Courtney Jaye Talks New 'Psychedelic Gospel' Album and Short Film 'Hymns and Hallelucinations'

"I'm just here to say, 'Hey, I think that there's got to be something higher happening, but I don't know what it is. I don't have the answers,' the musician tells PEOPLE

Hymns and Hallelucinations, the multi-year project of artist Courtney Jaye, dropped Friday and is one of the albums that you might need to hear, then listen to, then hear, then see, then hear again.

Jaye has created an immersive experience that crosses into a genre all its own — psychedelic gospel and in her own words "This is spiritual music for weirdos …." The search for a spiritual path is a common theme for artists and Jaye dove in headfirst — not only birthing Hymns and Hallelucinations, but also a 30-minute short film to accompany the release. The album and film tackle themes ranging from strength to sexuality to rage and personal growth.

PEOPLE caught up with Jaye to talk about her latest project.

It's been a wild few years — tell me a little about the process of writing and recording Hymns and Hallelucinations?

I started writing this record in 2014, and it went through many iterations to get to finally recording in 2020. I call it a psychedelic gospel record. It's a little bit outside of the box, or the norm. It's a celebratory sort of record to me, that represents my journey in the last 20 years — whether it's in the music industry or personally — and just going through a lot of darkness and finding light, but finding the light because I went through the dark. Does that make sense?

Courtney Jaye
Courtney Jaye. Ben Trivett

People have an idea of what a psychedelic record is, and people have an idea of what a gospel record is. How did you internally crack the mold on those two genres?

Well, first of all, I am not religious. I'm spiritual. So when you're not confined in the first place by any sort of particular belief or dogma, you can just run anywhere with it. And I thought blending of the two ... those two things, to me, I don't know a lot of records that sound like that. It's an experimentation. The whole process was just like, "Let's experiment. Let's see where we can push this."

Luckily, I think my fan base is very used to me going where I want to go. I feel very lucky through the years that the people that have been listening to me have been seeing this evolution happen in real-time, so they're excited about it. And then I think if that can draw in other people and other areas of the music world that I haven't really necessarily tapped into, that's great. It's all just a very natural sort of thing, and the process for me is just to make the music and let it find its home after that.

Courtney Jaye
Courtney Jaye. Ben Trivett

One of the great lines from this album comes on "Kingdom Inside Me," where you sing, "Just because we're wild doesn't mean we're lost." I feel like so many people across all walks can relate to that sentiment. How'd that one come about?

I would say that I have lived a very full and exciting life, and I wonder sometimes how I made it through all of it, you know? The music is for everyone, but I really wanted people who necessarily either don't believe in God or do believe in God, but don't really know what to believe. It's for the people who aren't subscribing to one particular thing, you know?

There's a lot of people like that in the world that are just like, "Yeah, maybe there's something out there," and something is, but I'm not here to force it onto someone. I'm just here to say, "Hey, I think that there's got to be something higher happening, but I don't know what it is. I don't have the answers." There are a lot of people that think like that.

Courtney Jaye
Courtney Jaye. Ben Trivett

And this project isn't just a record — you've also created a 30-minute film to accompany the release. Tell me about that.

I finished the record at the end of 2020, and I was living in Hawaii at the time. And then I flew back to Los Angeles, which is where I was starting to do the work to release a record. I have my own record label, so I'm sort of running the show and doing all of that. When I got back to Los Angeles and the record was done, I just kept hearing this word in my head, "Film. What else is next?" and a film is the biggest type of a project that I have ever… It was bigger than the record.

So I was just like, "All right, so what does this mean?" And then it became clear to me that the music was different — you could look at some of the titles on this and think, "Is she into religion now? What's going on with her?" But I felt that the best way to explain it would be through a conceptual long-form video.

Courtney Jaye
Courtney Jaye. Ben Trivett

The video for Hymns and Hallelucinations is so visually creative — how are you planning on bringing that to a live audience?

The biggest thing that I've learned with this music live is that less is more. Whereas the record is a little bit more layered and a little bit more complex, I'm planning to start playing this music live in a very stripped-down [manner] … a guitar, bass, maybe some keyboards, but there's no drums on the record, so that's out. It will just really be about the vocals and the message, and everything supports that.

I've played these songs live a handful of times, and I can, without question, say that it's different than any other time that I've played any of my music. The response is different. I am singing differently. There's something that is just different about this, the live aspect, that is the most exciting thing to me about this project. I can't wait to do that.

Courtney Jaye
Courtney Jaye. Ben Trivett

I know you're just finishing and starting to release this project, but anything else coming down the line for you?

I'm really focused on this right now. I did get together with a friend of mine, and we did some lullabies recently, but lullabies that are for adults and children. We did a cover of "Stand by Me" and turned it into a lullaby. We're doing "My Darling" by Wilco. We're just doing different songs that you would think, "Oh. That's not necessarily traditionally a lullaby."

And that has been very fun for me, only because it's been a whole other side of my voice that ... I'm usually very loud and out there vocally, and this is the first time that I had to really be quiet. That's new for me. I did enjoy that process, and we're probably going to end up making a little record, just something that comes out before the end of the year as well.

Hymns and Hallelucinations is out now.

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