We have been exceptionally lucky this month. Jess Vincent accompanied by Marcel Rose performed an intimate acoustic set at my home, to a small attentive audience of just 30 people. We set the cameras rolling to capture a song from this captivating session, which we can now share with you. The hour long performance was entirely unplugged, giving us the rare opportunity to hear acoustic music as it is intended to be heard. Jess told us afterwards why she loves playing unamplified.
“I think I play a lot better when I’m totally unplugged, I don't have to worry if it sounds good nor do I have to worry about the sound levels. The shruti box is a nightmare to mic up, most sound engineers don't really know what to do with it, so they will often turn the volume right down”.
Jess brought an arsenal of acoustic instrument with her, which comprised of; mandolin, baritone ukulele, shruti box, and the staple of every plucking musician an acoustic guitar. I was intrigued by the shruti box, which is a small Indian instrument that works on a system of bellows to produce a drone.
“The first person I saw play a shruti box would have been Jackie Oates. I had been looking for something to play that was a little unusual and thought this would help to break up my set. I get a lot of interest each time I play it. This is partly because the audience can’t see how it is played, all the controls face the player”.
The shruti box only played a small part in Jess’ set. Her main instruments of choice were the baritone ukulele, and guitar. These provided a modest backdrop for Jess to decorate with her thoughtful lyrics that depict human relationships. Her song titled ‘Annie Bonnie’ is a good example of this, it describes the relationship between a pirate and his wife.
“I had been reading about Annie Bonnie (sometimes spelt Anne or Anny Bonny), I learnt that after being captured and imprisoned Annie Bonnie wrote to her husband Calico Jack before he was hang’d. Her final words to him were if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog. I thought this was a great line for a song. When writing this song I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a pirate's wife. This enabled me to write from Annie Bonnie’s perspective”.
Jess has an extensive schedule of gigs which takes her to all corners on the UK. I asked how she has managed to arrange shows across such a large area.
“I have started doing some gigs with a professional musician called Reg Meuross. He has given me guest and support slots which have really helped me get into venues that I would not normally get the opportunity to play. But there are also many venues that try to book music from further afield. I think people will always want to discover new music which is outside of their own town”.
Traveling such great distances for concerts must mean that music is a full time job for Jess. I asked her about this.
“I still have a part-time day job, this keeps the bills paid. But I have had to make a few sacrifices to pursue my music career, weirdly a social life is one of the sacrifices. My gigs are mainly Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, this means unless my friends come to gigs I don't get to see them as often as I would like".
Jess performed for us with Marcel Rose and spoke of performances with Reg Meuross. I wanted to know how Jess finds performing solo after having other musicians to perform with.
“It is more fun to have another person with me, especially if we are to go on a road trip, or if I’m unfamiliar with a venue. It comes down to a few factors if I’m to perform solo or not. Marcel is in a lot of bands himself so he is not always available, plus I like to ensure Marcel is paid for his work. If it's a low paid gig then I will do it by myself to keep the cost down. I like to ensure I do a few solo gigs because I am essentially a solo artist, so I still need to practice being a solo artist”.
Please visit Jess Vincent's website