What’s a jingle-writing gal to do when a global pandemic swoops in and shuts down every single industry that utilizes advertising? Write a jingle about your dog? About your child? About you? Then post it on Instagram for the amusement of all who seek levity in this wildly unpredictable and scary moment in time? That’s precisely what L.A.-based songwriter Alex Lilly is doing.
For eight years, one of Lilly’s hustles has been writing jingles. She does all kinds of music-related work. She’s toured with Beck, Lorde and the Bird and the Bee. She’s released records with such bands as Touché, Obi Best and the Living Sisters, and her debut full-length album, “2% Milk,” came out in January 2019. When she wasn’t on the road, Lilly worked consistently, writing and producing jingles.
When work and social life all came to a screeching halt, she had to find something to do but wasn’t exactly feeling motivated or inspired.
“I started my project of writing jingles for humans (and pets) about a month ago when I realized I couldn’t focus on a single goddamn thing,” Lilly says. “My work had all but flown away, including some commercial jingle work. And the album I was recording with a friend had to be put on pause.”
One day, she decided to put up a post on her Instagram story publicizing her services.
And folks responded. “It was kind of a perfect solution to my restlessness, loneliness, and I certainly did not mind the donations,” she says.
The first jingle was commissioned by local musician Sydney Wayser for her luxuriously fluffy cat, Zeus. “Zeus was a wonderful subject because he’s both beautiful and completely oblivious to my ridicule,” Lilly says.
Wayser provided a few details about her cat, such as his preference for canned food. “Believe it or not, the more mundane the details, the funnier it can be,” Lilly says. So she crafted a short, snarky ditty and, voila, entertainment for all scrollers.
Inspired by the Zeus jingle, someone commissioned one for their dog, Juice. Who is all caboose.
And then came the humans, like Grammy-nominated pianist and composer Larry Goldings, who might be hairy, but admittedly, Lilly doesn’t know for sure.
Some of her new patrons were strangers or acquaintances that required a bit of detective work. “It’s like making a crossword without knowing the answers first and then filling it in, all to music!” Lilly says. “It’s very addictive.”
“If I don’t know a person who’s commissioned me to write them a jingle, I find myself browsing their Instagram for quite a while, searching for clues,” she says. “This feels creepy, but then I remind myself that it’s my damn job and it brings joy! Right?”
So much joy. She’s written about 30 jingles so far, and the requests keep coming. At times, Lilly zooms in on a single attribute. In the case of a man named Brett who seemed to wear shorts a lot, she wrote a song dedicated to his legs.
In other cases, Lilly knows her subject pretty well, such as Gothic Tropic’s Cecilia Della Peruti, who she toured with in Beck’s band for a few years.
Or Inara George from the Bird and the Bee, whom she seems to know intimately.
Like most of us, Lilly misses her friends. She imagines going out drinking with Lauren Brown of the band Kolars. And starting a bar fight in a sweet, romantic way.
Her youngest client so far has been a birthday boy named Otis, whom she offered some terrible advice.
Otis, if you read this, don’t do anything Lilly says. She’s a bad influence.
Whether this is all an elaborate form of procrastination or a new calling, no one can say for sure. “I’m hoping my attention span will return soon so I can work on something more long-form, but for now, the jingles have been helping me stay sane and entertained.” Us too.