“So, who is Jackie Lynn?” I ask Haley Fohr, and she smiles, smooths her long, purple hair over her shoulders and launches into a well-rehearsed narrative, reciting the autobiography of her alter ego in serious, measured tones that suggest we’re talking about someone real – which, it turns out, we almost are. “Jackie Lynn is a woman two years younger than me,” she begins. “She was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee. Five years ago she moved to Chicago, to the South Side. She took a Greyhound bus and on the way there she met a guy named Tom. They quickly fell in love and she kind of got wrapped up in this drug trade he’s involved in. They had a good time for a few years, and then he left. Vanished overnight, after a big fight. Left her in a lot of debt, fending for herself. She took the reins in his business, got herself out of debt.”
She pauses for effect.
Jackie is currently ‘at large’ and on the road looking for Tom.”
That’s one answer, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Because Jackie is also Fohr, or Fohr is Jackie. It’s true that at first glance they have little in common. Fohr is whimsical; a smart, bookish musician with an existential streak – up until now she’s worked as Circuit de Yeux, producing ethereal, avant-garde folk music – while Jackie is straight-talking; a no-bullshit country singer who has played the drugs trade and won. But alter egos always offer an unexpected flash beneath the flesh of their creators. Jackie is the embodiment of Fohr’s rebel femininity, her sexy, dangerous side, created as a fuck you to all the men who’ve ever tried telling her how to live her life. Jackie is unashamedly a woman. “She’s a sister. She’s definitely female and I’m excited to present something that is so obviously female.”
“I recorded ‘Jackie Lynn’ [an album released this month via Thrill Jockey] about a year ago and it’s been really interesting, the coalescing of our lives,” Fohr explains. “Jackie’s powerful and she’s sexy. She’s got it together. For me it was like a superhero or something that I could be, maybe. Traits of a woman that I probably never felt comfortable in. But suddenly this record’s coming out and I do. I don’t know if it’s just the age and the time in my life or if it’s because of the Jackie Lynn or what.”
Fohr came up with the Jackie Lynn concept on a foggy morning in LA. The idea evolved quickly, and she was excited. But then, as she told friends her Jackie plans, Fohr was shut down by a man with an opinion. (She won’t name him but tells me he is “an older gentleman, late 30s. Kind of a big deal. A film guy.’) He didn’t like the idea? “He said: ‘that’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard; you should let it lie. Do not follow this through, you will regret it.’ And to me that meant that I had to do it.” She turns on a little of the Jackie attitude. “I’m just so sick of dudes telling me what to do.”
It’s something she’s noticed more as she’s grown a little older; the way men just don’t hold back from offering their point of view. “On a broad spectrum I think men are gendered to tell women what to do. They are gendered to have the answers and they feel confident to say don’t do that, do this. And women are gendered to respond in a way that is appealing and pleasing and agreeable. So in a way it was the perfect way for Jackie to be born, as a response, and it’s not an agreeable response. It’s her response.”