Prove your humanity

Recently wrapping up a national tour, Jess Locke found time to chat with GROK on heading to Big Sound, her latest LP Universe, DIY music videos and how psychology plays into her songwriting.  

How did Big Sound 2017 go for you?

It was super full on, there were a lot of shows. Played a bunch of shows with the band and I played a few solo shows, there was so much happening around Big Sound. It was really good and saw some great bands. Some people who I had wanted to see for a while and some people who I hadn’t heard of were awesome so at the very least it was an awesome week of seeing music and meeting people.

As a musician how does it feel collaborating with some many people from the industry in one big area?

I was a bit unsure as to what it would be like actually. It was really great, it’s nice because you hear a lot of names and you know of other musicians. But it’s nice to actually meet people and be all in the same place. Have a nice time, get to know each other. It’s the same with the other industry people, people there working in the music industry who I haven’t met. It was just nice to chat with people casually and meet them without having any real agenda because chances are we will be working with each other somewhere down the track.

Much of your music focuses on your guitar and vocals – does that derive from any musical influences?

I grew up listening to a lot of singer-songwriters, it was very much about the voice and the guitar. People like Cat Power, Smog (Bill Callahan), Leonard Cohen. That is where I learnt to play as a solo artist, so its all been very much based around what I could do with a guitar and myself. I guess that’s stuck with me even now that I play with a band, all the songs I write by myself. I guess that’s the thread that runs through everything.


There is a frankness to be felt when listening to the album – is it derived from personal experience?

It’s all based on something personal; I try to keep it pretty real where the songs come from. In a way everything is based on personal experience, but I let myself extend out of my own personal experience. Sometimes I sublimate those personal experiences in order to represent something bigger, I might be singing about something personal. There is always a societal parallel or a broader existential parallel. I think I do that because it makes it more interesting, because anyone can sing about themselves. But when you actually make a link between you, the broader world and everyone else that’s where there is meaning.

Do you think music is becoming more honest? Can it act as a form of catharsis for the artist?

I think definitely. I think it has always been that way though. It just depends on what’s being noticed in the broader media. When you think of people like Leonard Cohen, he is probably one of the most poetic, succinct and honest writers and sometimes pretty dark. I don’t think it’s anything new, but people are maybe paying more attention to that and talking about that aspect of the music more. But I think it’s always been there. Its always there if you look, its what people are interested in hearing. Maybe it’s a bit more telling about the audience that its talking about that kind of music.

You study Psychology – does that take an influence on how you make music at all?

For sure, I studied psychology for a little while. I studied literature and philosophy a few years back and I think using ideas from those disciplines to talk about something that is personal is really helpful in making art and making poetry that isn’t just ‘I feel sad’ or ‘I feel this’. Its relating it to something that already exists, relating it to an idea. I definitely draw hugely on those kinds of things. Things that I have picked up on through studying them and things that I come across in other ways. Psychology is particularly fascinating – obviously human behaviour is a big pool of song-writing material.

I haven’t seen any music reviews that describe the album as ‘cold and Freudian’.

*Laughs* Well as long as they could back it up, I’d be interested to see.

Psychology involves the study of human emotion and behaviour – do you think music is the perfect medium to facilitate expression of those qualities?

For me, maybe – it just depends. All kinds of art forms have their purpose. I guess I have a particular affinity with music. It works for me. Music and words together is a powerful combo. I also like art and sometimes painting is something that is better for whatever I am feeling at that time. Something about music – I guess the abstractness of the actual music without lyrics is something that is so hard to direct and achieve in other forms. I see art forms as crossing over, I dabble in different forms and I think they are part of the same general thing that is modes of expression and they play their part in doing that.

A lot of your music videos are DIY – is that an area where other aspects of art are incorporated into your expression?

I just enjoy making things, I find it fun to do it myself. As a small artist, I have been doing it for years. Sometimes you want to make something but you don’t have money or other people willing to do it for you. So I’ve been a part of an environment which is encouraged to find a way to do things. Whether it is to make a video or put on a show.

It might not be the same quality , or reach the same amount of people as something that has professional backing but it’s something to enable me to create something and put it out to the world. I think I have just been doing that for years and its very natural for me to have a very hands-on approach and make things. Also I have been blessed with having friends who are very talented and do things for me – like make videos.

Your cat features a lot in the videos, do you ever bring the cat on tour?

I wish, she would not be into that. She’s pretty antisocial, so we just leave her at home.

You supported Julia Jacklin, another solo female performer. Do you feel there are a lot of female artists talking about their person experience and empowerment?

There is definitely a conversation around women in music that’s been noticeable for the past year or so. I don’t think there is any more women doing it, I think it’s just something that has been talked about a lot more. I guess some women participate in that conversation and voice their experiences. But, like men, there always been women with guitars and men with guitars, so it’s just a matter on who’s been paying attention.


Jess Locke’s latest album Universe is out now.