“Music is about losing yourself, so losing creative control, letting go of being the one trying to do, and more, letting something flow through you. I often don’t understand where it comes from, or what I’m ‘technically’ doing musically, but I like the element of not knowing, It gives it magic, for me.”
Jess Megson is a singer songwriter, poet and artist from Manchester who “finds inspiration in old music, nature and the Universe.” She commands a truly unique, hypnotic sound, intertwining a wide range of musical genres, from Spanish and flamenco guitar and Arabic scales to psychedelic rock and blues with lyrics of a sense of spiritual insight that is truly inspiring.
Below we are lucky enough to have ‘Rise’ ready for our ears, Jess’ Debut Solo Album as released on 27th November 2016
We are extremely excited to speak with her about her music and her recently released Debut, a truly refreshingly organic, uplifting, deeply touching collections of songs.
Please tell us a little about yourself ; where you come from, and where you are currently based?
Cheadle is where I grew up but soon moved closer to the city (Manchester) to be closer to the music scene.
How long have you been making music and how did it originally become such a passion of yours?
I remember being five years old and asking for a baby guitar or a baby drumkit in the shops. Parents, knowing a five year old, said don’t be silly, you won’t play those! But when I was 8, it was an option to learn violin, the school provided one and I picked it up straight away and realised this was something I could do and would like to explore more so before being 16 I’d already saved up all my paper round money and got guitars, drums, keyboard, and would play music most days all day everyday!
You are clearly influenced by a diverse range of genres and sounds from around the world – please shed a little light on the range of music you enjoy listening to and the music you enjoy creating?
Yeah, when younger I was very into metal, then in my late teens I became drawn to flamenco guitar and the percussive rhythms in flamenco music; Arabic scales, oud’s and darabuka’s, listening to classical music is something that taught me about dynamics. Egyptian, Greek, Japanese meditation music, hang drums, harps, didgeridoo’s, djembes and African rhythm’s, Gypsy music and scales! Folk, man I like all things if it encapsulates a feeling. I’ve found this diversity has influenced the music I create a lot and what I create seems to constantly change in relation to what I’m listening to which I like.
What instruments do you play? As a multi-instrumentalist, can you name a favourite instrument you create with?
Guitar and drums mainly I’d say, I drum in two bands at the moment but guitar was what I started with and will always be a favourite in that way, as I think I discovered music on that thing, however, until the day I can shred like a hero, I will always love drums more just for how physical it is, how much of your energy you can put into it and how instantaneous a feeling can become a MASSIVE SOUND. In the past two years I’ve picked up piano which was something I struggled progressing with as a teenager, since drumming more, I found the two are similar in that its more about pattern than melody. I love singing, though. Man, all of them are my favourites when I’m doing them!
Can you tell us a little about a stand out experience performing live?
Probably Equinox festival this past year. When you are playing you can hear the moment people start to pay attention, listen, or take it in, you can just feel the shift in the audience, and likewise if the connection is lost. At Equinox, everybody that watched, listened, I could see feelings in their eyes, and to me that is why I play music. It stood out as a gig because I felt like I connected to every person watching, and vice versa. It was a shared moment, and I felt that, and that’s why you ever play music.
What and where is your favourite venue in the world?
In the world? I’ll let you know when I come back from travelling it. Nah, so far, Rebellion bar in Manchester is GREAT because the sound systems are massive.
Your Debut solo album ‘Rise’ released on 27th November is really, really beautiful.
With themes of self-empowerment, self-acceptance, ultimate connectivity, and a sense of falling in step with the flow of not just day to day life but the Universe itself, despite the relative unreality of reality, in each and every track. It really is an uplifting collection of tunes that i would recommend anyone to listen to should they ever feel under whatever the weather. Magic.
Can you tell us a little about the process of making your album?
How long has it been in the making and what was the process of recording like for you?
Me and my housemate literally recorded it in one afternoon! 2 and a half hours, most takes were the first or second one, we had to do this quick as I have a flight to morocco spontaneously booked, that I intended to take the album with me for. I found when trying to make it note perfect it didn’t sound right to me, but when recording like I was playing a gig, that’s when I could catch the feeling, which I feel is more important than desired perfection.
Please tell us a little about your favourite songs from your album, how you wrote them, and what they mean to you.
‘Humble’, probably. Despite it’s uplifting vibe, it actually came from feeling lost. What it means to feel lost, realising that the feeling of having nothing ‘seemingly’, is an empowering state, it was when outside life went bad that I realised the only thing we ever have control over, is our own inward state. So it’s about creating a peaceful space within yourself rather than your environment or people or a place, all these things can be taken away, the space I create for myself on the inside cannot be taken away.
‘Becoming’ is another I love, it’s a bit honest I always thought but also important I guess to share, as we’ve all felt these ways, and I guess what I want to emphasise most, is that we all feel these same ways, and realising this, will connect us ultimately, rather than this feeling that we are all different and separate that we have now.
What would you say you aim to encourage, express and cultivate through the what you create?
That we all came from the same place! Despite the many manifestations of ways of living we have created over time, all of the separation, illusion of difference, it’s as if humans have forgotten that the person stood next to them, is also a human, and feels the same ways they probably have.
There is a lot of fear in the world, fear of each other, fear of life itself, existential angst collectively, questions, what is this existence for? I feel, when we are happy open and trusting, we are surrounded by love, we do not ask why, or need more, if This state of being could sustain, I guess that’s what I’m trying to discover/encourage.
What inspires your music in terms of the world around you?
Music is experience! So my literal experience I guess is what fuels what I write. That and all the people I jam with, they all add to it, we all fuel each other.
What musical artists would you say inspire and influence your style of sound?
I like Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin was an inspiring woman, but mostly its obscure world music I draw inspiration from. Gino D’auri, Le trio Jourban, Arambolla, System of a down, Tool ….
You are also a poet and artist, as we see in your self-created album artwork. How do you find yourself combining all of these different avenues of creativity?
It’s all about feeling! Sometimes I feel in a way I can’t express in music, so I paint. Likewise, I drum if I feel more intensely than if I were to sit and play guitar. Guitar is an emotive outlet, drums is a physical, art, is a mix of the two so that’s often why that resonates with me. And then sometimes, verses will pour out from nowhere that can’t be a song, so that’s my poetry, and I have no idea where that comes from.
How important is it for you to have creative control over what you make as an artist ?
I have to keep music really free, even if I myself, try and think too much or control too much, what is happening, it hinders it’s expression. With me, music is about losing yourself, so losing creative control, letting go of being the one trying to do, and more, letting something flow through you. I often don’t understand where it comes from, or what I’m ‘technically’ doing musically, but I like the element of not knowing, It gives it magic, for me.
Are there any artists, musicians, collectives or communities you have close ties with at the moment who you can tell us about or recommend readers to check out ?
Ask my Bull! My housemates! Luke Slater who also recorded his album as I did, to take to morocco. Dirty flowers, luna marada, also close friends. John ainsworth is my main influence in Manchester, I love his vibe and passion. Bear around your neck. The Yossarians.
Do you play in any other bands or with any other individuals ?
The Peace Pipers is my other band, psychedelic rock.
A big thank you to Jess and her lovely music, insight and time spent with us !
interview and words by Hannah Dixon