Since her 2006 debut album Road, Jess Hill has been well-known in the western Canadian music scene. With the recent release of her second, Orchard, she is ready to venture into new territory – literally. Currently on her first-ever tour across Canada, the folk singer-songwriter tells us about the East Vancouver music scene, the approach she took with her new album and, of course, what’s on her road trip playlist.
SDTC: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard you before?
A hopeful melancholy carried by the melodies of folk noir.
We hear it’s your first time cross-country touring – how has it been so far?
So far it’s been fascinating. The variety of experiences night to night is surprising. We’ve played in bars, cafes, house concerts and art galleries. The diversity of venues has allowed me to mix it up from night to night. Some nights we are totally acoustic, telling stories and sharing secrets, while other nights we are stomping and wailing our way through the songs in bars. Its been a great way to keep things fresh.
What are three tracks we would find on your road trip playlist?
“Anyone’s Ghost” – The National
“Iron Pump” – Olenka and The Autumn Lovers
“All I Have To Do Is Dream” – The Everly Brothers
Where do you get your inspiration from, music or otherwise?
Inspiration can be found everywhere, the challenge is to remain open to it and make the time to respond. Overhearing conversations between people on the bus, the mood cast by nature’s light shows, spontaneous bursts of synchronized movement between birds in flight, the age of someone’s eyes, the perforating of one’s heart, the city reflected by the ocean at night. Communicating with the muse is something that requires attention and intention just like any other relationship.
What’s the music scene like in East Vancouver?
The music scene in East Vancouver is unique and beautiful! There is a real sense of community among the performers. I am constantly inspired by the work of my peers. Bands like Maria In The Shower, The Tailor, Buffaloswans, Christa Couture, and the thriving spoken word poetry scene, to name a few, support the creative vibrancy of East Van. From a distance you can see a shared aesthetic illustrated by a love of old sounds, vintage clothes and antique design elements. In the music there is an obvious acknowledgment of the power of language and a desire to pair familiar organic elements with modern ones. The love is massive! I am so grateful everyday for my community, we are a mutual appreciation society.
With five years between your two albums, did your approach change at all when you began working on your second?
My first record was a mad dash to the studio in an effort to get the album made before my dear friend, bassist, and producer Michael-Owen Liston moved to Montreal. I had all the songs and we went into the studio with a no fuss approach and played them in a pretty straight up roots music fashion. With “Orchard” I really took my time. Aaron Joyce arranged and produced the record. He and I started working on things almost a year before we went into the studio. Armed with mini-disc performances of the songs in their rawest form, Aaron wrote parts for violin, viola, cello, mandolin, bass, banjo and dobro. A big part of the goal for Orchard was to create a dreamy and ethereal environment. I went into the process wanting to share dreams in addition to tell stories. I feel really blessed when I hear the record. From the first note played to the last cut of paper in the artwork, I was fortunate enough to work with phenomenal artists.
Where are we most likely to find you after your show?
After a show I’m usually perched at the merch table sipping something tasty. After we are packed up and ready to hit the road you can usually find me seeking some form of cozy and quiet, which on tour can be difficult to find and therefore looks quite different than it does at home.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was to take my time, to be really present. I think about this before I get on stage every night. The pace of driving across the country can feel a bit like you are always rushing to get somewhere. This can make it especially difficult to recognize when you have arrived. I would hate to be rushing through my performances and the experiences of every town and city across the country. Canada is an especially diverse and beautiful place if you slow down just enough to see the little things. The small wonders and simple pleasures are full of inspiring details.
Follow Jess Hill’s tour on her website http://jesshill.ca/.
~ Caitlyn Holroyd