IA entertainment editor John Turnbull talks to up-and-coming country music star Jess Holland about Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and the science of agronomy.
Independent Australia: Thanks for your time today, Jess. Can you tell me about some of your influences?
Jess Holland: I’ve got quite an eclectic taste in music, so my influences range from very traditional Australiana country music all the way to the modern stuff like Adele. I’ve always loved Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
IA: You’ve been playing music for many years now — do you still listen to your early influences?
JH: As you get older, and listen to more music, go to gigs and stuff, you can’t help but be exposed to new influences, but I still listen to Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton regularly and I love to perform their music. I will always respect my roots and where I came from, but I like to keep my music fresh.
IA: I’ve just listened to your new album Whole Lot to Say and there seems to be a recurring theme of female empowerment. Is this something you’re passionate about?
JH: I’m independent, and I think my style is quite feisty and I like to write about things I’m passionate about.
On this album, I think I’ve really found my sound. I didn’t worry about what other people thought I should be singing about, so I think that comes out in the overall feel of the album. It’s sassy.
IA: You produced the album independently and funded it via Indiegogo — can you tell me about that experience?
JH: The Indiegogo campaign was fantastic. I stumbled across the site through other independent musicians and I thought I might as well give it a go.
I was absolutely bowled over at the response. I didn’t realise that so many people were listening to my music, or that I had so many fans out there who really wanted to contribute.
People who support the album get a pre-order and a bunch of cool merchandise and benefits, so it works out well for everyone. It’s a great way for your fans to be part of the creative process — everyone who contributed can feel like they’re part of that album.
IA: Moving from the independent to corporate side of music, do you watch The Voice or Idol?
JH: You know, I don’t really watch a whole lot TV at all, but I don’t really get wrapped up in that kind of commercial stuff. But each to their own, really.
If people want to be a part of that process to get into the music business, good on them, but I want a long career. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, I want a stable career, and I’m not sure those shows give that.
IA: You’re touring pretty constantly until the end of July. What do you do on the road to keep yourself entertained?
JH: I like to exercise and get out and see the communities where I’m performing. I listen to a lot of music, I write a lot of music. I try to utilise every spare minute to write music and push my career.
I don’t have a lot of time for me, but when I get a little down time I love to go hunting or fishing, or just sit out in the sun and read a book.
IA: You’re a professional working musician — how’s that going?
JH: I’ve been a full time muso now for about eighteen months. Prior to that I was trying to juggle music and a full time job as an agronomist, but I made the decision that I wanted to be a country artist.
I started making the steps back in 2010, and now I gig from Thursday to Sunday or whatever and write the rest of the week. I’ll tell you what, it’s a full time job.
IA: What does success look like for you?
JH: I’d like to continue touring Australia and keep making good music. I don’t really have any plans to go to the U.S. at the moment.
It really isn’t about the money. It’s about getting out there and meeting as many people as I can, playing as many shows as I can.
For me, the biggest thrill is playing a live show. The more people who are out there in the crowd singing my lyrics, the better I feel. I just want everyone to enjoy my music and to have a long career.
IA: What’s the last album that you bought?
JH: I just bought Cheryl Crow’s new album; it’s really good!
IA: One more question before you go — what’s your opinion on internet piracy?
JH: For me, it’s a bit of a cop out, you know. Artists work so hard on their music and we do our best to get it out there legitimately for our fans.
I can sort of understand why people do it, but artists have given up a lot of time and money to get their music out there in digital formats to make it easy to download legally.
If you genuinely like an artist, you’ll support them by buying their music and paying to see them live, not ripping their stuff illegally.
IA: Well put. Jess, thanks very much for your time, and good luck with the tour.
JH: Thank you so much.
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