‘Having the gastric band removed with the best decision I ever made!’ Jess and the Bandits chat to Unfashionable Male

IMG_2157 (1)Hi Jess, it has been a year of change for you, with your solo project moving from pop to country and then meeting the Bandits. Do you feel settled in your new direction?

I absolutely do. Something which happens a lot with artists is that we are constantly trying to find ourselves and find what sells at the same time, while staying true to who we are. I loved doing pop but something was always missing. Since making the move back to country, which I was brought up listening to, I finally found my home. It seems the missing piece of the puzzle is finally found!

What prompted the decision to team up with Ricci, Louis, Steve and Dave?

I met these guys while touring with The Overtones and we had an instant connection and chemistry. From that moment on we started working together even after the tour was over. It made sense that the next step was to make things official and actually become a band.

How has the band line-up altered your sound?

I would say it’s made things more authentic. Rather than lots of programming and synth instruments we have the real thing. It’s a nice break from a lot of the music these days. Taking it back to what real music is supposed to sound like.

We love your debut album, Here We Go Again, can you tell us a little about the writing process.

Thank you! I spent a lot of time over the last year in Nashville writing with some of the best, which I’m so fortunate to have done. As a singer it’s so important for me to tell stories that I can relate to so in every session I would come with an idea, story or song lyrics and then we would go from there. Before we knew it we had an amazing song. I love the process of writing.

How did you decide on the title Here We Go Again?

The title track isn’t the typical song you expect, since it’s a ballad but I loved the play on words. For the people who knew me as a solo artists when I did pop or even when I released the ‘What If’ EP and for those who have followed the Bandits on their endeavors know, we aren’t newbies to this. I thought it was a fun title for our debut album as a band.

The album closes with your cover of Wichita Lineman. What do you think is the essence of a good cover?

I think the ability to make it your own but staying true to the integrity of the original is a must. The last thing you want is people making comparisons but if you can make your version stand out on its own it can be seen as your own song and a tribute rather than karaoke version.

Are there any songs that are untouchable?

I wouldn’t say so. As a writer I can be a bit possessive of my songs but at the same time if someone like Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson want to cover one of my songs, that would be incredible!

You have been garnering comparisons to everyone from Shania to Kelly to Wynonna, how do you feel about these comparatives?

It’s a huge honour! Those are three amazing women who not only have unbelievable voices but can put on an awesome show! To even be put remotely near them is a major compliment.

Which of the aforementioned would you most like to work with?

Oh that’s tough… Can’t I work with all of them?! I think Wynonna or Shania in the end. They are both such trailblazers in country music that to work with them would be an experience of a lifetime.

There has been a lot of controversy recently surrounding ‘Girl Crush’ by Little Big Town. What are your thoughts on the situation?

I am a strong believer in personal beliefs, regardless of if I agree or not. That being said, people thinking that ‘Girl Crush’ is a song about a girl crushing on another girl shows their ignorance. It proved that they didn’t even bother listening to the song and just made an opinion based on an assumption. If you want to disagree with something, that is absolutely fine, but make it an informed decision. The first time I heard the song I was immediately drawn in by the melody and then the lyrics blew my mind. As a writer I was instantly jealous that I didn’t write it first! What a clever and new take on the jealousy of another woman. A story as old as time, especially in country music, but with a fresh take on it. It’s brilliant.

Your own lyrics have been deemed to be raunchy – do you think that there are limits as to what songs should contain in terms of subject matter?

No way! Writers should be able to say anything they like and if it is set to a catchy melody, even better. I think we have to be prepared for harsh criticism but if you stand behind your work, it won’t matter what people say in the end.

How do you think the country music industry has grown in recent years?

I love seeing music evolve. I also like seeing the industry evolving. Something I’d love to see more of in all industries but especially country music is more artists and bands that break boundaries. The ones that aren’t your typical country acts. I think Jess and the Bandits fall into that category and am proud of that fact.

We saw your set at C2C and it was pure electric. Can we expect a UK tour anytime soon?

YES! We are putting together a few things for this year and are beyond excited to hit the road with this new album.

You spoke out last year about your troubles with PCOS and troubles with a gastric band. Do you feel that there is still a pressure in the industry for women to be a certain size?

Absolutely. For the fans, they don’t care but people in the industry are still shallow and small minded. It is getting better though. For that one person who said to me, “we could do so much more if she were smaller” there are five others who say it doesn’t matter anymore. I am a very healthy person and work out 5 days a week. Do I want to be thin, sure why not, but if my body is fighting against that… I can only do so much. So the key is being healthy at any size. Also having the gastric band removed with the best decision I ever made!

We couldn’t help but notice that your style is a real influence on your fans. Did you ever expect to become a style icon?

Haha me, a style icon? That is something I never would have expected to hear. I have always loved fashion and dressing for my body shape. I hope that I can show other women, who aren’t a size zero that you can still dress fashionable that flatter your shape.

Lastly, what advice would you give to a teenager wanting to go into performance?

Spend a lot of time performing. Become confident in what you do and don’t let others get you down. If this is what you want to do, don’t give up. Find a great team of people who believe in you and can work on your behalf. That can make all the difference in the world.

Here We Go Again is available from Amazon or iTunes.

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