Jess Hill, the talented songtress from East Vancouver played selective shows this March in Ontario for Canadian Music Week, including dates in Toronto (The Cameron House included). Currently, Jess is promoting her latest release Pieces, a EP filled with her thoughts and reflection on a relationship that ended. We chatted with Jess about her choice to follow her musical aspirations into a full on career and her thoughts on her rise to music success with sold out shows and critical acclaim.
It is believed that the atmosphere you live and grow in helps you become the person you are. How did East Vancouver make you the recording artist and woman you are today?
It might be fare to go farther back. I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver called Maple Ridge. A bedroom town with rural edges and big city dreams. I think growing up there fostered my curiosity by offering glimmers of the possibilities in both country and city life. I’ve lived in East Vancouver for a decade or so and I think the quality that I am most grateful for is the apparent openness that emerges from my artistic community and enables me to grow my desire to create opportunities for inclusive experiences. In a lot of ways I think that’s one of my favorite things about being a performer….it feels like a gift to have a chance to offer things to people with very few conditions and to be received openly.
When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in music? Were the people in your life supportive of this decision?
I often feel surprised that I am pursuing a career in music. In a lot of ways it feels like it pursues me. Sweetly nagging at me from the corners of my heart, reminding me to make something beautiful and bring it to the stage in honour of the human experience. I guess that’s the distinction – I pursue the sharing of art and a music career seems to be a product of that.
There is an interesting theme for your latest release, Pieces. You have taken songs that were put away over time and then you picked them up again to record. This is a rare situation because we know that once a songwriter lets a song go, they don’t usually go back to it. Once its forgotten, it stays hidden. How did the event of ending a relationship lead to this?
Music played second fiddle to my hearts whim for a time. I was enormously in love and rushing forward into the arms of that love. In the chaos of all that movement music and I lost touch. When the relationship fell away my first impulse was to pick up my guitar but it had been so long since I’d been fully present in that part of my life that it felt incredibly strained. I couldn’t find the pulse so I decided to retrace my steps all the way back to the handful of songs that didn’t make the cut when I recorded Orchard in 2009. I dusted them off and found my heart stirring with affection for them. Suddenly they seemed complete and fresh and I started writing again, feeling those bursts of creativity that lead to thrilling daydreams and poetry.
You have had such a great response with this album. Your EP release show was Sold Out and you are making your way through Ontario, touring in celebration of Canadian Music Week. Did you ever you would have moments like these as a performer and songwriter?
It’s funny, as a kid or even as a teenager, I never thought I would play music at all, never mind get the opportunity to revel in the diverse and interesting experiences it invites into my life. Every moment feels like a milestone – I am constantly blown away by the interest people have in spending time with my songs. Music plays such a prominent role in day to day life – it really is everywhere and these days it’s more accessible than ever, so that someone ever chooses my song from the limitless resource of sound at our fingertips is just unbelievably exciting.
We are a part fashion publication, so we have to ask. What do you like to perform in most when hitting the stage?
Oh, I have a bit of a vintage dress habit. Frocks from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s seem to be filling up my closet these days. Those kinds of things are often fragile though and can be bothersome to tour with as they wrinkle in the old suitcase….nonetheless dresses reign supreme when I hit the stage, without a doubt, I can’t seem to have enough of them.
What else do you have planned for 2013?
2013 will hopefully find me on the road a few more times before it plays out. I also hope to head back into the studio and record at least one of the new song cycles I am working on for a spring 2014 release. Now that my muse and I have tied up our loose ends with this EP the songs just keep coming. The future feels bright!
Visit Jess Hill online at JessHill.ca!
Stilettos & Rock n Roll,
By Carcia & Telly