Formidable country artist Jess Holland has recorded what is arguably the album that will define her career. Her third long-player – the sassy titled Miss Demeanour – has been a labour of love to bring to fruition and the proverbial ‘blood, sweat and tears’ behind the release is evident in the finished product. It stands firm as an album that showcases a songwriter who knows themselves, has had a lot of opportunity for introspection and has funnelled this into inspiration, and is confident in their musical direction.
Jess Holland has been making music fans – and critics alike – sit up and listen since she smashed onto the music scene back in 2011. Her debut album, Introducing… Jess Holland, was the perfect introduction and showed a young musician on the rise. Her sophomore release Whole Lot To Say (2014) was aptly titled, Jess did have a whole lot to say, and a lot to showcase – a more mature side to her songwriting and a promise of great things to come.
Those great things have transpired in Miss Demeanour. It is an honest album – cemented in country, but skirting elements of blues, rock, bluegrass, soul and rockabilly. Essentially, it is one hundred percent Jess Holland – what you see, or in this case, what you hear, is what you get. That songwriting style that attracted attention is still there, but has evolved. “I think as you mature and learn – both in life and in music – your writing style has no option but to follow,” says Jess. “Because it has been almost four years since my last album, I have had four years of writing experience. I think this time, I was able to transfer my life into lyrics far easier, without reservation. I’m very proud of that – it certainly wasn’t easy at times.”
One of the things that has always held true with Jess Holland’s music is its strong country roots. After all, it’s in her blood – her grandfather was a founding member of well-known bush band The Stringybark Band, so her appreciation of the genre started young. Living and working on the land also certainly helps hold true to this honest music style, when you are living and breathing what you are writing about, that raw truth can’t help but transfer.
“Just before I started writing the album, I went through a sea change,” says Jess. “I moved home and got back to my roots. It ended up being the perfect source of writing ideas, the move almost instantly sparked that bug for the new album. I had no TV or internet for over eight months, so I had no distractions to stop me from facing everything and putting it on paper. I think the key for me is to write what you know, and to produce the sound that you are happy with, regardless of genre.”
Writing and recording the album was a working juggle – from helping out her family, to continuing her touring work and finding the quiet solace to write, Miss Demeanour took several months to finish. Recorded with long-time friend and producer Rob Long, who was an integral part of Jess’ last album, this effortless relationship between the two meant that the often time-juggle wasn’t an issue.
“I also help my dad out on his farm, but it all fitted in quite well,” says Jess. “I found that because I was in writing mode, I would often take a pen and paper everywhere I went, or use my phone to jot down ideas. Often, I would write a large part of a song in the paddock or on the road. The recording process pretty much followed Tamworth last year, so I would travel to Newcastle to record in between gigs. Rob was really understanding and worked in with my moves.”
To coincide with the release of Miss Demeanour, Jess is also releasing the next single from the album – a perfect representation of what the album is all about – a track titled Australian Dreamer. “It’s not only about my background and how I was raised, but about the hard-working Australian culture,” she says. “We are all working for a better future for generations to come. This track has always struck a chord with the listeners – ever since I wrote it. I would perform it as a test run at gigs and the feedback was amazing. I think it’s a song that we can all relate to in one way or another.”
Miss Demeanour is the album that marks a turning point in Jess Holland’s career. It is sassy, full of honesty, heartache, introspection and what life is all about. It is Jess Holland. “If people haven’t heard my music before, I want this album to prick their ears,” says Jess. “It’s not country, it’s not rock, and it’s not blues. It’s just me. It’s my heart and soul served straight up and regardless of its genre, I would hope to bridge some gap of people’s expectations – of what they think these genres should sound like. I believe it is important to stay true to yourself and that’s exactly what I did.