"When we naturally transitioned to becoming a band, that added a new level of excitement" In conversation Jess Clemmons
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Formerly plain old Jessica Clemmons, but now the main lady of Jess and the Bandits we chat to Jess Clemmons about the bandits, her wedding, gospel music, and touring.
Hey Jess, what have you been up to today?
Not a whole lot. Just working and trying to plan my wedding in December.
Can you introduce yourself to any readers that aren’t familiar with you, and the band?
Sure, my name is Jess and I am from Houston, Texas but have lived in the UK (back and forth) for almost 10 years. I lead the band, Jess and the Bandits. We do country music with influences of rock and now most recently, gospel.
Your second album, Smoke and Mirrors, is due out in September, how would you describe it in two lines?
This album is full of stories of love, betrayal, heartache and everything in between. It’s storytelling, catchy melodies and gospel choir give a new sound to UK Country.
What's the biggest difference between the new record and your debut?
The Gospel influence. On the last album it was definitely a rock, party album. That quickly became what JATB were known for. This album, we wanted to go deeper. We wanted the lyrics to be cleverer, the melodies to be stronger and the sounds to be something different. Experimenting with a gospel feel was nothing new to me as that’s very much in my wheelhouse but it is new to the UK Country genre. We wanted to give the listener and current fans something different this time.
What was your process for writing and selecting songs for the set?
It’s basically all about writing constantly, with different people, to try and get the sound you’re looking for. In the beginning it’s hard to know what that is so quite often, those songs never make the cut because the songs and sound evolve. I am not opposed to getting songs from other writers as well. We were pitched songs by some of the most sought after writers in Nashville and after hearing some of them, we knew we had to have them on the album. That alone helped to develop the sound and direction.
If you were forced to choose a favourite song from the album, what would it be?
That’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. How can one possibly do that?! There are quite a few that are close to my heart like ‘The Bullet’. I loved writing that one and performing it. A lot of the songs on this album forced me to be vulnerable which is a tough place to be in.
So 2017 for you so far, tell us about it?
It started out pretty quiet, to be honest. We were still finishing up the album into early May so now it’s been pretty full on to the lead up to the September release. We’ve done a few festivals throughout the summer as well. I have a feeling next year is going to be a very busy year!
What’s coming up for the rest of your year?
We have our headlining tour in September starting on the 12th. Our album is out on the 15th and then I head back home shortly after to get married! So not much happening really.
You and the band are hard tourers, how important is it to get out on the road?
Extremely. If you don’t bring the music to the fans you can’t expect to make new ones or to keep the current ones. At the end of the day, making music is about getting out and performing it. If you don’t do that, you’ve missed the point.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
There have been quite a few. I can’t remember the venue but there was one that had the smallest stage I have ever seen. One of the bandits even bad to sit on a speaker in order to make room for all of us on stage.
You've probably had more success with the Bandits than you had on your own, what do you think are the reasons for that?
The reasons are simple. First, I am with completely different management than I was solo. Who I was with before did not have my best interest in mind at all and now I’m with a manager who goes above and beyond the call of duty. Second, the sound is defined. As a solo artist I was foundering. What I was doing wasn’t making sense to me but I was told that’s what I needed to do. The minute I made the decision to get back to my roots and start doing music under the country umbrella, even as a solo artist in the beginning, it all changed. I got a tour with Boyzone, performed the new songs for thousands of people a night and met the band that would soon be known as ‘The Bandits’. Lastly, I believe that a band is much more exciting when learning about a new artist. The name Jessica Clemmons tells you nothing but Jess and the Bandits creates a sudden interest. I personally love going to see bands and for me, when we naturally transitioned to becoming a band, that added a new level of excitement to the entire project giving it a whole new life.
You’re a woman in a predominantly male industry, has that had any impact on your career so far?
I wouldn’t say it has. I think sometimes it means I have to fight a little harder but I don’t mind a good fight.
Are there any instances when you’ve thought “A guy wouldn’t get treated like that!”?
ALL THE TIME! It’s very frustrating but I just take it and push back. You have to in order to earn the respect that you deserve.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Human by Rag-n-Bone Man… I never get tired of that one!
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I feel like you’ve pretty much covered it, honestly!
What are you doing next today?
Heading to the gym, working on things for the new album and of course… wedding planning.
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
A little milk and a little sugar and I take my alcohol in a bloody mary. That’s my latest obsession right now!
Thanks so much for your time Jess, enjoy the album release and September tour.
For information on the tour visit the band website. You can also Twitter or Facebook them. And stream their debut album Here We Go from all good streaming services. Their second album, Smoke and Mirrors is out on 12th September.