The New York native singer/songwriter talks to us about family, where she finds inspiration, and the upcoming release of her debut studio EP.
The last two years have been busy for rising country star Jessica Lynn. She’s had two nationwide television specials on PBS, toured with Jo Dee Messina, signed a publishing deal in Nashville, and is about to go on her first international tour ahead of the release of her debut studio EP.
In February Jessica was at the Ridgefield Playhouse opening for country music great Phil Vassar. “That was definitely the experience of a lifetime,” said Jessica. “ I am a HUGE Phil Vassar fan and have been ever since I was 10 years old so to get to open for him, and then actually share the stage with him, which was thanks to Jo Dee [Messina], was so exciting for me.” What was it like finding out she was actually going to perform with Vassar? “After the panic subdued [laughs] – I was absolutely honored,” she said.
Just one month later Jessica was back at the Playhouse, but this time as the headliner. “It was so cool to headline a beautiful theater like the Ridgefield Playhouse,” she said. “It’s such a great venue and the crew there is fantastic. It was definitely a night to remember.”
Jessica’s 90 minute set featured a fantastic range of songs, including lots of her original material as well as a few well-placed covers.
Her performance of Not Your Woman, where she says goodbye to a cheating ex, definitely had the Playhouse crowd fired up. It’s a strong girl power anthem that she delivers with her trademark hair flip and a sound and style very reminiscent of Shania Twain.
Midway through her set the theater went dark and a video began playing on the screen over the stage. It started off with Jessica talking about feeling insecure, particularly about her appearance. She was followed by several other women who opened up about their own insecurities, from weight, to scars, to crooked teeth. One woman commented on how nice it would be if the next generation could grow up without these standards. At the end of the video Jessica appeared back on stage with a single spot light and performed her song Pretty. It was incredibly emotional and heartfelt.
After the show we were able to catch up with Jessica to talk about her career so far and what’s coming up next for her:
TCS: Hey Jessica, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! So you recently toured with Jo Dee Messina, and are performing with her again in Florida tomorrow night. What’s it been like working with her?
JL: Jo Dee is an incredible person on-stage and off. She is very genuine and passionate about her music and fans. What you see is what you get with her. She treats each person she comes across with the utmost respect. It’s been a real inspiration to get to watch her show night after night.
TCS: I can imagine – she’s accomplished so much over the course of her career. Originally from Massachusetts, Jo Dee made the decision early on to move to Nashville, concerned that living in New England would hurt her chances of succeeding in country music. Have you ever felt that way? Have you considered moving to Nashville?
JL: I have considered moving to Nashville but only if I am offered a record deal there. I have a lot of support here in New York and my family, who is the driving force behind my career right now, is based in Westchester. We have managed to accomplish quite a bit the last three years living here (the 2 nationwide television specials, signing a publishing deal down in Nashville, and completing 2 national tours with my first international tour coming this year and third national), so unless there was something concrete and life changing that I was being offered, I would stay here in the Northeast until the right moment comes along.
TCS: Your family is obviously really important to you and makes up a big part of your band – your mom is one of your back-up singers, your dad plays bass, and your fiancé plays guitar. How did that all come together?
JL: My band was formed through a series of odd coincidences and meetings. I am a really big believer that everything happens when and how it’s supposed to and putting this incredible group together totally confirmed that for me. I had been playing in a wedding band with mom and dad ever since I was 18, and I met my fiancé on the very first day of college when we were both studying math and adolescent education.
TCS: Given the performance we just saw I’m going to go out on a limb and say a LOT has changed since your wedding band days! How have you developed as an artist since you first started? What changes have you noticed?
JL: There has been a big change in my abilities as well as the band’s abilities from the beginning of our journey to now. My voice has gotten stronger, my songwriting, and also my confidence has grown on stage. I used to be terrified of speaking in between songs. That was always harder than the singing and dancing for me. Now, it’s one of my favorite aspects of the show. It just took a little practice. The band has also become so tight from playing together so much the last few years. We are truly a family.
TCS: That’s something I noticed right from the start of your performance – just how confident and comfortable you looked up there. You’ve played some big festivals – Taste of Country, Country Jam – what’s it like performing in front of those crowds?
JL: Festivals have SO much energy. I love being outdoors on a big stage playing. There isn’t really anything else like it. It’s definitely a rush to be performing in such a fun environment and also to have my name on the same bill as so many other incredible artists that I really look up to.
TCS: Any artists in particular that you look to as a role model? Anyone who has had a strong impact on your career?
JL: I have always really looked up to Shania Twain as an artist because she broke the barriers of country music and made crossover country so popular. She had such a likeability and appeal that was universal. I was also heavily impacted by Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Richard Marx, and Phil Vassar as a child and learned a great deal about storytelling and songwriting from listening to their music.
TCS: Tell us a little about your songwriting process – do you write alone or with others? What do you draw from when coming up with lyrics?
JL: When I write, I draw from real life experiences. My songs are really like my open diary for the world to see. I can be inspired by something that has happened to me, things I have seen other people go through, or even just by something as simple as a phrase I overhear someone saying. Once an idea pops in my head I go in to extreme focus mode, whether I am at the gym, mall, etc.… it doesn’t matter: That song is coming out if I want it to or not. [Laughs] I usually write alone but did have the opportunity to write with some incredibly talented and successful songwriters like Clay Mills, Trey Bruce, Wade Kirby, and Rachel Proctor as part of my publishing deal in Nashville.
I spread out my wings, only dream big
Treat every day like there’s no guarantee
Follow my heart, never back down
For what I believe, you’ve showed me how
And now, I live out loud
-Jessica Lynn, “Live Out Loud”
TCS: One of the most touching moments of the show was the video you played before Pretty with all of the women talking about their insecurities. Tell us a little about the ideas behind that song and why it’s an important message you want to get across.
JL: That song is extremely special to me. The lyrics are truly my story and talk about all things I have always been insecure about growing up, all of which still apply. I actually dreamt of that song and woke up with the lyrics of the chorus in my head one morning. It flowed out within a half hour and I knew I had something on my hands that could really make a difference for many people. Society puts so much pressure on women and girls today to look and be a certain way and it really is so important that we try to love ourselves, imperfections and all, and see ourselves for everything good that we have to offer. We are all unique, which is what truly makes us beautiful.
TCS: Seeing several of the women you featured in the video join you on stage after the song was really special. As an emerging female artist, what are some struggles/ hurdles you’ve encountered and how do you address them?
JL: I have encountered resistance to my somewhat different style of country. It is not quite what is being played on country radio right now. Although I am a crossover artist, country today is leaning more towards hip-hop and bubblegum pop in areas. Chris Stapleton has really helped to open the genre up to other styles recently however. My music is very influenced by rock and blues and is a little more “country” that what is currently being played. It’s all about timing and I think being different is a very good thing.
TCS: Speaking of timing, you have a new EP is coming out soon – what can fans expect from this album?
JL: My first studio EP will be out the beginning of June. I am SO excited to release it because these are songs I am really passionate about. They can expect fun, danceable, and emotional tracks that really show who I am as an artist and person.
TCS: What are a few things that you’d like people to know about you – to really get know who you are?
JL: I would like people to know that I am an extremely hard worker. This business is so incredibly difficult and the struggles that new artists face are overwhelming. I’ve been playing live in bands and working for these opportunities I have now ever since I was 13 years old. Some people think I am just an “overnight success” which couldn’t’ be further from the truth. I work tirelessly in front of and behind the scenes to accomplish my dreams and goals and I want people to know that they should never give up because you really can achieve anything that you set your mind to.
TCS: Your incredible work ethic definitely pays off with performances like you just had here in Ridgefield. Thank you so much Jessica for taking the time to chat with us. Really looking forward to getting the chance to see you perform live again soon!
Check out more of our exclusive pics from Jessica’s performance at the Ridgefield Playhouse:
Here’s Jessica’s latest music video for Not Your Woman:
Head over to JessicaLynnMusic.org to check out all of her upcoming tour dates, latest news and more.
Set List from The Ridgefield Playhouse, March 18, 2016: Roadhouse, Try, They Say, By The Weekend, Girls Night, Better Than That, Kiss My Class, Turnt Up, Twice As Good, Turn The Key, That’s All Right Mama, We’ll Be Like, Be With You, Pretty, Not Your Woman, Over You, Just Be Gone, Bad Case of Loving You, Johnny B. Goode, Encore: Tush