Home Interviews Interview: JESS HOLLAND


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I spoke to Jess the morning of the day she was heading to Tamworth for nine headlining performances. She is keen to perform at Tamworth again and to meet up with friends and to road test some new songs.

“I will be test running a few new songs at Tamworth which is exciting, that I have only just written. I’ve got about ten or twelve that I will definitely be test running and there is a couple that I have performed before and they’ve gone really well. I want to test run a couple of the newer ones as well that I have just written in the last couple of months or so. I’m excited to get them out there.”

Song writing not only takes time but as Jess pointed out, is an investment, and so playing new songs for the first time can be a bit unnerving. “You yourself as a writer have so much invested in songs and you know what it’s about and if you can’t successfully portray that across to the audience, well they don’t necessarily respond in a way you would like them to or would hope them to.” As Jess said, the nerves are “all part and parcel of getting them out there.”

“Before I get to the final recording stage, I’ve written it [the song] at least ten times. When I am singing for the first time I am always thinking what I can change or improve. Even one word can make so much difference, it sounds silly, but one word can much such a difference to the song.”

Reflecting back on 2015, Jess recalls it was a full on year with a lot of firsts including meeting new people.  “Last year was a massive year because I was able to perform at a few different festivals and venues I haven’t performed at before. I got to go to the Mildura Country Festival and a few other festivals that are just starting up.”

There will also be some firsts at the 2016 Tamworth Festival. “I haven’t officially played at The Albert before and The Family Hotel. I’m excited to be getting out there. At Tamworth you can get wrapt up in what you’re doing and stay at the same spots that you perform at. But this year I’ve a got a variety which is nice.”

Amongst the various venues Jess will be performing at is Tamworth Shopping World on Saturday January 16th. “It will be good. I performed there last year. I was lucky enough to be a compere so it was actually my show, I ran it. This year I’m just going to be performing. It will be good to showcase myself and get my new songs out there.” I asked Jess what she expects at a gig at 11 o’clock in a shopping centre. “At that time of the day you can get away with playing whatever you want. Potentially a little bit more of [an audience] that likes to sit down and listen to what you are saying, which is nice.”

Jess enjoys sharing the story of her songs. “For me that’s what it’s all about, getting out there. I like to explain, especially with a few new songs I am doing. I like to explain where they’ve come from, just a little bit. I don’t go overboard and spend five minutes on each but it doesn’t hurt to give a little bit of a background so at least everyone knows the same direction that you’ve come from.”

With a schedule of nine shows in Tamworth for Jess, there is a risk of performing the same show every day. Jess promises that is not the case with her. “Each show is always very different and I approach each show differently because for me if I do the same show over and over it gets tiresome for me but also I get a lot of people that come along for almost every show, which is nice, but if they are seeing the same thing over and over it gets a bit tiresome for them. So I have to shake things up a bit and there will be a lot of different people stage hopping between gigs. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Jess has her guitar, banjo and mandolin and this year also a loop pedal. “I will be using a loop pedal this year which is very different for me as I have only just started using it in the last six months or so. It just provides a different dynamic which is nice. I’ve seen a lot of different artists use a loop pedal and it just works. I remember the turning point where I said I’m going to get one of these. I was working with a very talented guy in central west, in Dubbo, who was using a loop pedal and a stock box. I really took notice of what he was doing and it just struck a chord with me.”

Jess arrived at Tamworth the day before she started performing saying “It settles you in. Anytime at a festival whether it’s four days or ten days or fifteen or whatever, you are in a totally different world for that amount of time. It’s so far from reality, it’s not even funny. I like to get there a day before or even a couple of days before and just check out all the venues and check out a bit of music and just settle into it before you have to perform yourself. I like to be organised.”

2016 is going to be another full on year for Jess. With a few festivals, recording and writing. “After Tamworth I will be doing quite a bit of travelling and playing again. Also trying to find enough time to sit down and write and finish off the album songs and work out exactly which ones I want.”

Australian fans will be pleased to hear she is planning on staying in Australia. “There are a lot of awesome venues I haven’t played at yet here in Australia. I really want to conquer that before I head overseas. I am probably looking to potentially go [overseas] in the next couple of years as a working holiday.”

The conquering of Australia is something that Jess takes seriously and enthusiastically. “Your challenge is to work the crowd over and have them like and appreciate your music.” A new venue can make her nervous but also excited. At Tamworth and throughout 2016 Jess is looking forward to facing that challenge.

by Suzanne Bunker

Copyright © Suzanne Bunker 2016.  All rights reserved

Click here for more information on Jess Holland’s shows at the Tamworth Country Music Festival

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