Welcome to Almost Famous, a weekly segment where we ask up-and-coming queer musicians some not so hard-hitting questions about music and life and maybe even convince them to share photos of their pets. Get to know intimate details about your new favorite artist or band before they hit the Big Time and become too famous for us to interview for real.
Header by Rory Midhani
There’s a special space in my heart for Australian born, Toronto based musician Jess McAvoy. It’s been there since 2008, the year she released As The Sun Falls – a stellar record that I must’ve looped every day for at least 3 months. The hook was a dynamite voice and lyrics so honest that they cut deep, as you’ll hear in “The Sailor” below. It wasn’t only the music I admired. Jess was an ‘out’ musician at a time when there weren’t too many in Australia, not who spoke so openly. To this young queer, that meant something.
In 2011, after building a successful career in Australia which included the release of 12 albums and other impressive feats, Jess moved to Toronto where she’s continued work on several music projects including her forthcoming album, The Women. Her next move will be to New York- she’s playing several shows there this month and will migrate later this year.
You perform as both Jess McAvoy and JESMAQ & the THUMP- can you tell me a little about these?
I am currently working on a number of projects simultaneously. I have been performing as Jess McAvoy since I was sixteen so that will never stop- I have twelve records under that name and I am working on a new one at the moment. That will always be my more introspective, pop folk material.
JESMAQ & the THUMP is my rock goddess persona- I’ve been working on her for years- and now I finally have the means and the support to put her out there live. I’m working out the kinks in Toronto so I can transplant JESMAQ & the THUMP to New York City when I move there later in the year. I mostly play guitar, but I sing. I sing, I sing.
Which song would you most like Autostraddle readers to hear?
The music video for “The Sailor”, from the album As The Sun Falls.
Ed. note: Here’s a quality vid of Jess performing “The Sailor” live on stage with Gotye. NBD.
What drove your decision to leave Australia? Was it an easy one to make?
It was a really hard decision to make. But it kind of made itself for me. I couldn’t keep bashing my head against the glass ceiling. It had stopped making sense. I had to get out of the situation to ensure I didn’t destroy my muse. I needed to take refuge and Toronto presented itself.
What has been your most interesting performance or music-related experience?
I enjoyed performing in a maximum security prison when I was sixteen. That was pretty interesting.
What were the first and last records you bought?
First record I bought was Madonna’s Erotica. Most recent, Susan Sandfor’s The Silicone Veil.
Do you believe in ‘guilty pleasure’ music and if so, what’s yours?
I don’t think anyone should hide the joy they get from music for any reason- but I guess my delirious obsession with Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” fits in to that category.
What inspires you to write?
The desire to be better at it, and the need to document moments- and sometimes it’s the only way to capture a feeling.
What was the last song you wrote about?
The last song I wrote was about the women who want a piece of me just for the sake of being around. I’m working on a song for a friend’s wedding at the moment.
How do you feel about dubstep?
I like aspects of it- the real heaviness of it is awesome. And like everything there’s good and there’s bad.
Would you ever date someone whose favorite artist/band was your least favorite?
That’s hard. If it truly reflected our personalities and I couldn’t understand WHY they liked the stuff I didn’t, then there’s a problem.
What do you get up to when you’re not making music?
When I’m not making music I’m usually organizing the next professional step. Self managed artists don’t really take the time off.
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Either Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, or Nina Simone, anything with “Feeling Good” on it.
Have you ever had to work a terrible job to pursue your music career?
I have had more jobs than I can count. The worst was door knocking for a phone company.
If you could share a line-up with any two artists?
Rage Against The Machine and Imogen Heap.
What will be the name of your autobiography?
“Bits Between Songs.”
What was the last book you read?
“Women Who Run with the Wolves.”
Who is your idol, musical or otherwise?
Currently I’m a pretty big fan of Amanda Palmer as an icon. Hillary Clinton is a BOSS.
Like what you’ve heard? Pick up an album or two on iTunes. Also, Jess is playing two NYC shows this month– at The Bitter End on 19 March and at Zirzamin on 22 March. The latter is with Emma Dean, one of our first ever interviewees. That’s two super talented Australians in one convenient location, New York. What more could you ask for.
A Kickstarter campaign for Jess’ forthcoming record, The Women, will be launched in coming weeks. If you’re keen to back it then keep an eye on the following web places for updates:
If you are, or know of, a queer artist or band that should be featured in Almost Famous, drop me the details via crystal [at] autostraddle [dot] com. Please write ‘Almost Famous’ in the subject line!
thanks for this!! i really dig her sound and will continue to listen.
oooo i love that video
yes celine dion! thank you for this honesty.
also the sailor video is so beautiful.
this video is super mesmerizing and i have watched it maybe 3-4 times?
I’m loving the live version of Sailor. also woooo Toronto!
This column has now contributed to 50% of the music in my computer. This is phenomenal.
i am very happy to hear that
That video is so great. I’ve watched it at least 5 times since last night. Love her!