Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Jessie Kilguss, who discusses her album, “The Fastness,” as well as her creative process and goals for the future.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in music?
Jessie Kilguss: I’ve always been a singer. I started writing my own music eleven years ago when I was recording a couple covers (Tom Waits, Jacques Brel) with producers Charlie Nieland and Barb Morrison. They encouraged me to write my own songs and I fell in love with the process.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Kilguss: For songwriting, I usually start with an idea or a phrase and work on the lyrics from that starting point and then move on to melody and chords. Sometimes the words and music arrive at the same time. It’s nice when that happens.
For this album, I wrote the songs over the course of a few years. I wrote a few of the songs while I was sequestered in Connemara, Ireland – one of my favorite places in the world.
The term ‘the fastness’ was introduced to me by my friend, playwright and songwriter, Hywel John. It means, ” a secure refuge, especially a place well protected by natural features.” At the time he mentioned it, we were sending new songs back and forth to each other. I was in Ireland and he was in Wales. The idea of a fastness really appealed to me — still does. It worked its way into a few of these songs.
Review Fix: How does being an actor help you in singing?
Kilguss: I’m not an actor anymore. Before I switched over to music (eleven years ago), I was an actor. I suppose my background informs the way I perform. It doesn’t consciously affect the way I write songs though. I was lucky to have some exciting jobs and experiences as an actor and I made some lifelong friends but it’s not something I’m interested in doing anymore. But never say never, right?
Review Fix: What inspires you?
Kilguss: Some things I find inspiring are books, Buddhist thought, other people’s music, life’s mysteries, Carl Jung’s Red Book, Runes, film, photography, nature, seeing new places, meeting new people, and embracing change.
Review Fix: What makes “The Fastness” different from your previous album, Devastate Me?
Kilguss: This album has a slightly more indie feel to it than Devastate Me. I wanted to try something a little different. I’m not sure how other people will react to it but I’m happy with the results. I was especially excited to add the other female voices. I think a lot can be accomplished with voices alone. I sing with Susan Hwang, Leslie Graves and Julie DeLano regularly in Jim Andralis’ band (Jim Andralis and the Syntonics) so we’re used to blending our voices. It was a pleasure to bring them into the studio with me to record on this album.
Review Fix: How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you?
Kilguss: Has this person heard Aimee Mann? Or Sandy Denny?
I’m always confounded by this question. If I could write like someone else it would be Leonard Cohen. He’s my favorite songwriter. No one touches him in terms of lyrics, as far as I’m concerned. I’m more in the realm of 1970s folk rock with a slightly more modern edge.
Review Fix: How are your live shows different from your studio work?
Kilguss: More humor.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2018?
Kilguss: To release this album. I can check that off the list.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Kilguss: I’m having a record release show/party for The Fastness on June 28th at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 at 8:30. Tickets are available here.
This summer I’ll be co-producing and performing in some shows with the Bushwick Book Club. I’m also planning to record a few covers with my friend Benjamin Cartel.
In addition to my own music, I’m helping to expand a new non-profit, Musicambia, that brings music programming to prisons and jails. You can find out more about that here.
Apart from that, the world is my oyster!