Jess and the Bandits are one the true leading lights of the UK country scene right now. Headed by Texan Jessica Clemmons, the band released their highly successful ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ album last year, with the title track being released as a single just last month. We caught up with Jess and asked her all about the single, the busy summer playing festivals, her home state of Texas and we also found out she loves trains!
Hi Jess, Thanks for speaking to us and congratulations on the release of your new single ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, the title track of your recent album. To start, can you give us an insight into how the song came about?
This one was written in London with Shelly Poole and Ben Adams (such a great writing team!). I wanted to write a great storytelling song and already had the title “Smoke and Mirrors” and a bit of an idea. As soon as I shared it with them, it came about so easy. This song is a story within a story, which I love. The first verse is about a woman who is a waitress in a diner but she’s always wanted to be a singer. In her mind she still has her big dreams and for a moment, when she’s singing along to the radio while she’s working, she can almost touch those dreams. The second verse follows a man having lunch at the same diner and when he hears the waitress sing, for a minute he’s not just a guy who works a 9-5, he’s just having lunch and enjoying his day. Basically they both live a life of Smoke and Mirrors. They show the world one thing but inside they always want more.
What is it about ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ that made it the title track for the album?
I knew the title track before the song was even written. The music industry is full of smoke and mirrors. You show the world one thing, but live something totally different. During the making of this album, there were a lot of hardships. No one really knew about them because I was doing such a good job hiding them. So for me, this was such an appropriate title personally but it’s also relatable for others because at the end of the day, we all have a little smoke and mirrors in our own lives.
There is obviously a time lapse between writing and releasing an album and then taking those songs out onto the road. Are there any particular songs from the ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ album that have taken on a new life when played live?
I don’t think they’ve taken on a new life but instead have been given life when performed live. That is the moment that a song becomes real for me. It’s the moment you can see the fans connecting and singing along that bridges the gap between just being a song on a record to being something real. Fault Lines, the most different track on the album is one of my favorites to perform live. A lot of people don’t really “get” that song but after doing it live, so many come back saying it’s become one of their favorites.
You’ve had an amazing run of festivals during the summer. What have been your highlights?
Wow it was a busy summer! It’s hard to pick just one highlight but performing at The Black Deer Fest and The Long Road is right up there. We got to do two days at The Long Road including the main stage and that was so much fun! I also have to throw in my writers round at Buckle and Boots. Believe it or not but that was my first ever writers round! I’m a songwriter but so many people just see me as a performer rather than a storyteller, so it was nice to be able to strip it back and tell the stories behind the songs.
Just over a year ago you were due to embark on a UK tour, before Hurricane Harvey struck. Your family were directly affected by damage inflicted by the Hurricane that caused havoc across Texas. How are things back home now and how proud are of your home state and the way people came together to deal with the crisis?
Things are back to normal! It took over 6 months to get there but finally we made it. Sadly, so many people are still rebuilding but seeing Texans step up and helping each other is amazing. It’s what we’re all about as Texans. We’re independent thinkers so when it came to rebuilding we knew that we couldn’t wait for someone else to rebuild our city, we had to do it ourselves.
You might hail from Texas, but here in the UK we consider you an honorary Brit! Tell us three things you love about the UK!
And I’m proud to be considered an honorary Brit!
Three things I love about the UK:
Trains! I love the fact that I can get on a train and be in Scotland in 4.5 hours from London. That would take WAY longer in a car. I’d give anything for Texas to have transportation like that.
I love how green the UK is and the cooler weather. I know the cold is something that most Brits would disagree with me on but I love it!
The history! America is a young country so our old buildings are new compared to what you guys have! I love that I can go anywhere in the UK and experience a piece of ancient history.
To finish, tell us what we can expect from you and the rest of the Bandits in the coming months!
This year, we’ve got a few things coming up that we’re excited to announce soon. Just working on final details before we do! As for next year, oh we have lots in the pipeline. We are definitely going to have some new music. We’re spending the beginning of the 2019 making some new tunes for you guys. No, not another album but maybe an EP. I think Smoke and Mirrors hasn’t got the life it deserves yet and I want to give it that before we put out another full album, but we want to have some new music out there for sure.
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