FYIG Chats With Singer/Songwriter Jess Knights

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Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a classically trained vocalist who has lived and studied in Thailand, New Zealand, and Germany. I began writing songs in my early teens and joined blues and funk cover bands. I performed in the shady bar scene in my hometown for about 10 years before I decided to release my own songs under my name. My EP “Won’t Wait” was a catalyst for the career I’m shaping now.
 
How did you get into music?
 
It’s hard to say exactly how. I feel like songs were built into the fiber of who I am. I’ve always felt deeply connected to music of all kinds and I can recall soundtracks of songs that reflect chapters of my life. From being an angsty teenager to really listening and feeling soul music for the first time. I haven’t grown out of that phase yet. Of course, my parents steering me into music lessons helped shape my appreciation for music (although I didn’t really realize that until way later). 
 
How would you describe your musical style?
 
I describe my style as soul roots. I hope that there is always an undertone of soul in my music and ‘roots’ lets me waver between blues, country, and Americana without having to commit to any specific genre.
 
How have you evolved as an artist since you first started out?
 
I think the biggest evolution I’ve noticed is with my ego. Early in my career, I feel I was a little self-righteous like “I’ve got this, I know what I’m doing and I don’t need help”. Now I’ve gotten so much further by getting my ego in check, asking for help and embracing that every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow. I’m not afraid to ask artists that I revere for insight. I probably get one reply from every five times I reach out but in general, it’s been incredibly rewarding. At any stage in our career, we ‘re all just artists hoping that someone’s going to like us.
 
What can you tell us about your latest single, “Leave Me For The Last Time”?
 
“Leave Me for the Last Time” is a very focused narrative. There isn’t a lot of metaphor to unpack in this song. It’s deliberation about whether you let someone leave you for the last time or go with them. It’s a reckoning of what going with them would do to the life you’ve built outside of your relationship. Ultimately, it’s a “Love you, see ya later. I’m going to be okay” song.
 
 
You recorded the song live. How did that process differ from a normal recording process?
 
As a sweaty bar performer for many years, there’s a vibrancy that comes from playing live. Each musician feeds off each other in the moment and that’s really hard to replicate through tracking of each instrument separately. As the singer on these songs, working with the sentiment behind each instrument in real-time helps draw out that real emotion for me.
 
Do you have any live shows coming up? What’s the audience experience like at one of your live shows?
 
The next big show that I have coming up is for the Calgary Folk Festival’s winter festival ‘Block Heater’. I’m also heavy into tour-planning of Western Canada for the summer and hope to keep expanding beyond my tour parameters. 
 
The audience at my shows are the most important part of the show. I like the audience to know that I see them as much as they see me and that for the next 2 hours we’re in this together. It doesn’t hurt that my band is packed full of extremely talented musicians and they never fail to draw people in and ‘wow’ the crowd. I hope that people at my live shows feel safe enough to dance if they’re feeling it, enjoy the musical experience and feel welcomed into a fun exchange between us and them.
 
What’s next for your career?
 
I’m hoping for expansion. Growing my audience base, extending my performance space outside of Canada and refining my business practices to make being an artist more sustainable. I’m not interested in being a starving artist. I want to be smart about my business, fluid with the transitioning music market and constantly finding ways to sustain a healthy life as an artist. I do believe this is possible and I’m willing to tread through the harder lessons to figure it out.
 
What advice would you have for aspiring singers/songwriters?
 
Ask for help. Challenge yourself to grow by taking lessons and working with musicians, songwriters, and industry professionals that intimidate you. Also, keep in mind that you will go a lot further in this industry if you’re not a dick. Talent means nothing if you are an insufferable personality.
 
What’s your life like outside of music?
 
I’m a manager in programming at the National Music Centre (NMC) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. We are a not-for-profit organization that tells that story of music in Canada through educational programs, exhibitions, artist development initiatives, and live performances. Between working full-time at NMC and being a committed artist, I don’t have time for a whole lot else but I’m fortunate to live next to the rocky mountains and when time permits, I find solace in being outdoors. 
 
Let the readers know where to find you online.
 
Find me on Instagram, Facebook, my website, Twitter (although, my Twitter game is weak) and YouTube. My music is available on streaming and digital stores around the world. Reach out if I’ve missed your favourite platform.