Since we caught her show at Ludlow House a few weeks back, Aussie musician Jess Kent has been pretty busy.
She’s been playing a slew of NYC shows, and on November 18 she dropped a debut EP, entitled My Name is Jess Kent. Now, she’s gearing up for a stadium tour with none other than Coldplay and already thinking about a full-length album. It’s safe to say Kent is killing it on all fronts. Still, she made time in her schedule recently to talk to us about her plans.
Tell us a little bit about how you got started.
Jess Kent: So, basically I was a busker in my hometown in Australia. I would play the guitar and write songs and busk at outdoor malls and try to just play anywhere I could. And last year we uploaded our first single online, which went straight to radio. And pretty much from that first song it kind of went crazy on the Internet, on blogs. Then we uploaded a video that was made completely out of emojis. That one got a lot of attention as well, so from that we signed a record deal and made the EP. And here we are today; we’ve got our first EP out, a few days young!
The songs on the EP are pretty musically eclectic. What got you interested in producing?
Kent: I worked with two different producers on the EP. My process is, I start with a guitar, and I’ll write a song pretty much completely on the guitar. And then go to the studio, record the vocals, kind of set a vibe, and then we kind of build the track around that. So I worked with two different Australian producers who are from pretty different backgrounds, but that was kind of deliberate. As you say, my sound is quite eclectic, and it does come from a range of influences, so I wanted to make sort of a time capsule of my life: my childhood in Australia, growing up here. I wanted it to be reflective sonically of what I’ve been hearing, events that I’ve been going to, music that I’ve been listening to. I hope that it still is somewhat cohesive, sonically. I see it as an introduction to me as an artist. And all of the influences that you can hear coming through in the EP are all true influences. So, as we make more and more music I think that will become clearer, you know? We’ll keep crystallizing.
You performed your first U.S. show earlier this month. Is there a different vibe playing here than back in Australia?
Kent: Yeah, we played our first New York show ever. That was supporting Troye Sivan, so we played Terminal 5 for our very first show, which was a crazy experience. The place was packed—Troye has such dedicated fans. We just found that in America, everyone’s so excited and they seem to be really passionate about music in general. I’m really excited to be able to go to the other side of the world and see people of all ages—boys and girls—everybody connecting with music on such a level. So I thought it was really, really exciting. They love to go crazy, so the “Bass Down Low” song on the EP was pretty fun. And “Trolls” was fun to play live.
The show we covered at Ludlow House two weeks ago was a much more low-key situation than a show like Terminal 5. Do you prefer smaller shows or bigger ones?
Kent: I always discuss this with my band; do we prefer playing the smaller, intimate shows or the big shows? And there’s something really special about being with a huge crowd of people, and having them all connecting on one song, hearing them singing; that’s euphoric. It’s amazing. But, also, I like playing more intimate shows because I feel more intimately connected with each individual person. If I can actually see every person and their reactions, I don’t know, there’s something even in the set that kind of changes. We might still be doing the same set, but maybe songs like “Low Key,” the more vulnerable side of the set, I feel more connected to. I love doing those shows as well; you just do whatever and feel it out as it goes.
Who are a few artists that have influenced your music?
Kent: I like to start with what I grew up on. I grew up on The Police, Bob Marley, The Clash. I’m from the middle of England, so a lot of brit pop. And then, in my teens and more recently, I love Frank Ocean. I listen to a lot of house in Australia. And pop, as well, a lot of pop. It’s quite eclectic. I love hip-hop too; I love ASAP Rocky.
It’s looking like 2016 is ending on a pretty high note for you, career wise. Any goals for 2017?
Kent: Yeah, I feel like this year’s been a big growing year for me. Even though it’s been pretty hectic, I feel really grateful to have had the chance to make an EP before we go into the album, and really define what it is that I want to sound like, and the message that I want to put out, and who I am as an artist. I’m having so much fun with these shows. We’re flying to Auckland tonight to start the Coldplay tour. That will be our first stadium tour, which is amazing. But I’m also looking forward to the start of next year; we’re really getting into album mode. I’m so, so excited, I can’t even tell you, to get back into the studio and put down all of these inspirations that I’ve had over the last year. So, yeah, we’re back from the tour and then it’s album mode. [We also want to do] more tours in the States; hopefully we’ll be getting back out as soon as possible to play some more shows and say hello.
Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want our readers to know?
Kent: If I could just end by saying that a lot of my come-up so far has been thanks to the Internet, and people discovering new music that way. So even as things start to get more and more hectic, I’m trying to always bring it back to that. I hope that as people discover more about the music then they can find the other outlets that I’m active on, like Tumblr and Instagram. I want to spend this next year really connecting with my fans, and talking to people, getting to know everybody. That’s also really important to me.