Jessie Kilguss is a singer, not an actress -- it’s worth getting that straight up front. With lines as cinematic as “Mesmerized by city streets, you crept your way under my sheets.” (“Americana”), one might just be led to believe that this chanteuse who displays bedroom eyes for your ears has had some training. Truth be told, we now realize that a sincerely sung song and a soulful piece of theater are merely great examples of great art. Jessie’s known this all along, and what with Scarlett and Zooey now making records, this fact is all the more understood.
“I consider all of the arts to be interconnected and think there is fluidity in the boundaries between them,” Jessie explains. “Many of my favorite singers started out in some other artistic discipline; Joni Mitchell with painting, Leonard Cohen as a scholar/poet, David Bowie as an actor...”
Jessie’s first acting job was as one of the “afflicted girls” in Nicholas Hytner’s screen adaptation of the Arthur Miller classic The Crucible starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Later, Jessie had the life changing experience that sealed her fate as a singer when she appeared on London and Sydney stages with another actor and singer, Marianne Faithfull. It was during this production that Jessie realized that she wanted to be in charge of her creativity in a way that playing the same role for six months or more simply couldn’t provide.
So, the cats out of the bag. Before launching her career in music, Jessie worked as a classically trained actress who honed her acting skills at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the prestigious Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Now, Jessie brings her background in drama to bear on her latest record Nocturnal Drifter - the follow-up to her 2007 debut Exotic Bird - merging her new found gift for songwriting into a sound and musical persona that easily arrests.
Helping Jessie keep the flow is gold record award winning production team Super Buddha (Blondie, Rufus Wainright). The super duo of Charlie Nieland and Barb Morrison was first introduced to Jessie by actress Jennifer Jason Leigh and after meeting Jessie, quickly issued a challenge. Neiland explains, “We sent her home late one night with a moody track. She arrived the next session with the tremendous ‘Lord Lucan’ completely written. It was her first song and it was amazing.”
One song soon became an album and more importantly an ongoing musical partnership that continues to impress. Kilguss’ growth since Exotic Bird is immeasurable. She and her collaborators evoke mood, menace and memory throughout as track to track, Jessie’s pure, luminous voice becomes something familiar and memorable itself.
“There’s a little place behind my eyes where I’m tired, but otherwise I’m doing OK,” Kilguss sings on Nocturnal Drifter’s first single “A Little Place Behind My Eyes,” a playful, humorous number with an infectious spiraling melody and a drop dead electro-funk beat. It’s just one of many attention-grabbing moments on an album where Jessie gets to fully claim and guide her creativity again.
Reveling in newfound freedom doesn’t mean that Jessie has completely abandoned the stage. She’s recently been showcasing her new tunes around NYC in various intimate venues with her band The Steves featuring Wayne Batchelor on bass, Rich Hinman on guitar, Rob Heath on drums and Dan Siegler on keyboards. This crack group of musicians expertly brings Jessie’s songs to life in the live setting, creating an appointed and luxurious bed for her vocals to lie in. The show is another important accomplishment in a series of impressive creative leaps for Jessie.
“Jessie Kilguss is in the midst of a ferocious creative development,” continues Super Buddha’s Nieland. “I see a great artist coming quite quickly into her own.” I feel she’s on the brink of something big and I can’t wait to see what it is.”
Nieland’s producer partner Morrison sums Jessie up succinctly, saying “[She] sounds like all the coolest music in your collection wrapped into one thing.”
This is high praise coming from a pair of accomplished record producers, but ordinary folks know Jessie’s a singer, not an actress, too. Jessie muses, “I recently saw an old friend who said ‘I always knew you were going to be a songwriter and I was wondering when you were going to figure it out.’“ She has.
Jessie Kilguss’ sophomore full-length album Nocturnal Drifter will be released on January 8th, 2009. The singer currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her dog Mr. Walter Peanuts and after a few glasses of wine, will explain how her ex-boyfriend was arrested for floating a homemade revolutionary war era submarine too close to the QE2.
Jessie Kilguss & The Steves Live:
11/18/08 New York, NY Arlene’s Grocery (w/ Freddie Stevenson)
Nocturnal Drifter Tracklisting:
Release Date: Jan. 9th, 2009
03. A Little Place Behind My Eyes
04. Time On My Hands
05. I Don’t Need People
06. This Time
08. Marie Antoinette Song
09. Something About Lonely
10. Strangers On A Train
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