The band recently released a deluxe edition of their debut album Here We Go Again.

Jess and the Bandits is currently on tour across the UK in support of their latest offering. National Country Review caught up with Jessica Clemmons whilst in rehearsals on the eve of the start of the tour to chat about their latest album, Here We Go Again, the UK country music scene, and the band’s plans for the rest of 2016.

NCR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Country Review, we really appreciate it.
Jessica: No problem.
NCR: So you are about to hit the road across the UK starting tomorrow [27th April] in Hull. I understand you are in rehearsals right now, so how are the preparations going for the tour so far?
Jessica: Yeah, it’s going really, really well. I mean everything is sounding great and like I said we’ve been in rehearsals since about ten o’clock this morning. We’ve been working really hard, so were excited. We’ve got to make sure it’s perfect.
NCR: There seems to be a real groundswell in country music in the UK right now, especially with the likes of the C2C festival. Coming from the U.S. has that surprised you at all?
Jessica: Absolutely, you know it’s a genre that I’ve grown up with but it’s really cool to essentially be introducing a genre to some people and people they are loving it. I’ve never understood why it’s never been a popular genre anywhere else but the States for many years, but it’s really exciting to kind of be on the ground floor of it all.
NCR: Obviously you played at the C2C festival quite recently, what was that experience like?
Jessica: Oh it was amazing, this was our third year in a row to do it and we were fortunate enough to open the entire festival there at the Brooklyn Bowl. Then we did the under the apple tree stage and as usual, it’s such an incredible event. There’s free music all over the place and especially for new artists to be able to introduce yourself to a whole new group of fans is the ultimate thing to do, it’s a weekend to be a part of and we’ve loved every minute of it.
NCR: This weekend [1st May] you are playing at the Sage Gateshead as part of your UK tour and we are going to be at the show which we are really looking forward to. I know that you closed out the Summer Tyne Americana festival there last year, you even played two shows that weekend if I remember rightly. Do you have some fond memories from those shows?
Jessica: You know it was so much fun actually closing out the festival because I think we were a bit of a last minute addition for that, but we were really excited to be asked to do it. So it was great because as The Shires led out there in I think Sage Hall One, we were there in the middle of everybody and had a whole other concert that people weren’t expecting. So it was a really great memory of seeing people walk down and everyone that left The Shires pretty much all came and listened to us and we, fortunately, developed new fans there and that was a great experience.
NCR: Besides yourself, the rest of the band are all British, is that right?
Jessica: They are, a lot of people don’t realize that, so they either think we are all British or that we are all American, but we are definitely an international band.
NCR: So how did you all meet?
Jessica: We were touring together. I was opening for a band called The Overtones, this was several years ago. I was actually doing pop music at the time and the guys were the backing band for The Overtones. So we just got on really well and then it was time for me to kind of make a change and start doing country music and I couldn’t think of anyone else that I wanted to do that kind of music with but these guys. I called them up and we started working together and before we knew it we became a band.
NCR: You recently released the deluxe version of your album Here We Go Again which features your new single “Kiss You Now.” Could you tell us a little bit about the album and the inspiration behind it?
Jessica: Yeah I mean the album itself is a very eclectic mix of songs that kind of show the different genres under the country umbrella that I love. You know everything from that traditional Texas Country to Country Rock to even a little bit of the Country Blues feel. It was really important for me when putting this album together, writing this album that it had that feel to it, that the listener didn’t get bored when listening to it, that every song sounded different but all tied together really nicely.
Then it was out for a year, I started working on some new songs out in Nashville and we decided instead of doing an EP with just a few songs on it, we thought you know we’re still introducing ourselves to so many new fans that it would be great to just put everything on one deluxe edition of the album before we start working on album number two. So that’s what we did, we actually have a couple of covers that we’ve changed up, a song called “We Are Tonight” by Billy Currington or Sam Hunt depending on the version you know and a song called “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice, that we turned into a duet. Then of course “Kiss You Now” the single and then there’s another original song that I wrote with the ladies that I wrote “Nitty Gritty” with, it’s called “Here’s To Us.”
So it’s great, it’s nice to before we move on from this album, of course, it’s nice to be able to finish it up really nicely by adding these new songs so current fans have something new and new fans have a nice bonus.
NCR: What’s your favorite track on the album to perform live and why?
Jessica: That’s a tough one, there’s so many that we love doing live. I mean we love to do “You Can’t Stop Me” and “Love Like That,” but songs like “Wanted Man” or “Ready Set” are so much fun because they are just so high energy that we love doing those songs.
NCR: I know you mentioned there about the two covers on the deluxe edition of your album, but I was just wondering if you could ask any band to cover one of your songs, which song and band would you choose?
Jessica: That’s a really difficult one. That’s officially a question I’ve never been asked before. You know what would be really cool, would be to hear some like iconic band like Aerosmith perform one of our songs, like Steven Tyler would totally kill any of the big songs like “Ready Set” or even “Wanted Man” (laughing) although it’s not completely lyrically appropriate, that would be amazing though.
NCR: Where do you find the inspiration for you songwriting?
Jessica: Anywhere and everywhere, for the most part, it’s my own personal experiences, but other times it’s things that friends of mine have gone through, or I’ll just be sitting out you know like sitting out at a restaurant or something and I see a situation happen and before you know it it sparks an idea. So inspiration can really come from almost anywhere, but for the most part, it’s from my own experiences.
NCR: I believe you are also currently working on your second album at the moment, is that right?
Jessica: Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville and throughout this year we are gonna be doing some writing here in the UK with a lot of amazing UK songwriters and also of course heading back to Nashville and spending a lot of time there as well.
NCR: I saw a post on your website about Merle Haggard. I was wondering obviously with the recent passing of Merle how much of an influence was he on you as an artist?
Jessica: I think huge, because that was back in a day of country music where it really was about the story of a song and then incredible melody that sometimes we get slightly away from because we are so busy trying to make ourselves commercial, so that the big radio stations will play us you know things like that. Sometimes you lose track of that innocence of country music, of that storytelling aspect and so it’s artists like Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, all of those greats, George Jones that I love to go back and listen to and get inspired all over again.
NCR: What’s the one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Jessica: (laughing) Oh my gosh, well this is probably pretty appropriate that I’ve got a few Prince albums. I was a huge huge fan of his and as so many people were that I’m in complete shock and I used to listen to Purple Rain. I used to listen to it none stop as a kid and that’s probably one that especially now will always stay in my collection.
NCR: What else do you have in store for the rest of 2016?
Jessica: We are hitting the road, we are pretty much on the road a lot this summer doing the festival circuit and doing a few shows here and there, but we’re gonna wind down this year with getting back to getting creative again and we’re gonna be writing, because our hope is to release the next album at the beginning of next year, so we have a lot of work to do (laughing).
NCR: That all sounds great, we are really looking forward to seeing you on the 1st May at the Sage Gateshead.
Jessica: Thank you so much.
NCR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Country Review, we really appreciate it.
Jessica: No problem.


Jess and the Bandits
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Jessica Clemmons
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About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in north-east England. He has been shooting concerts for several years now, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK & Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. Adam considers himself fortunate enough to have shot at some of the most prestigious venues and music festivals around the UK, such as The O2 in London, the Glastonbury Festival, as well as the likes of Madison Square Garden in New York City. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print in Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. Adam is passionate about music and photography, which shows in his work. His taste in music is eclectic and appreciates a diverse selection of genres, from Miles Davis to Metallica, and everything in between. He also has a strong interest in new music, and is on the look out for the next big thing.