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INTERVIEW: Jess Jones

Singer- songwriter Jess Jones lays her heart bare with the release of her catchy new single ‘Roll The Dice’. The artist tips her hat to traditional folk sounds with feather light acoustic progressions, adding texture rich essence with the addition of keys and bass. Jones’s message is one of hope and perseverance, as her lyrics touch on her journey as a musician in the face of self doubt and the doubt of others.  Listen to her new single on Spotify out now!

Your music has a heavy emphasis on lyrics and songwriting, what does your process look like?

My process is to sit down with my acoustic guitar and use it as a means to journal my thoughts. I’ll usually noodle around and once I find a chord progression or a guitar lick that I like, I’ll start thinking of melodies. Lyrics usually come last and sometimes need a rewrite. I usually draw from my own experiences and sometimes the song seems to write itself.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, Paul Simon, The Beatles, and John Mayer

Has music always come naturally to you, and did you always want to do it professionally?

Music did come naturally to me. My grandpa played the piano and accordion and my parents tried to force me to learn piano at age 5 (but I was defiant and didn’t practice) I had always loved to sing and grew to love the guitar. I hadn’t planned on doing music professionally. I used to want to be a vet until I nearly passed out in high school on career day watching a cat get neutered. I only applied to a few colleges and only auditioned for one music school. I told myself if I get into the music school then I’ll do music. I got into the Crane School of Music for voice (and later guitar) and haven’t stopped since.

What do you want fans to take away from your music?

I want fans to be inspired to chase after their dreams. There’s a lot to learn in the world and it’s beneficial to leave home and explore new places, even if it means facing uncertainty. Also, I want them to take away that they’re not alone. Everyone reaches low points and struggles financially but if the reason is your passion then it’s worth it.

How’s the music scene in your locale growing up, and what kind of impact has your relocation to LA made to your music, if any?

I didn’t get to know much of the local music scene growing up. I lived 30 miles outside of the city and in my town we only had community bands and choirs. I started to know it a bit better during college, there was an alternative radio station (WEQX) that would host concerts and events and one of my friends was in a fairly successful local band.

However, part of my decision to move to Los Angeles was to become part of a bigger music scene. Los Angeles was a huge juxtaposition from my hometown. In the 3 years I’ve been here my songwriting has improved tremendously just to attempt to reach the level of some of my friends. Also, in my hometown there were only a few venues and bands I loved would seldom play at them. I only saw maybe one concert a year. In Los Angeles, it seems bands I know are playing every week and I’d go broke if I bought a concert ticket to everyone. Plus, I’ve gotten to see my idols play in legendary venues (like Paul Simon at the Hollywood Bowl).

What’s the story behind your recently released single “Roll the Dice”?

Roll the Dice was written the day I quit my job at an app company in November of 2017. It was a stressful job and took up more than 40 hours of my week. I was becoming depressed and not having time for music so I decided to quit. It was only immediately after quitting that I realized I did not think it through and could not afford to pay rent without the paychecks. I had a sort of “oh sh*t” moment and wrote this song. I realized that I have a history of doing things on whim. I chose my college on a whim, moved to Los Angeles on a whim, and now quit my job. But I love how my life has turned out and I think taking those chances and trusting my gut have proven beneficial. That’s kind of what I mean by “let the world decide who I am today.” I’m not religious but I like to think the universe has a plan for me and sometimes I just sit back and let it do its thing.

Also, less than a week after writing “Roll the Dice” I actually asked for my job back and worked for another 4 months. It wasn’t until later that I quit for good when I had a new job lined up and knew I could pay rent.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

I think Tash Sultana with the Pierce Brothers was one of the best concerts I went to. It was amazing to see a female shredding on the electric guitar and owning the stage all by herself. Also, the opener (the Pierce Brothers) had so much energy and brought a smile to everyone’s face. I also was inspired because they started as buskers (Street musicians) and now they’re making major waves in the music industry.

I like sharing my music with people. I really think it is a gift and some people forget that music doesn’t just come from a speaker. I’ve been playing a lot of farmer’s market gigs and my absolute favorite is when kids come up and dance. Music is it’s own language and I think it truly connects everyone.

What has been your biggest challenge as an artist?

I must say that I have crippling self doubt. My line “ I don’t wanna stay but I don’t wanna go” references my constant battle with staying in Los Angeles. As I see more and more of my friends rise in the industry I start to doubt if I’ll ever be good enough. At least once a week I contemplate moving home. I could just play at restaurants in my hometown, pay cheaper rent, and maybe not have the looming debt of my student loans. But that would be taking the easy way. I try to remind myself that I won’t be struggling forever and good things take time.

How have you evolved as a musician over the last year?

Over the last year I’ve performed a lot more. I used to barely know enough songs to fill an hour and now I’ve played 6 hour gigs. I’ve learned so much more music, guitar technique, and writing skills. I’ve taken workshops and read blogs to keep my songwriting chops up. I’ve also been listening to more music and finding inspiration wherever I can. I’m also getting a better sense of who I am as an artist and what I want my sound to be.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner or a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Dave Rawlings. I aspire to play guitar with at least 10% of his skill. I would love to play a gig with him or attempt to jam with my mando.

What’s next for you?

A full length album. I sold out of the copies of the EP I did a few years ago and people are asking me for CDs. I want to give them a more complete piece of work and I want it to be something I’m truly proud of. A Kickstarter will likely be in the works and I want it to be around 10 songs. I’ve already set a deadline for myself of no later than 2020 (hopefully next year).

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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