Today on Okie Dreams, we are thrilled to welcome Jessica Clemmons from the UK Country group, Jess and the Bandits. In our exclusive interview with Jessica, we discussed the group’s latest album and their upcoming tour.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA CLEMMONS
UK COUNTRY ARTIST
Hi, Jessica. Welcome to Okie Dreams! We are so excited to have you here to talk with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your band? How did you guys come about?
JC: I was a solo artist for quite some time. Over the years I started to work more with bands when it came to my live gigs. It’s so much better than singing to a track by the way! So as the years went by and I started to work more with the same group of people it didn’t feel like I was a solo artist anymore. It felt more like a band. So honestly, it was more of a natural progression to becoming a band but I couldn’t be happier with that move.
I had the chance to review your latest album ‘SMOKE & MIRRORS’ before it released back in September and I instantly fell in love with your sound. Are you excited to finally have the album out into the world?
JC: YES! It was over a year of hard work to put this album together but thank goodness it’s done and is now out there. It’s probably the most proud I’ve ever been.
What was it like writing and recording the tracks for ‘SMOKE & MIRRORS’? Any particular memories standout for you?
JC: Blood, sweat and tears is what always comes to mind when I think of putting together this album. It was very emotional to put together.
From the writing process to the song selection process. We must have had 50+ songs to choose from in the end to finish the album. There are several memories but the process of writing ‘Sister’ was one of my favorites. It was one of those perfect writing days. Where myself and my co-writer, Femke, had the same idea before we even talked about our idea. I remember driving back to my hotel thinking I just wrote a song that could change my career. I still believe that. I don’t think ‘Sister’ has got the attention it deserves, but it will.
How long did you guys work on the album before it released?
JC: About a year and a half.
You had to postpone your planned tour in September because of Hurricane Harvey and then you got married in December (Congratulations on that, BTW!). Now you’re about to go out on tour in February. Are you excited about finally getting to play the new music for the fans?
JC: Thank you! Yes I am so excited! I’ve been going through months and months of anticipation because of having to postpone. I hate that we had to do that. No one ever wants to release an album and not give it the push they should but sometimes life has other plans and we just have to roll with it. Now I can come back and give these songs and audiences the performance I’ve been dying to give for months now.
What can people expect from the upcoming shows? Any particular song you’re looking forward to playing the most?
JC: They can definitely expect to get a party as usual. We’ll be playing the favorites from the first album, plenty from the new and maybe a new cover or two! Also some new faces as well. I love how many talented musicians there are in the UK and it’s even more exciting to showcase that in Jess and the Bandits.
You’ve performed a lot in recent years. Do you ever get nervous before going out onstage or like now, starting out on a new tour?
JC: Always! I think that’s important. Those nerves and butterflies help keep you on your toes!
Do you write songs while out on the road or do you put more of a focus on the upcoming shows and wait to write when you’re at home or in the studio?
JC: If the inspiration hits me, of course. Usually I just focus 100% of my energy on the shows and being out on the road. I have so many songwriters that I love to work with that I’ll usually journal while on the road and then take it into the writing room when I’m home on either side of the pond.
What can’t you live without when touring? What about when not touring?
JC: My phone and my phone. It’s the only way to be connected to my family back home. I live on FaceTime. My husband and I will have to become very familiar with being newlyweds over FaceTime!
If you could tell your younger performing self one thing, what would it be and why?
JC: Get ready for a lot of work and if you’re chasing fame or wealth, quit now. To be in the music industry, it needs to be for the love of the art of it, not for what you could potentially get out of it.
Is there any particular place you’re looking forward to visiting the most on this tour?
JC: It’s impossible to pick on place. I can’t wait to get to all of them. Most places I’ve performed at before so it’s always nice to get back to those familiar cities.
How much downtime do you get when you’re in town for a show? Do you have the chance to sight see any of the cities?
JC: Usually between 2-5 hours, so not a ton of time. We always try to do a little something but sleep usually wins out!
What has been the coolest thing that has happened to you on a tour? What about the oddest?
JC: The coolest thing was actually during a show. It’s honestly amazing to see everyone holding up their phones during a ballad. Those are the moments a performer lives for!
The oddest would have to be one of my dressing rooms. This was prior to becoming a band so at least it was just myself and my manager but they literally put me in a broom closet. That was my dressing room.
After the last show in February, what comes next? Any other performances or music on the horizon?
JC: Yes, it’s going to be a busy year for JATB. We are going to be hitting the road during the festival season and hopefully making our way across Europe as well!
MORE ABOUT JESSICA CLEMMONS
Jessica Clemmons is a singer-songwriter, model and personality from Houston, Texas.
Having established herself a solo artist, she broke into the mainstream consciousness when Radio 2 championed her single Single Tonight in January 2014. The legendary Sir Terry Wogan was blown away by her vocal and invited her to join him in the studio, where her cover of Sir Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman prompted him to state ‘that was the most fabulous song that I’ve ever heard’.
Shortly after the release of her EP ‘What If’ in 2014, Jessica announced she had teamed up with Ricci Riccardi, Louis Riccardi, Steven Reid Williams and Dave Troke to form Jess & The Bandits. They headed out on a sold out tour in late 2014 and released their debut album Here We Go Again in early 2015. The album debuted at #6 in the UK Official Country Charts and was championed by BBC Radio 2, finding fans in Bob Harris, Gaby Roslin and Sir Terry Wogan, who have all invited her in to the studio for sessions.
The summer of 2015 saw Jessica announced as the ambassador of British plus size fashion chain Evans. Following in the footsteps on Chaka Khan and Beth Ditto, Jessica fronted the #StyleHasNoSize campaign, recording a music video for her single ‘Nitty Gritty’ with the brand and winners of a competition to feature in the clip.
Having sold out their first show of 2015, and won over audiences at Cornbury, Country2Country and the Isle of Wight Festival and embarked on a sold out tour, Jessica made a huge impact when she spoke out about body positivity on national television shows Lorraine, Weekend with Aled Jones and The Wright Stuff and showing the diversity of her look off to Skorch magazine. Her performance on the catwalk and as the vocalist at British Plus Size Fashion Week won her applause and a notable mention in Now.
With her single You Can’t Stop Me once again proving a hit with BBC Radio 2, Jess teamed up with Scarlett & Jo Scarlett and Jo to model their 2015 range, before once again fronting Evans’ 2016 campaign, #IAmMe, alongside Hayley Hasselhoff and Nadia Aboulhosn.
Her appearance on Songs of Praise in 2016 showed her spiritual side, while a deluxe release of the band’s debut album Here We Go Again once again entered the UK Official Country Charts Top 20 and saw support from Spotify, who have repeatedly playlisted her music.
WANT TO SEE JESS AND THE BANDITS LIVE?
Check out their website for the latest tour dates
BUY OR STREAM “SMOKE & MIRRORS”
Band Members: Jessica Clemmons (vocalist), Louis Riccardi (guitar), Dave Troke (bass), Steven Reid Williams (keys), Ricci Riccardi (drums)
Official Singles: Sisters, I’m Not Going Home, Kings of Summer
Runtime: 45 Minutes
Release Date: September 15th, 2017
Buy/Stream: iTunes | Amazon | Spotify
Connect with Jess and the Bandits
WATCH ‘I’M NOT GOING HOME’