The Musician Spotlight Series shines a light on up-and-coming bands and solo acts creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their music, their collaborators, and why they do what they do.
“For all of love’s agonies, Calgary soul-roots singer-songwriter Jess Knights isn’t sulking over old wounds. On her debut full-length, Best Kind of Light, due out on May 20, 2020, Knights comes out on the other side of love and loss without all the bitterness, but rather a sense of self-assuredness knowing that she’ll be just fine on her own. Jess’ new single “Leave Me For The Last Time” is a sultry, blues-inspired ballad”.
When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
I don’t think I knew that I wanted to be a musician until I actually was a working musician. I was always deeply connected to music from an early age but when I joined bar bands in my late-teens, I started to realize that this could be doable, not easy but not impossible either. I knew music had to be a part of my life because it seemed to be built into the fibre of who I am from the beginning and I’m grateful that I didn’t give up entirely (Yeah, I took long stretches of breaks) because I love being able to share music with others. It’s a feeling like no other.
Are you trained? How did you develop your skills?
I was a classically trained and competitive vocalist from the age of 10 to 21/22. My formal training helped build the foundation of my voice today but in some capacity I had to untrain my voice when I started to explore soul and blues. It was like throwing a prima ballerina into the world of hip hop and saying “okay dance now”. I had to learn how to relax and feel my words deeply like the soulful queens that I revered like Etta James and Sharon Jones. Listening intently to the music that I loved was a part of my self-directed learning. When I wanted to start exploring songwriting when I was living overseas, I picked up a Ukulele because it was compact and travelled well, gradually I learned more and more about string instruments and began teaching myself guitar. I continue to take lessons sporadically because I believe in pushing myself artistically to see what else will come out in my songs as I learn more.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Etta James, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Sharon Jones.
How would you describe your sound?
That’s hard for me to say because the more I put out music, the more I hear that I don’t fit neatly into one genre or another. I hope that my sound is always rooted in soul. Soul music forces people to feel the words and melody so deeply that its immersive for the listener (in my opinion). I want to connect with my listener through my songs and hopefully we share in an exchange on a deeply human level even if we’re miles apart or have never met.
What’s your favourite tune in your repertoire and why?
I think my new album “Best Kind of Light” (out May 20, 2020) holds some of my favourite songs in my repertoire. It has some of the most earnest songs I’ve ever written. I think my favourite song from the album right now is “This is 30”, mainly because crowds at my show seems to relate to that song a lot. It’s all about things that happened to me when I turned 30 but the message seems to be quite universal for folks in my age demographic.
What can audiences expect from one of your live shows?
I always try to set the tone of my live show with a warm, inclusive vibe. I like the audience to know that I see them as much 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.
Where can we find your music?
My music can be found across all streaming and music purchasing platforms around the world. Soundcloud seems to be more popular amongst my European followers, whereas Spotify seems be the choice for North Americans. I want my music to accessible to all so I’m always on the hunt for new stores.
Website, Facebook, Instagram.