If there is one thing to know about musician and producer Jess Kent, it’s that she is wholeheartedly and unabashedly herself. On her debut EP, My Name Is Jess Kent, she shares her journey in making a name for herself, finding her sound and the power of confidence. Read about Jess’s musical influences, what she’s up to when she’s not making music and her humble beginnings.
When listening to “The Sweet Spot,” I couldn’t help but get a reggae vibe that was similar to “Wyclef Jean” by Young Thug, was that reggae feel intentional or did it just develop over time while recording the song?
JK – That has always been in the music from day one. I grew up around reggae bands and musicians and they taught me that groove and the rhythm is the most important thing. I’ve always been a writer so my flows have always been lyrical. It’s been a natural evolution.
On your website it mentions that you busked with your brother when you were younger, what kind of music would you play?
JK – We covered Jim Morrison, The Kooks, The Beatles… we changed the set every day. Often we would jam out a song on the spot– if someone had a Hendrix t-shirt or a Bob Marley shirt. Then to keep it interesting I would also mash them up, chuck a rap in. The nature of the “show” we used to put on busking really influenced the way I make music to this day.
Which singer/songwriters mostly influence your music?
JK – It changes all the time, but from the start– Sting, The Beautiful Girls and The Clash.
Your music definitely has a strong influence of Missy Elliott and even M.I.A, are they idols of yours? For both music and maybe even fashion?
JK – For me, music is my conduit for communication. M.I.A is an intelligent and fearless and multi-faceted, deep artist. I try not to compare or reference my sound to hers too much although I get why that happens a lot for new artists. I’m excited by the challenge of growing into my own identity and carving my own creative space. For me, that includes music and fashion.
You mentioned in your bio that you began writing songs at the age of 10, do you still remember some of those songs and what were they about?
JK – I do remember a few of them! Most of them were terrible, but you can see the reggae and the Britpop coming through. I just used to love writing. I would write pages and pages about real life observations, made up stories, there was no limit to my imagination.
What would be your dream collaboration?
JK – Pharrell, Ed Sheeran and Rick Rubin.
What have you learned over the past year about the music industry since you have released your EP and have performed your new music?
JK – I’m learning and striving every day. The show and the process in the studio shifts and develops continuously. I just try to remember to stay humble in the highs and hopeful in the lows because it’s a rollercoaster ride. The only thing I can do is stay as true to myself as I possibly can and hope that some people dig it.
Have you had any wacky experiences with fans yet?
JK – I was walking my dog in my hometown over Christmas and someone tweeted me a picture they had just taken from like 20 metres away being like, ‘hi’. I was like- you could’ve just come up and said hey– but yeah, I wasn’t doing anything too exciting, so that was funny.
In your EP, My Name Is Jess Kent, you weren’t afraid of being vulnerable, but managed to juxtapose that vulnerability with bass, alternative pop and island beats. Which is a very “The Smiths” type of approach to music. Should your fans and listeners around the world expect more music with the message of working hard no matter the circumstances but still managing to find the fun in those tough situations?
JK – Of course! That’s life! The thing about iconic bands like The Smiths who stand the test of time, in my opinion, is that realness. Of course there are times when I feel empowered, others when I feel insecure… I’m human. Writing the album right now, I’m super consciousness of capturing life in all of its diverse colors.
How has it been touring with Coldplay? What is the fondest memory you have from the various cities you visited with the band?
JK – After a couple of shows, Chris took it upon himself to come out onstage before every show and introduce us personally to everyone, which was pretty incredible.
In this current climate with negative world/social issues affecting so many people of every diverse gender and race– what do you plan to bring to the people in regards to music?
JK – There’s so much to write about, there’s such a smorgasbord of emotions to draw from. I have always written from an observational, social commentary kind of perspective so I just hope that the messages in the song will have a positive impact. If it encourages one girl, somewhere, to feel more empowered, or one nerdy kid to be like- ‘f*ck you, this is who I am’, then I’m happy.
Besides performing and writing songs, what are some of your favorite activities to do in your spare time?
JK – I’m trying to surf and skate more now I’m in Cali, although it’s freezing cold at the moment. My friends and I have been going to flea markets and fabric stores because I make clothes in my time off. And we eat loads of food!
Your Instagram has quite the cool girl aesthetic, would you ever travel into fashion if the opportunity presents itself?
JK – Thank you for saying that! My grandma taught me to sew when I was five. I made a skirt for my 50s themed birthday party, and then a bag… thrifting and customizing and challenging the norm has always been a passion so I hope one day down the track to get the chance to work hands on in fashion somehow.
You mentioned that your father was a musician, did his love for music influence your passion towards it as a young girl and what is the first memory you have of when you fell in love with music?
JK – There were musical instruments in the house and we were never precious about it so definitely family friends and all the musicians around me growing up kind of made it ok to have a go and jam out. I started copying Avril Lavigne when I was seven without thinking about any kind of pressure to be good– it was for the love and the fun of it!