She’s built a reputation by performing under her own name and in excellent bands like Jom Comyn and The Tee-Tahs, but Edmonton guitarist and songwriter Jessica Jalbert is now known as Faith Healer.
“Faith Healer is basically just a new name for an old thing,” Jalbert explains. She says she’s happy to use something other than her own name since there’s been a large progression in her craft since her last solo album, 2011’s Brother Loyola. “For that reason among others I’m glad to be using a moniker, but it’s still essentially the same thing as my solo work.”
The project’s name emerged organically in a conversation among her peers. “I was standing in a lake with a bunch of friends and I think we were talking about religious rituals like baptisms and stuff, and someone brought up the concept of faith healers,” she recalls. “I liked it as a band name, and Renny [Wilson] and I and another friend who was there at the time talked about starting a band with that name. It never happened so I snagged it when I decided to use a moniker for this album. I think Renny had had the Bandcamp domain name locked down for several years, so it was convenient. I know there are several other permutations on the name already active in music, but I’ll use it anyway.”
Aside from saving the day with the Faith Healer URL, Wilson has had a significant role in the formation of Faith Healer. A Mint-signed singer-songwriter in his own right, Wilson has always been an active participant in Jalbert’s prior projects. In this band, he served as a producer and a performer, adding various instruments to the album. That said, his role has been misunderstood in the band’s early press. To be clear, Faith Healer is Jessica Jalbert’s project.
“I can understand the confusion,” she admits. “Essentially the first online media mention of Faith Healer referred to it as a ‘duo,’ likely because I spoke so much about our collaboration while recording in my bio. So all the subsequent write-ups have, it seems, taken that initial error to be truth.”
Though it’s been a frequent misconception about the project, Jalbert is taking it all in stride. ”It doesn’t matter to me particularly, Renny and I talk about it lots and both agree that the truth will come out in the wash. The project is mine, but it would be negligent of me not to mention how involved Renny was in the recording process. He engineered and produced the album, plus he played all the instruments that I didn’t play. So definitely what you hear in the album is all him and me, but the songs and the arrangements are all mine. His production and his musicianship are very much there though, and I’m grateful for that.”
There’s no denying that Cosmic Troubles benefits from Wilson’s fingerprints—the warm production, vintage synth flourishes, effects-laden guitar leads, and hushed back-up vocals add a truly timeless quality to the music. That said, where so many artists rely on these aesthetics as a fill-in for substance, Faith Healer does the opposite. Everything’s built on Jalbert’s arresting, simultaneously cool and warm voice and intelligently relatable lyrics.
Still, when Wilson’s production and Jalbert’s songwriting come together, magic is made. Such is the case with “Again,” the album’s lead single and a strong January entry for a song we’ll still be singing by year’s end. From the vocals to the arrangement to the instrumentation, it’s a truly perfect pop-rock anthem. As Jalbert explains, the song was key to the album’s completion. “We listened a lot to John Cale’s Vintage Violence a lot too while recording,” she says. “I felt the record was lacking in something when we were getting towards the end and Renny suggested I try and write a song that could fit on that album. That’s where ‘Again’ came in.”
Cosmic Troubles will arrive in late March, at which point Jalbert plans to take the project on tour and, eventually, more writing. “It’s the best way I know how to communicate, so I think I’ll feel accomplished if I get to a point where I feel like I can communicate just what I want to by writing a Faith Healer song,” she says. “Who knows if I’ll get to that point, but it’s good to have a goal.”