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Interview: JESS HOLLAND

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At the end of my chat with Jess Holland, I felt energized and proud to be Australian. Her enthusiasm and Aussie Pride was contagious. I was first scheduled to chat with Jess in October but unfortunately she had to cancel the interview and Southern Tour due to a bout of laryngitis. “It was absolutely devastating,” she told me.  “I had to cancel my entire Southern Tour which I was very sad about because I was really looking forward to getting there. I had it all organised but these things happen.”

 

This rescheduled interview took place a few days before the 30 year anniversary Toy Run in Lue NSW. The group have been collecting toys and raising funds for a variety of charities and Jess was particularly excited, not just for the opportunity to perform solo, but to be reunited with McGee, a band she has played with in pubs around Central Northern NSW for 10 years. “We haven’t performed together for quite a number of years so it will be a lot of fun to get back into the swing of things; to get back on the horse and have a bit of a go again. The aim of this particular project is to get out there and have a bit of fun and a reunion just before Christmas.”

 

Talking about Christmas, Jess told me she is looking forward to being home in Mudgee for the festive season with some private shows as well as six public shows in Gulgong and Mudgee booked for December.  “I get asked to do a lot of private parties around Christmas. It’s a good time to chill out at home, get back to my roots and find my feet. It’s a good time to be around family.” Her family and friends enjoy seeing Jess perform at home. “I’m really lucky to have quite a few support systems in Mudgee. It’s not just family but friends as well.” Jess went on to say she loves getting out to new places “but every so often I love to come home and do the home gigs because, for me, not only do I get to play at home but catch up with a lot of people that I don’t always get to see.”

 

After the home shows, Jess will travel to the Tamworth Music Festival to continue promoting her second album Whole Lot To Say. Her aim for Tamworth 2015 is to get the new content heard and enjoyed as well as get her name out there. Jess has eight shows scheduled for Tamworth. However, you could easily see her performing at more. “I do a lot of stage hopping. I may have eight or nine gigs that I have organised but I’m always going to other people’s gigs and getting up and doing a bit of backing vocals. It’s a lot of fun.”

 

Like other performers, Jess sees Tamworth as an opportunity to catch up with friends and to listen to some new music. “I really enjoy the atmosphere. For me it’s more about, not just performing and getting out there to new people who haven’t heard my music before, but it’s also about seeing all the newcomers. I love watching the busking because it’s great to see young people really getting out there and enjoying music in general.” Jess told me that Tamworth is one of the only festivals that not only have music all day and night for ten days in every crook and cranny of the town but has a very casual atmosphere that welcomes people from all walks of life. “It’s so much fun.”

 

Whole Lot To Say is Jess’s second album. She received a lot of good feedback about her first album so was a little nervous about the response to this one. “Being a second album you are never sure if people will enjoy it as much as the first. People loved it. This album has been going fantastic so I’m really chuffed.”

 

Jess writes her own songs and is influenced by her rural upbringing, her family, people she meets and places she travels to. “Country music is very honest and open. My style of writing is very ‘down the line’, quite ‘black and white’.” Jess likes the fact that people can tell what her songs are about when you listen to them. Listening to her new album, the song ‘Why I Left This Town’ stood out. I told her I thought it was a beautiful, personal song that perhaps was written for or about someone in particular. “I wrote it about a particular person in my life that I had grown up with. We had spent so much time together growing up and we’re only a few months apart in age.” Jess went on to explain that her interpretation is that her friend found it difficult when Jess left their home town because the friend couldn’t go with her and they had done so much together up until then.

 

As well as singing and writing, Jess plays the guitar, mandolin and keyboards. When I asked her if she has a favourite instrument, she told me she started on the piano so has a soft spot for it but the guitar is probably her favourite. “For me, guitar is so easy. You can take it anywhere, plugged or unplugged. I really love playing the guitar. It’s such a great instrument that can be utilised anywhere.” I asked if she writes on the guitar or piano. “A bit of everything actually. I’ve written quite a few on the guitar, quite a few on the piano and a couple on the mandolin. It just depends on the vibe that I’m after. For me, I find it a lot easier writing on the piano if it’s something a bit more melancholy or a bit more mellow. Whereas, on guitar, you can make any sort of song.” 

 

If you think Jess is a typical country singer, she’s not. “I consider my genre to be country rock with a bit of blues. I’m really happy with that particular genre. With this album in particular, I have found this niche and I’m really comfortable with it. I can’t see myself changing anytime soon.” Jess is a huge fan of Janis Joplin and is also influenced by blues and roots artists. “I like to combine it all and make my own little pathway. I love country music and I love to rock out. For me to be able to combine the two is a really cool thing to do. There are not a lot of artists out there doing what I’m trying to do. I like to be unique. I’m not trying to be like anyone else and I’m not trying to sound like a genre that I’m not necessarily a part of. I’m definitely not a traditional country style artist even though a lot of my influences do come from the more traditional side and a lot of Australiana. For me, it’s about trying to be true to myself and to be Jess Holland. With this album in particular, I feel as though I have achieved that. I’m pretty comfortable with where I am sitting right now.”

 

Jess has been writing and road testing some new material, saying it will probably be early 2016 before she records her third album as 2015 is going to be a busy touring year. “I’m pretty excited not just for Tamworth but for next year. I’m playing in a lot of new venues I haven’t played at before, touring to a lot of new places I’ve never been before. For people to accept me and allow me to come to their venue and be part of their town is really exciting.”

I was very impressed by Jess’s enthusiasm for Australia. “I have so much I want to write about and places I want to visit and perform at so, if anything, I will become a lot more busy in the next few years which is good.” She explained her focus is on being an Australian Country Artist and that she wants to tour to places she hasn’t been before to push her music and see the sites, saying that she may go over to America in a few years but she’s not in a hurry. “Little do a lot of people know that in Australia we have so many talented musos and producers, people that are willing to do the hard yards for you to be able to record your album in Australia. For me, I’m a huge advocate for Australian music in general. For me, I’m Australian; there is no point in me trying to be something I’m not. I’ve written all my songs in Australia so why not maintain that and record it in Australia.”

 

by Suzanne Bunker

 

Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2014. All rights reserved

 

For more information on Jess and all her tour dates, see www.jessholland.com.au

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