Young Americana: Jess Nolan

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Jess Nolan arrived in Nashville two years ago, amidst the flood of songwriters moving here to both find their voices and be heard. Instead of looking to learn from the great writers that have had their start in Nashville, Nolan was looking primarily to learn from the diverse musicianship in town. Her music aligns most predominantly with classic artists in the soul and R&B genres, thus differing from the majority of Nashville-based acts. However, her differences have earned her an esteemed role in the local scene, and have prompted a focus inward making for songs true to her spirit.

“I feel like my writing has improved tenfold. Also, my lyric writing has gotten a lot more involved and I think about the messages I’m putting out and just being really genuine in what I’m writing about and honest because really I can only write my own story.
My favorite writers are Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, and those writers were really good about capturing a story or an image or a time or a scene in their writing and I try to do that in my own writing. I try to be a good storyteller as best as I can.”

Can you tell us about the video and the song you just played?

So the song I just played is called, “Like a Flower,” and I wrote it about this camping trip I took in North Carolina to this spot called Max Patch. We just did the video in my living room.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m originally from Highland Park, New Jersey and went to school at the University of Miami in Florida and went to the Frost School of Music there. I moved here a little over two years ago to pursue a career in music.

Why did you pick Nashville?
Honestly, I picked Nashville because rent was way cheaper than New York.

Has your experience been what you anticipated it would be here?

I think my experience has been more than I anticipated it would be. I didn’t really expect much to happen in the first two years and I feel like I’ve exceeded a lot of the goals I had for myself when I was moving here. I’m really happy with the community of musicians and artists that I’m a part of and I’m just in awe of my friends a lot of the time.

Most of the stuff you’re releasing recently has been written since you moved here - how do you feel like the people you surround yourself with here has influenced your writing style?

I feel like I’m surrounded by really talented and unique musicians so therefore my influences are all over the place. There are so many people here doing music here so I’m constantly inspired by all the diverse musicianship. So I feel like my writing has improved tenfold. Also, my lyric writing has gotten a lot more involved and I think about the messages I’m putting out and just being really genuine in what I’m writing about and honest because really I can only write my own story.

Do you find that the music that influences you are along those lines? Like those are the qualities that you look for?

Yeah, my favorite writers are Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor, and those writers were really good about capturing a story or an image or a time or a scene in their writing and I try to do that in my own writing. I try to be a good storyteller as best I can.

You have new music coming out. Can you tell us about it?

So about a year ago I put out a self made EP which I’m really proud of. And a couple weeks ago, I put out a new single, which was a goal of mine for 2017 - just putting out new music. And I have a couple more songs that I’m going to be putting out at the top of the year in 2018, and some video content so I’m really excited about the new year and hoping to start a new project because I’m kinda itching to record again. I’ve been writing a lot.

What made you decide to release these songs as singles?

So I put the EP out which was really awesome because on the road I had physical CDs to sell, but once I put the EP out, I didn’t have much more content. I feel like the singles are a good way to space out releases. I put “Mistakes” out which is awesome, I have one new single out. But I still have two more songs that I can put out and keep people’s attention and keep it fresh and I’ll still have content to release.

Do you think people have a shorter attention span with music because of the way music releases are working now?

I definitely think people have shorter attention spans which is kinda sad. I don’t think it should dictate everything we release but I feel like right now with Spotify and streaming services, people want to listen to playlists and that’s the way we’re headed. So putting out singles is smart because your single is your whole piece of work you’ve released and it go on a playlist and be a sample of what’s to come, especially early on in a career. I think it’s a smart way to go. But I definitely have goals to put out a full length record because I love the idea of following a theme or concept in writing and watching it play out through the course of an album. So I definitely have goals to put out a full length album in the next couple years.  

Would you say the single you’re putting out now are thematically related at all or are they intended to stand alone as singles?

I definitely think lyric content wise, they’re very different, and the vibe of the songs is very different. They’re sort of chasing something different with each single. I wrote them over the course of a few months so it’s definitely reflective of a period of writing. I guess that was Fall 2016 when I wrote those songs and now they’re coming out and I’m definitely past that point in my life, so it’s interesting to be singing about it right now. But I guess that’s just life of an artist - putting out work that you wrote a while ago. That’s why I have goals to keep recording stuff because I have new content to show people, which is like this new song that I played right here.