A few weeks ago I interviewed Jess Kemp at her gig at The Whisky Jar in Manchester. I wanted to share my first music interview with you all on here so I hope you enjoy reading!
Jess Kemp is a 23-year-old Manchester based acoustic singer songwriter who plays within the indie pop genre. Kemp currently has seven years of musical experience under her belt and has been featured and received praise from the likes of BBC Introducing and BBC Radio 2. Kemp debuted her first single ‘Stars’ as well as her EP titled Camden in 2015. In the summer of 2016, she then began a European tour consisting in four dates around Amsterdam. Kemp has played at a range of events around the country including Kendal Calling, Liverpool Pride, Bluedot Festival. She has also featured in a variety of venues such as Manchester Academy 3, The Lowry and The Etihad Stadium.
When was it that you first realised that you wanted to be a musician?
My mum plays the piano so I was always brought up around music and instruments. I got into a brass band when I was young, which is really sad because I didn’t really enjoy it. It wasn’t for me. It was gutting that I had to leave it because that’s how I grew up but then I started playing the acoustic guitar thinking you play it across your knee which was wrong and then I taught myself how to do it properly and that’s where I am now.
Do you come from a musical background?
Yeah. My mum plays the piano and my niece in now getting into little things.
Who inspires you?
My mum and dad of always inspired me to be the type of person that I am. But musically, I look up to, this is really embarrassing but I’m a massive fan of Taylor Swift. A really, really big fan but I also like Paramore. When I started playing in a band I went of the Hayley Williams sort of vibe and then when you look at my acoustic stuff it’s Katy Tunstall and Amy Macdonald.
What was the first song you ever learnt to play and on which instrument?
All About You by Mcfly. It took me ages!
You have your EP out which is titled Camden. What would you say is your biggest inspiration when writing and recording music?
I always write about something I feel strongly about. So far, I’ve covered the topics of love, loss, hatred, anger, anything I feel strongly about. I’ve never wrote a song that I don’t feel strongly about because I’ve never wanted to do anything with it. As open and honest as it is I’ve always like to write a song that puts my cards on the table and when people listen to it they can relate.
How did it feel to play in Europe?
It was ace!
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
Definitely America! I’d love to do an American tour and do one gig in each state but at the same time if I had to pick one country to play in Australia would also be up there as well.
Do you get nervous before your shows?
Yeah, like tonight at The Whisky Jar. I play a lot of solo gigs at pubs, clubs and other venues to earn a living. But gigs like tonight, this is my passion. This is what I want to do. They’re all original songs, I’m selling my own merch and CD’s. I’m trying to make a name for myself and these are the gigs I get nervous for because I want them to go so well. I plan them all myself. I book the venue and the supports. They’re the ones I get nervous about because I have to deliver what I said I was going to deliver. Whereas at a pub gig, of course I do put the effort in but it’s not up to me whether people are in the mood for life music.
So, you have a big part in the behind the scenes process?
Yeah, especially for these original gigs and headline gigs. I like to do a lot of it myself. I mean it gets stressful at times but it’s so good.
At pub and club gigs do you do originals, covers or a mixture of the two?
Mostly covers just because that’s what they ask for. If I feel like I have got a bit of a connection with the audience and they are listening to what I am saying then I might throw an original in there and tell them what it’s about. Whereas if it’s just a Saturday night and they are trying to get drunk on a night out then I won’t bother trying to explain that I wrote this song and I wrote it about a tour I did to years ago because they are just not bothered. I would rather engage them with Sit Down by James. You win them over that way.
Do you have a process for dealing with nerves?
No, in the past I have learnt not to get drunk before you go on stage that’s the worst thing. To drink and drink to try and calm nerves is the worst thing you can do because things go wrong. I think the minute you get up there and you know that there are people there that are wanting to hear what you’re going to do, I think that calms your nerves because this is what you’ve got to do and you’ve just got to do it.
How does it feel to be 23 and already have such solid knowledge and experience under your belt?
It’s crazy. I think about it in years. When I started out the first thing was gigs as that was the big thing. I was putting on these gigs with these artists and that was amazing and then the next year I was like I want to write and song and play that to people. Then the next year I’d want to write and record a song and then release it and that was the next thing. Then the year after I want to do a tour it’s like every year I try and do something I haven’t done before. Luckily so far off the back of stuff big things have come like the BBC radio play. That was so crazy, I remember waking up and getting a notification saying my song had been played and I was like “what the hell”. I think you just have to keep going like hard work and tiring yourself out but loving it at the same time because I think if you don’t enjoy it there’s no point doing it.
Having spent 7 years on the music scene would you class yourself as being successful or do you think you still have a lot of growing and developing to do?
I think a bit of both. There is so much more to do. I’m not at the stage that so many other people are but at the same time I’m really really humbled by the success or how well stuff has gone so far. I don’t think it’s down to luck. I think the people I have got around me and the work I put in alongside them that’s responsible for the things that have happened. You just can’t stop. I have heard of so many bands that have got to a certain point and then have just stopped and took their foot off of the accelerator and I think that’s where it stops. I’m really humbled for the stuff that’s gone well but I do know that you just have to keep going.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I don’t even know! I don’t even know because last year I never expected to play Kendal Calling and then a competition came up and we went for it and played Kendal Calling. I say we as me and my backing band at the time. The way I’m planning things at the minute I see myself to have done a tour, like a decent sized venue kind of tour, release a lot more music, release some more videos. I hope to try and get a bit more involved with more industry people. I have met up with quite a few people recently that I’d love to work with and to get support slots and work on development as an artist. I think within the next five years there’s going to be a lot more people to be working with to get to, as cliché as it sounds the next level.
Who are the dream artists that you would love to work with?
I love to meet Katy Tunstall. Well, I’ve met her but I’d love to meet her in an artist to artist point of view. I met her at meet and greet thing after a gig which I didn’t know there was a meet and greet at which was weird. But she was so cool! I’d love to just talk music with her and have a jam. It’d be ace to get a support slot for her show. That would be cool!
What is your next step?
There are two singles coming out on the 18th May with a headline gig at the Deaf Institute, which is a co-headline gig with Dave Gorman. That is the next big gig. Off the back of that I have got something pretty exciting planned for summer. Which I’m still tying up the ends on but the minute they’re done I’ll be announcing that. I think maybe another big show towards the end of the year, bigger than what I’ve done before. Yeah, just releasing more music because my sound is always changing.
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