The band Jess and the Bandits have plenty to be excited about, and rightly so. With their new album, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ due out soon, I took the opportunity to chat with Jess about the creative process and what this album means and the journey she’s been on to find a sound that is unique to her as an artist.
You said of the album, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ that you wanted it to take the listener on a journey, can you elaborate on that a little further?
I think that’s the goal for anyone making an album, to take someone somewhere. To tell a different story. For me, this album has a theme of ‘strength’ running throughout it, but in each song that strength can be shown in different forms. So the journey we want to take the listener on is one that keeps them engaged from song to song.
How has your upbringing in the South and some of your experiences affected your musical journey?
Being from the South in America is a bit of a special place when it comes to music. The sounds are so eclectic. From heavy influences in blues and southern gospel to traditional and non-traditional country, there’s even the influence of a little bluegrass and rock music. Having heard all of these styles growing up, it’s no surprise that I’d want to experiment with them and they all work so nicely within the umbrella of the country genre. Of course my own personal experiences have inspired most of the songs on this album. Even songs that came from other writers, it felt like they wrote my story.
How was the process of creating this album?
LONG! Haha! It was quite a process though. Trying to get the best songs, write the best songs and decide the direction of the sound took a lot of care and time. We didn’t want to do another “Here We Go Again”. We are super proud of that album but it was time to go somewhere different. I probably spent 6 months writing just to try and figure out what I wanted to say and how I wanted it to sound. Once we nailed that down, the rest was somewhat easier. There is a lot of pressure for the sophomore album but we tried not to let that phase us… much. We were fortunate to work with some incredible people in both London and Nashville.
Do you find that ‘I’m Not Going Home’ is a bit of an anthem for you personally?
Oh absolutely! I am constantly being told that something I’m doing isn’t good enough or the sound isn’t quite right. This song is defiant in its lyrics but so much fun musically. I feel that this is one of the most relatable songs on the album. It’s for anyone who has ever been told they aren’t good enough, which is most of us.
How would you describe your sound and was it a natural step for you or did you experiment with other music before finding your groove?
Once I finally gave in and stopped fighting against being the girl from Texas who sings country music (original right?!)…. it all started coming together very naturally. The sound was easy and I knew exactly what I wanted. I experimented with pop and pop soul for almost 10 years prior to Jess and the Bandits. Those elements of music are still involved in the current stuff but there is a much more clear direction and sound now than back in the old days.
How did you come together as a band?
Most of us met years ago when I was doing the solo pop stuff and touring with a group called The Overtones. The guys were their backing band. We got on so well and when it was time for me to start making the switch to country and do my first outing as Jessica Clemmons, the country singer from Texas, I knew I wanted them to be my band. From then it naturally developed into a band and Jess and the Bandits were formed.
Are you looking forward to the touring and festivals you guys have coming up?
Yes! We have a few more festivals lined up this year but then we are gearing up for the tour in September. I can not wait to get out on the road and perform these new songs! I’m so proud of this album