Jess Holland takes her Miss Demeanour to Tamworth

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Singer-songwriter Jess Holland has a brand new album, Miss Demeanour, and she is launching it during the upcoming Tamworth Country Music Festival. Jess is a fantastic live performer, and the singles she’s released so far from the album – including the latest, ‘Australian Dreamer’ – have built anticipation for a great new release. I had a chat to Jess about her launch show and other Tamworth shows, and about the album.

The album is done – how are you feeling?
Excited. I cannot wait for it now. I think the last time I was talking to you I was releasing my last single and I think I was hinting there was a new album coming out. I’m just so excited because it’s been such a long process and I’m ready for it to be out now.
I remember talking to you quite a while ago when ‘Linburn Lane’ wasn’t even on an album at that time – you were talking about the song and it sounded amazing. So how long has it taken to write the songs for the album, and how long has the recording taken?
I stepped into the studio itself straight after Tamworth [2017]. I started the first week of February and I’ve been recording on and off until about maybe August. All my stuff got done really quickly but because there’s been so many different people on the album as instrumentalists and musicians, it’s been a process of trying to get them when they’re free. Everyone’s just so busy. But it’s so worth it. And prior to that I guess I was probably writing songs for well over a year. So you can see why I’m ready [laughs]. I’ve had these songs under my wraps for so long and I guess I’ve been test running them at gigs but now it’s all but done. I’m ready for it to be released.
Did you have more songs than you needed?
Oh, way too many. I think initially I had maybe 31 songs or something silly. I had to take a step back and say, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do here?’ [laughs] I found myself combining some as well, because I thought, Well, they’re very similar so maybe I can take those lyrics out into this … And it just seemed to mesh really well. By doing that sort of thing, and complete culls as well, I got down to 15 or 16. I sent them away to my producer in Newcastle at Funky Lizard Studios, Rob Long, and said, ‘Mate, it’s up to you now. You need to tell me what’s going to work and what’s not because I’m too close to it now.’ So we got down to the 13 tracks that are on the album.

I always think it’s better to have more than less, because you don’t ever want to be in a situation where you’re trying to play catch-up with yourself and then you might end up with songs that are less than ideal.
Definitely. And I don’t think I’ve ever had the problem of never having enough. When I released my first album I think I had to write one song for it, and I thought, That’s cool. That’s heaps. Then for my second album I had way too many and I culled a few. This time it was way, way too many. It was very hard this time. It’s kind of like saying, ‘Which kid is your favourite?’ [laughs] So I did as much as I could and left the rest to the professional.
The next single is ‘Australian Dreamer’ – can you talk about what inspired it? What’s it about?
Really the inspiration was my house. I live 20 Ks out of town. It’s this really old place. I’ve only in the last year put on TV. It’s a hundred-year-old house and I really just got to thinking one day – I’d been working all day and I thought, I wonder how many people have been in this house, have lived in this house. The families, what they used to do. And I got to talking to my grandmother, who’s 93, and she can remember because she’s from this area. She was telling me all these stories. And I thought that’s a lot like our family – they’re a very hard-working blue-collar family overall. And I think that’s probably what it is – the song captures that hard-working essence of what all Australians are. We work hard – it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re very hard workers, and we’re doing it for a better future for us but also for our kids.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
[Laughs] Oh, don’t ask me that. It’s hard. But I think ‘Linbur Lane’ is always going to be the one that stays with me, because it’s so personal and I’ve had it for so long. I didn’t even think I was going to put it on the album initially, or release it. And because I’ve done that, I’m just really proud of myself for getting it out because it’s been so emotional. And because it’s about my grandma I think it’s probably going to be one of the songs that is my favourite, for sure.
Why did you hesitate to put it on the album?
Because it’s so personal. I had it written for months and months before I even plucked up enough courage to sing it in public, let alone put it out so the whole world could hear it. It’s just been a process because our family is so close, and I was afraid, I suppose, what my mum and my aunties and uncles, her kids, would think about me writing a song about my grandmother. If it wasn’t good enough or accurate enough. I think all those insecurities came out because I just wanted to make everyone proud, I think. So it was hard. The very first time I sang it, my mum and my auntie were in the audience and they were bawling, and I thought, Okay, I must be doing something right. I think from there it was a lot easier – each time it got a lot easier to sing – and now I can sing it as many times as I want and the emotion’s still there but the physical welling-up isn’t there. Everyone has really taken it and rolled with it, and they appreciate it, so I think that’s been the biggest thing for me. I just can’t believe it’s got so much momentum.
I think it’s probably because it’s so personal, and it’s offering up that vulnerability in yourself and that’s something that people do connect with. So many of us struggle to be vulnerable in their own lives, but when someone else offers it, and offers it willing and without any conditions, it gives the listener an opportunity to feel it in themselves and start to explore it. And that’s one of the things country music is so great at – that connection. So you, having now done this – and I acknowledge how much courage is required in doing something so personal – do you feel emboldened to try exploring some other subjects that might have felt too personal before?
Yes, definitely. And I think as well this album is a lot of that. Because ‘Linburn Lane’ was written way before any of these other tracks and I went through all that process of performing it live for the first time and all that sort of stuff way before any of these other tracks were written for the new album, I think this new album is … It’s still my very sassy self but it’s dug deeper than that. One of the tracks on there is about a wild bloke I was entangled with for so long, and it wasn’t until I could sit back and look at it that I thought, I can sing about this stuff. I went through a break-up, and I’m not necessarily writing about a break-up so much but now I’m on my own and I can think for myself, and I think that’s where the song ‘Solitary Mind’ comes from. I get told what you’re leaving behind and how bad it’s going to be, but now I’m free and I can think for myself. And all of that sort of emotion – I’m not the sort of person who’s going to write about the break-up and how much I hate or love. That’s not who I am as a person. But the residual feelings and all the stuff that comes after that, that’s what I can now write about because ‘Linburn Lane’ let me do that.
You’ve given yourself permission to do it.
I think so. And that album is such a healing process for a lot of different aspects of my life. And getting back to my roots – getting back to the stuff that I love to do, liking being out of town and doing farm work, head down bum up sort of stuff, and getting around the family – it’s all been such a process, and I think the last part of it is getting the album released.
You’re going to launch the album in Tamworth on the 20th of January – in fact, you have quite a line-up of gigs for the festival. What is planned for the launch show in particular?
So I just really wanted to have a lot of fun. That’s what I love to do: music and perform for people and just make them feel the energy that I’m feeling about my songs. We’ve got a full band that I love to perform with, and I’ve got a few guest artists. There’s a guy by the name of Brock Henry, who’s from Newcastle, and he’s just amazing. He’s just hit his straps and going so well, so I said, ‘Mate, come and do a few songs at my launch!’ Kahlia Martin, who’s an awesome guitarist and singer from Cobar, she’s going to be playing guitar and doing a few songs as well. I’ve also got Carl the Bartender, who is one of my great mates. He used to be in Good Corn Liquor, so he’s gone out and he’s now Carl the Bartender. He’s just real chillaxed and he has a great sound. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Brock Henry is going to be on your bill for some other shows and you’ve also got Allison Forbes, who I know is a long-time colleague of yours.
She’s actually doing these things called the Medicine Shows, upstairs at the Tudor, so it’s going to be kind of cool. Years ago Allison and I and another girl, Gretta Ziller, we had a trio and did a few gigs, and we had so much fun. So we’re kind of doing a little bit of that this time. We’re doing our own music but also a few songs together, so it’s going to be just a bit of reminiscing and a lot of fun.
What else are you looking forward to about the festival in general?
For me the festival is always so much fun. It’s always so bloody hot but it’s so much fun. I haven’t seen a lot of these people for twelve months. A lot of my friends, I haven’t seen them or caught up with them properly. We might have talked on the phone or on Facebook or messages, but you don’t get to really catch up with them and play music. And I think that’s the best thing to be able to do – not just release my album and show people what I’m made of, but get out there and support other people and watch other people, and catch up and have a bit of fun. So I’m excited for that.
Over the years of going to the festival, do you think that connection with other people has been the best thing that you … I don’t want to say ‘got out of it’, because that sounds a bit mercenary. But your impression of Tamworth – overall do you think of it as a music festival or do you think of it mainly as that chance to connect with people?
Both. It’s a great music festival but it’s probably one of the more relaxed festivals that you’ll ever be a part of. And that’s my kind of thing. I love to have a lot of fun playing music – for me that’s the ultimate. And being able to do that around not just fans that have followed you for the past few years but also new people who have never seen you before, and then also around your mates who play music, mates you get to catch up with. I always think of Tamworth as being just a really relaxed time before the rest of the year hits.
Speaking of that year, I would imagine you’re planning to tour your album once you’re free and clear from Tamworth.
I have a massive year lined up. It’s going to be big. I haven’t done such a big tour probably since my last album So I’m excited to get out to some new places and head down south again and head up north again, and go out west, and visit all the places that I haven’t been for a while but also that I’ve never been to.
I remember when you did your Queensland tour – you were going to pubs in places you hadn’t been before. Do you think of yourself as adventurous or is it the music that makes you adventurous?

 

I don’t know. I’ve always liked to get out and see new places. I guess to a certain extent I’m adventurous. But I also get very nervous going to new places, because I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if people are going to turn up. I don’t know if people are going to like it. So it’s definitely that adrenaline rush, but I also love getting out seeing new places and seeing Australia, and if I can combine that with music, well, isn’t that awesome? [laughs] Isn’t that the way you should be touring as an artist? It’s not just getting out there as a tour, but get out there and meet the people. So I guess, to a certain extent, I’m adventurous, but there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with it [laughs].
Friday 19th January 2018 | 1pm
Tudor Hotel [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Saturday 20th January 2018 | 8.30pm
ALBUM LAUNCH PARTY
Tudor Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Monday 22nd January 2018 | 3pm
DAG Sheep Station, NUNDLE NSW
Richo’s Roundup
Crawney Road, Nundle
(02) 6769 3486 | www.thedag.com.au
Tuesday 23rd January 2018 | 3pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Wednesday 24th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor Hotel [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Thursday 25th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363
Friday 26th January 2018 | 12pm
Tudor [Upstairs], TAMWORTH NSW
Medicine Shows w/ Allison Forbes
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Friday 26th January 2018 | 8.30pm
Tudor [Front Bar], TAMWORTH NSW
Special guest: Brock Henry
327 Peel Street, Tamworth
Saturday 27th January 2018 | 3.30pm
The Albert Hotel, TAMWORTH NSW
w/ Good Corn Liquor Tribute
211 Peel Street, Tamworth
(02) 6766 6363
For more information, please visit www.jessholland.com.au

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