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An interview with Jess Locke - Singer/ Songwriter/ Visual Artist

February 18, 2019

Tell us about yourself in your own words.

I’m Jess. I’m from Avoca Beach on the Central Coast of NSW. I make music. I make art. I work in a pub and give people their food and sometimes take it back when it’s wrong. I like to stay at home and be by myself a lot.


How long have you been writing and playing music?

I remember playing piano when I was very small. I did piano lessons in primary school but then I quit that so that was probably the actual beginning of playing an instrument but I remember always singing. I always just liked music I guess. I responded to it. I made up little silly songs when I was a kid and then eventually started writing pop songs when I was in high school which was when I started playing guitar.


You’re also a visual artist. Have you always had an interest in painting and drawing?

I would say similarly to the music, I think I was just one of those kids that liked to make stuff and draw. I guess I had a somewhat natural ability when it came to drawing things and art always interested me. It’s something that I’ve always done, kind of side by side with music. I do a bit of painting and I’ve been interested in various kinds of mediums over the years. I like craft as well - I like cooking and I like gardening. Anything where you can see something created out of nothing. I’m just one of those people that tries to do everything. Any kind of area I’ll have a go at.


Is there something that you feel you identify most with as an art form?

I guess music for some reason has a particularly strong kind of place. Maybe it’s because it’s so direct and emotionally appealing. It’s the most direct form of expression I feel. I think maybe that’s why I respond to that. It’s definitely got an important place compared to maybe other kinds of mediums for sure.


What is your creative process creative process for music and art? Do they differ?

When I was in high school I wrote songs that always started from a real need to process things emotionally and I was very tied up with my emotions and figuring out things. Art I think I’ve maybe got a slightly more detached relationship with. Not that it doesn’t have emotive qualities but particularly with painting I can kind of meditate on it more. It just sort of occupies a different space in my mind. I feel like songwriting and music definitely addresses more personal issues whereas art, I can be a bit more conceptually interested in. I think there’s definitely difference in need to do it and the way I approach it for sure.


What sort of themes do you explore through your art and music?

Anything really. I guess songwriting often comes from an emotion or a feeling or a thought without being fully formed - just the need to kind of figure things out. Starting with a very small feeling and then the song as it’s written unfolds itself and I figure it out as I go. Painting can be similar but also a lot more self conscious of the process itself. For instance, I do a lot of abstract painting so when I sit down and do a painting I’m not usually thinking about something politically current or a personal relationship, but it’s more about purely abstract shapes and colours and the process of finding some aesthetic in that, which is the whole point of making the painting for me is starting it. In some ways the processes are similar in that I suppose songs and paintings I tend to figure out things without a real plan of where they’re going and only when I just get a feeling of them being enough, that’s when it kind of ends. It’s not really a predetermined end point. I think with paintings it can be a lot more meditative and more about the process itself and not so much a catharsis, whereas songs are more of a cathartic process.


What do you as an artist stand for?

I think that it changes on a small scale all the time. I guess the point of it is, partly to figure things out myself as a way of working through what life throws at you and the world but also as a way of connecting with people and trying to speak my mind and have that heard or express something that I know to be fairly universal. I guess the purpose is to try and create the experience that I have when I connect with other people’s art and other people’s music and something that doesn't exist yet is the main point.


What is the biggest obstacle you face when expressing yourself creatively?

Trying to be true to being creative. It’s really easy to just get tempted into creating things as an outcome, trying to create what you think something should sound like or a song that you’d want to hear. Rather than really truly exploring the possibilities of what you could make without knowing what’s going to happen over getting to a formula of something that sounds like a song or looks like an artwork but really lacks the substance that makes it valuable. It’s actually a lot harder than you think. You’ve got to just constantly keep it in mind and remember the purpose of why you’re doing it. You have to constantly have that in your mind. Also just, time and life getting in the way.


What is the best piece of advice you could give to young women and queer folk who want to make art or music or just be seen and heard?

I would say just start somewhere. Start small and don’t get deterred if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere because everything starts small and it’s just about growing gradually. Think about why you’re doing it and what you really want out of it. Sometimes it’s easy to compare yourself to an abstract, really non defined idea of what success is or what being an artist is and if you don’t know what you’re actually trying to do then you never really get it. So if you actually sit down and think ‘what do I actually want?’ Do you want to do it for purely the purpose of sitting down and expressing yourself or do you want people to hear it? Do you want to make money from it? They’re all different goals. You have to figure out what you want and then you know it’s easier to be able to figure out if you’re doing what you want or not. 


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