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: Iâ€™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 producersÂ Charlie NielandÂ 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. Itâ€™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 â€˜the fastnessâ€™ was introduced to me by my friend, playwright and songwriter, Hywel John.Â It means, â€ a secure refuge, especially a place well protected by natural features.â€ 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: Iâ€™m not an actor anymore. Before I switched over to music (eleven years ago), I was an actor.Â I suppose my background informs the way I perform. It doesnâ€™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 itâ€™s not something Iâ€™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 peopleâ€™s music, lifeâ€™s mysteries, Carl Jungâ€™sÂ Red Book,Â Runes, film, photography, nature, seeing new places, meeting new people, and embracing change.
Review Fix: What makes “The Fastness” different from your previous album,Â Devastate Me?
Kilguss: This album has a slightly more indie feel to it thanÂ Devastate Me. I wanted to try something a little different. Iâ€™m not sure how other people will react to it but Iâ€™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 Andralisâ€™ band (Jim Andralis and the Syntonics) so weâ€™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?
Iâ€™m always confounded by this question. If I could write like someone else it would be Leonard Cohen. Heâ€™s my favorite songwriter. No one touches him in terms of lyrics, as far as Iâ€™m concerned. Iâ€™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:Â Iâ€™m having a record release show/party forÂ The FastnessÂ onÂ June 28thÂ at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 3 atÂ 8:30. Tickets areÂ available here.
This summer Iâ€™ll be co-producing and performing in some shows with theÂ Bushwick Book Club. Iâ€™m also planning to record a few covers with my friend Benjamin Cartel.
In addition to my own music, Iâ€™m helping to expand a new non-profit, Musicambia, that brings music programming to prisons and jails. You can find out more about thatÂ here.
Apart from that, the world is my oyster!