While travel and tour restrictions imposed by the global pandemic were of course felt acutely across the entire music and entertainment industry, just imagine what it must have been like for International band Jess And The Bandits! Front woman Jessica Clemmons is based in Texas, her band members in the UK, and while they had planned a break after their 2019 tour (congratulations on the birth of your two sons since then, Jess!) none of them expected to be taking such an extended time away from doing what this fun loving band love best and thrive on… live music and tour life.
But the great news is, they are back! With new music set to be released imminently and an exclusive run of shows in the next few weeks (details and ticket link below) what better time to catch up with Jess for a Zoom chat?
1. LH Hey Jess, so good to see you again and welcome back to the UK! You must be shattered as you arrive only a couple of days ago and you have the kids in tow too this time!
JC Ha yes, I saw my manager Lara in her office yesterday and I was like ” this is what my uniform is now, glam Jess only turns up for shows”!
( LH aside…of course she still managed to rock the casual t-shirt wearing Mum look!)
2. LH It’s been a while since you and the band could get together, hasn’t it, and not through your choice?
JC Oh gosh, I know, it’s so crazy to think that in Nov 2019 I remember leaving and saying “ok, see you guys in March 2022!” and then the world shut down. The whole of our schedule was packed with festivals and gigs we’d been waiting ages to ge . But it’s been good to finally catch up with them. And this time round we’ve got some new people joining us… the original drummer is getting married right at the start of this tour and the others are at the wedding!
We’ve still got Luke Thomas of course but we’ve also got Luke Barratt (Laura Oakes fiance, he’s actually played with me quite a few times already so has been an on/off Bandit for a while!) And then we have a guy called Eddie Smuck (LH apologies if I mis-spelled this!) who’s doing a lot in the UK country music world, he has a band… and then we’re got a female bass player in the bandits, who Luke knows, Zoe!
What I love about Jess And The Bandits is that the Bandits have become a lot of different faces but have stayed this similar feel regardless of who’s in. And it’s an opportunity to showcase different talent because there’s SO MUCH talent in this country!
3. LH So how are you finding it, juggling work and motherhood?
JC It’s HARD!! I was chatting to a friend of mine who’s also in music and she was saying the same thing, it’s is one of the hardest things to do. Because you are so busy giving yourself to everyone else that at the end of the day it’s like ” well, I have a little bit left for ME, do I write a song or sleep?”
4. LH But it’s great you’ve managed to stay focused music – wise, you put out your Christmas album in 2020 and have been busy writing and recording for your upcoming album which I gather we’ll be getting later this year? Is it all done and dusted?
JC We’re getting there. I’m just not 100% on all of the songs, I want to write a bit more. I just have a different perspective on life now and I think this new album is going to reflect that.
There’s a couple of songs that will be coming out hopefully in the next couple of weeks… definitely a new single, we’re just waiting on the final master of that. And I’m hoping we’ll be doing both those songs on this tour.
5. LH I was going to ask if motherhood has inspired you writing in any way, so by the sound of what you’ve just said it definitely has?
JC Oh definitely. I think being married AND motherhood, as opposed to the JATB of 2015 when Jess was single with not a care in the world and the songs were a party that reflected that . We’ll have an element of that on the new album, there’s still gonna be a lot of fun songs because those are just me, but there’s going to be a lot more depth that I think a lot of people will relate to, especially people of a certain age group! I think it’s like a coming of age!
6. LH And you said of your last album, “Smoke and Mirrors”, that it was a bit experimental in some ways, including some gospel-inspired tracks, is that continuing on this new one?
JC I think the gospel/soul sound is just there in me, but I think this album will have a lot more touches of Texas Country that really tie in with my roots. It was so much fun as we actually recorded some of the songs in Texas, and having some Texan guitar players on this one it’s really brought it full circle. It’s pretty exciting and I can’t wait for people to hear what we’ve got!
7. LH So was the writing and recording process different due to the restrictions you had to work with?
JC I did a lot of writes remotely over Zoom… including with Jade Helliwell, and I love the songs we did, and with the guys in Nashville . And we actually recorded some of the songs remotely in Texas before I left!! My producer has a family of her own too now and I couldn’t get to Nashville and she couldn’t get to Texas so we did a whole remote recording session, I was in the studio with the musicians and she produced remotely from that! You know, if there’s anything good to come from this whole pandemic, it’s we’ve all learned how to do things without necessarily being in the same room! Which is great as it’s HARD travelling with a 3 year old! I don’t recommend it!!
8. LH And along with a new album comes new merch…so which one of the band comes up with the creative and artistic ideas?
JC I think it’s a team effort. I often come up with an idea and we’ll bounce artwork off one another, I am glad to admit I’m not great at artwork! I’m a singer and that’s as far as it goes! Lara my manager is actually is really great at concepts so between all of us we’ve managed to come up with some decent stuff for the tour!
9. LH Which leads nicely into my next question…you’re first show is tomorrow night in Birmingham, are you feeling mostly excited to be stepping onto the stage again after so long or are there nerves involved too?
JC Yeah it’s a writers round tomorrow, me and Luke Thomas, I’m excited and looking forwards to actually being able to talk about the songs. I am nervous… for the past two years my life ( and other people’s) had to change so drastically, and I’ve been focussing on my two kids, so I am nervous but at the same time I’m going to get to meet ME again.
10. LH And then there’s some full band dates while you’re here, have you had any rehearsals for them yet?
JC Our first full band rehearsal is next week ….I can’t wait, I’m so ready for that!
LH There’s a festival I see….will your husband be taking the kids along to that?
JC Yes and for the other shows they’ll probably be at the sound check…they LOVE music! But obviously with my 3 year old I’ve been drilling into him to become a doctor or a lawyer, do music on the side!! And even the little one dances around and tries to sing, it’s so cute!
11. LH You’ve already said there’ll be a couple of new songs on the set list, what else are you planning? Any songs you always HAVE to include?
JC Yes…we’re bringing back “Wichita Lineman,” gotta have “Nitty Gritty”…when I was choosing the set list this time I decided to pull some out, throw some others in and just make this feel familiar to everyone that’s been following us.
12. LH You’ve already mentioned writing with Jade Halliwell, will you be doing any more writing with any of our UK talent while you’re here? JC Yes, it’s going to be a while before we come back so we are going to stick around for a month and I want to make sure I get lots of writes in . The scene has changed so much …when I came into all of this as just Jessica Clemmons in 2014 I don’t think Ward Thomas weren’t even there and The Shires hadn’t even had an album yet. Now it’s just incredible… it’s exploded so much and it’s really really cool! LH And I hope you’ll be finding time to do some fun stuff with the kids too? JC My 3 year old Asher is obsessed with buses! So we’re going to take him on a sightseeing London double decker bus, we’ll be gong to the zoo, definitely taking time to do those things. Last time I was here with my husband it was all ” go, go, go!” and there was so little he was able to see so we’re going to have some leisure time!
13. LH So what’s the rest of 2022 looking like? I guess the album is the priority… JC Yes. And being back this time is just a more of a “reintroduction” sort of thing, we’re not doing many dates, so my hope is that in the Autumn we can do a full tour, have a new album at the same time, and jump back in and do what we do best… bring the party to the places in the UK we’re not able to make it to this time!
LH That all sounds fantastic. Many thanks for your time, enjoy your stay and I hope we can catch up again soon maybe to talk a bit more about the new album when it’s all finished! JC Definitely!
Jess And The Bandits Together Again – Tour Dates 10/05/22 Nashville Sounds In The Round, Birmingham 20/05/22 Pitlochry Festival 21/05/22 Audio, Glasgow 24/05/22 Night N Day Cafe, Manchester 25/05/22 Nashville Meets London, Pizza Express, Holborn