While Jena Malone is best known for her big screen films like “The Hunger Games” trilogy, the actress is equally committed to pursuing her music career — and making that music with Lem Jay Ignacio. Together they are “The Shoe” and they’ve recently released their first full-length album, “I’m Okay.”
The duo will be in Chicago Monday at the Thompson Hotel on the Gold Coast, as part of a tour they are doing of Thompson Hotels — something they are calling their “Hotel Takeover” tour. The two have singing together for the past six years.
Q: Why do you think the musical partnership with Lem Jay works so well?
A: It’s like anything else. How do you have interesting conversations with some people — and not with others. What we bring out in each other is so unique, and something that no one has ever asked us to bring to the table. I think that Lem Jay has an amazing capability as an artist. He’s played with a lot of different people and backed a lot of different bands and produced a lot of music, but I don’t think that anyone’s been like, ‘I want you to be completely free and wild and go wherever your heart desires.’ I’ve always told him, I’ll never question where you go.
Q: Clearly you enjoy performing in intimate environments — true?
A: Absolutely. The music should fill the space it needs to. As a two-person band, imagine playing on a stage in front of like 70,000 people! All I crave as an audience member is intimate shows. And smaller performances, and that’s what we like to do. Of course, if we want to get really raucous — I guess that would be something else! What’s kind of exciting on this hotel tour is the fact we’re going to places we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing them sight unseen, and then figure out how to make music there. That’s scary, but also invigorating.
Q: You’ve said there’s a great freedom working with Lem Jay. Do you find gives you a freer experience than what you discover while acting?
A: Acting is a little more controlled, but it’s funny I do still find the experiences to be pretty similar. For example when I work with a director that I really trust and we both know where we kind of want to go with something, that’s cool. He’ll let you make left turns and right turns and skin your knee, so to speak, with a role — and that provides a sense of freedom too. That’s very similar to making music. Sometimes you go too far to find what you’re really looking for.
Just because one’s scripted and one’s unscripted doesn’t mean I’m going to be yodeling in an African language. Though, I guess I actually HAVE done that [laughs]. But I mean making music and acting are more similar than you think.
Q: Would you say it all simply boils down to trusting the person you’re working with?
A: It really does. It’s self trust and trusting the person you’re collaborating with.
Q: At this point, after you’ve finished filming “The Hunger Games” trilogy, how do you feel about the whole project?
A: Yes, we’ve finished shooting so it’s a bit odd. The film’s coming out in November and I’m excited to see it.
Q: Have you spent much time in Chicago.
A: I shot a film there when I was about 15. I shot “Cheaters” there [in 2000] and I did shoot a couple of small things there, but a dear friend of mine just moved to Chicago, so I’m excited to see her, while I’m in the city — and have her show us out on the town!