Following the release of her brand new album Cosmic Wink, we caught up with folk artist Jess Williamson to speak about her move to LA, life-changing experiences and more.
Your new album Cosmic Wink has come out seven years after your first ever solo performance – how has you career changed since then?
Things have evolved a lot in 7 years! The most obvious change is that I play guitar now, but when I first started out, I was only playing the banjo. My first EP that I self-released back then is just me playing banjo and singing and I had a few friends overlay a little bit of additional instrumentation. When you listen to that EP you can really tell that I just went in, played the songs, and then we added stuff on top. It’s endearing to me now, I smile when I think of it. Now the sound is more of a full band sound and the folk elements that are the foundation of what I do are a bit less front and center.
You have recently moved to LA, how has this impacted on your music?
When I moved to LA I started hanging out with people who were making pop music and I realized that I’d been putting myself in a box creatively. I was kind of a hater without realising it. The fact that someone can write lyrics so universal that millions of people all over the world connect with them is real magic. And there are ways to write about your individual experience that also lets other people in so they can relate. Moving to LA helped me realise I wanted to try writing music in a new way.
Heartache and sadness have been a connotation of your music; do you believe there’s been a shift in this with Cosmic Wink?
Yes there’s been a big shift there. Most of the songs on Cosmic Wink are celebratory love songs. But I’m still me so there are a few sad ones too.
You have been through some life changing experiences during the release of your third album – what experience is most reflected in your music?
Falling in Love!
There’s many iconic musical influences which can be heard throughout your new album. However, if you could pick one, which musician would you say has most influenced you?
Can we expect you to be playing at any festivals this year? What would be your dream festivals to play?
Yes! I have a few coming up in Europe this fall. As far dream festivals… I would love to play FORM at Arcosanti in Arizona and also Trans Pecos in Marfa, TX. I’m into smaller, super curated, destination festivals like these.
If you could support any artist, who would it be and why?
Kacey Musgraves. I love her new album! She is from Texas, like me, and it’s been a real treat watching her career unfold. It would be so fun to go on tour with her and get to watch her play every night. I also secretly think we would be really good friends.
What is your favourite song on the new album and why?
This is so hard! I can’t say for sure, I love them all like my little precious children. I can say that ‘White Bird’ is my favourite song to play live. People always get into that one and sing along which is fun for me.
What differs about Cosmic Wink from your last previous two albums?
All three of the albums are so different from each other. I have been growing and changing in front of people since I got started. I listen back to some of my earliest recordings and cringe, but that’s okay. It’s all part of it. If you wait to put something out there until you make the perfect album, you will never put anything out there. Cosmic Wink feels like the most realised album of all three.
I did a lot of demo-ing out of all the songs, spent a month doing pre-production, and then had two weeks of rehearsals before we ever went into the studio. The first two albums were more like, let’s go in the studio and see what happens. Which is a great way to work also, but I wanted to try something different with this one. I had very clear goals going into it – I had a plan.
Will you be touring the UK anytime soon and what’s the best show you’ve played?
Yes I will be touring the UK in October! The best show I’ve ever played is I think the hometown show in Austin, TX that we played back in April. It was the first time I played a show with my new band and we played almost all the songs on Cosmic Wink, before the album was out. My family was there and lots of friends and it felt really special to debut the new record that way.
What more can be expected for you in 2018?
I’m on tour now and will be off and on for the rest of the year. And in between I’m working on writing the next album.
Interview by Emily Bedward
Featured Image by Chantal Anderson