of my musical philosophy and what I want to do for other people.

Not only are you making albums and touring, but you’re also head of the guitar department at Humber College. What are most difficult and most rewarding parts of being an educator?

The most difficult part is… I spend a lot of time trying to put myself in the shoes of somebody who is not as far along. The things that seem obvious and natural to me, I sometimes take for granted that I know them. For me, the big trick is putting myself in the mindset of someone who is still growing and then figuring out what needs to happen in order to get this person further along. And then the most rewarding part is getting to connect with younger musicians who love to play, and seeing the excitement and joy of discovery. My favourite thing is introducing someone to my favourite records.

This interview has been edited and condensed.