coyote eyes

Artist Interview: Coyote Eyes

If you’re looking for quintessential, clean pop, you won’t find it in Coyote Eyes.

Coyote Eyes’ (aka Jo Eubanks) music is haunting, with a cinematic twist. Featuring haunting vocals and jolting lyrics, this “young Sylvia Plath” will soothe those looking for the dark side of pop. And for Christmas, she’s released a special version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” We spoke with her about her musical journey, her transition to cinematic pop, and her decision to release a Christmas single.

First, I’m dying to know: where did you get the pseudonym Coyote Eyes from?

I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that in traditional folklore the coyote represents a wild array of paradoxes — as does my music, and as do I. 

What first drew you to music?

My mother says I started singing before I started talking — it’s just always been in me. I started training as a classical singer at age eight. I was one of those shy kids who became voracious about music as a way to feel connected. You know that feeling you get when your heart drops on a rollercoaster or the butterflies you get from sitting close to someone you’re infatuated with? That’s what music does to me. 

What inspires you most?

Traditionally, demons. I learned early on that I could either harness them or be harnessed by them. Currently, I’m more thematically inspired — big ideas like madness, obsession, self-sacrifice. Sometimes I’ll even start with a historical or literary figure — Ophelia, Elizabeth Bathory, or in the case of Blood Moon, a Salem Witch. 

You’ve been known for being an anti-sugary pop artist. You continuously lean into your writing and are now focusing on cinematic pop. Was this a natural progression?

When I first started I was actually pushed out of a lot of rooms because I was the *anti* sugary pop. I started at a time when pretty girls were supposed to write songs about waiting for a boy to call. I was writing about the dark corners of the human condition. 

And yes! Cinematic pop! Some people think of this as “movie music.” It’s something I’ve always wanted to do — I drew early inspiration from composers like Clint Mansell, Nellee Hooper, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross. I come from a classical background so that certainly played into it as well — I could geek out forever about the intersection of classical and contemporary. 

Anyways, cinematic music was always my intention, but it wasn’t until I teamed up with my current producer (Ruslan Odnoralov) that I was able to execute my vision. When you’ve had this idea in your head — this thing you’ve always wanted to do — and you’re finally able to do it, I can’t even tell you how amazing that feeling is. It’s like seeing a picture in your head and finally finding the materials to paint it. It’s like learning to fly. 

Switching to Christmas – you just released a cover of O Come O Come Emmanuel. What drove you to cover this song specifically? It’s a striking rendition.

Thank you! So I’ve always wanted to release Christmas music — like seriously one of my top dreams. But as far as this song, when I was a kid we would sing it in my church choir every Christmas. It was so haunting, so melancholy, so real. It really tells the story of life in Israel before the birth of Christ — the suffering, hope, and finally redemption. It’s beautiful. 

December also marks the end of a year AND, this year, a decade. How would you describe your artistic journey in the past 10 years?

Have you ever seen the “success map?” I’ll find a copy for you because I feel that it’s so important for every artist — really everyone — to see. 

That’s exactly what the past 10 years have looked like for me — the right hand side. To me, “overnight success” or “blowing up” (I’m not saying I’m an overnight success by any means, but just go with me here) is an act of public recognition after years of unseen milestones, set backs, close calls, and starting over. I’m very open about my journey because I feel that everyone with a dream needs to hear it. The Coyote Eyes project is barely a year old — but backed by years, and I mean *years* of other iterations and ventures. I will say, the one constant has been training — no matter what’s going on, I train vocally — that never changes.

But you know what? I actually think it was about 10 years ago that I finally agreed to write my first pop song. I say agreed because before that I was a singer and a poet. I treated those separately because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good enough as a songwriter. It’s amazing what can happen when we say yes to the things that scare us. Ten years ago I didn’t consider myself a songwriter, and now I’m the only writer on many of my songs. I had to let go of the idea of being what other people wanted me to be (or what I thought they did) and really stay true to my own style. It’s atypical, it’s dark, and it’s different — and that’s okay! Things started moving when I allowed myself and my ideals to be unbridled. 

It’s really cool you ask that question because I recently reconnected with an old friend and one of my very first writing partners, Trey Campbell, who is definitely blowing up right now — he’s up for a Grammy and writing for the best artists in the biz. But when I think about us nearly 10 years ago, we were two young kids from North Carolina just starting out in Hollywood — writing songs for the love of it and playing shows to 5 people (okay, that was just me) — I mean, it’s amazing. I have such fond memories from those early days, and it’s incredible how life can come full circle. One of the coolest parts of the journey is seeing your friends achieve their dreams.

As far as me, the important takeaways from the past 10 years have been perseverance, self-sufficiency, starting over,

What are your dreams for 2020? Any future releases or shows?

My EP is coming out! Hopefully in the spring, so definitely keep an eye on my social media for announcements. 

I’m also doing a separate project with Ruslan Odnoralov, the producer of Blood Moon I mentioned earlier. We’re finishing that at the end of January and I’m so excited I can hardly see straight. 

I play a lot of shows so again, check my social media! I play The McKittrick Hotel December 18th, then Ludlow House on January 11th. I’m also playing Mercury Lounge early February — that one will be announced soon.

I’d really love to go on tour in 2020 — ideally as the opening act for another artist. I also have some dream collaborators on my list, like Justin Parker; writing with him would absolutely be a dream come true. I’d like to continue building the foundation for whatever the future of Coyote Eyes has in store. 

Thank you!

Thank you!

Follow Coyote Eyes on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.