Earlier this month, 28-year-old musician Joanna Sternberg released their second album, Then I Try Some More. Sternberg trained in jazz and classical schools, but the album is truly a style of their own. They’ve been surrounded by a variety of musical influences from a young age — their parents first thought they might have musical inclinations when they heard 2-year-old Joanna humming “Oh What A Merry Christmas Day” from Mickey’s Christmas Carol at their Passover Seder, and Joanna’s grandmother is Fraydele Oysher, one of the pioneering female Yiddish theater singers and the inspiration for Barbra Streisand’s Yentl.
The album turns all the influences Joanna loves into something new, which is at times a deeply emotional listen that untangles addiction, insecurity, and fear. And, you know, there’s also a song about a fictional baby penguin. In the notes for “Then I Try Some More,” it says, “Joanna does not like using genres to describe music or art. They also do not like using the word music to describe music, or the word art to describe art.” It makes sense when you listen to the album that Sternberg is not limiting themselves based on preconceived notions, resulting in an unforgettable sophomore release.
Uproxx had the opportunity to talk with Joanna by phone before they head out on tour with Conor Oberst to discuss their musical origins, “emotional poops,” and why art is so hard to define.