Newly announced as an ambassador for clothing brand Evans, country singer Jessica Clemmons of Jess And The Bandits is currently performing in the UK as she and the band gear up for an October headline tour.
However, eager to talk about her new role and the band's new single "Nitty Gritty," she called up our staff writer Rebecca for an exclusive chat.
PW: You’ve had an incredible year so far what with your debut album Here We Go Again reaching number 6 in the country charts, but do you have any favourite memories?
So much seems to have happened, it really is hard to pick a highlight. Playing both days of Country2Country in London was a big deal for us, and we were so well received by everyone who attended. We played the Brooklyn Bowl and we didn’t know it at the time, but we filled the place to capacity and there were people queuing to get in. The response we got from the crowd just blew us away. It was a lot of fun and we got to share the bill with some amazing artists.
PW: You recently teamed up with Evans to be the face of their #STYLEHASNOSIZE campaign. What made you so keen to get involved?
I’m a big fan of things being for everyone, of them being all-inclusive, especially when it comes to things like size and appreciation of the different types of women there are, so when I heard about the campaign, I just knew I had to be a part of it. There’s a strange thing going on right now where it’s like if you don’t have curves, then you’re not a real woman. I love that Evans, although they’re a plus-sized brand, they have this all-inclusive campaign that says ‘style has no size,' meaning that it doesn’t matter whether you’re big or you’re small – everyone can be stylish. I knew immediately that the campaign was something I wanted to be a part of and, fortunately, they were happy to have me a part of it. They’ve even used part of our new single “Nitty Gritty” for the campaign, which was a collaborative idea. We let them listen to the album and offered a number of ideas which we thought were suitable, but the minute they heard “Nitty Gritty," they were like ‘this has to be part of the campaign!’ So we’ve been working really closely together for about the past month, and we just shot a music video for the song, which included all the people from Evans who came down and a bunch of competition winners; women who had entered to be a part of the video. I think it’s going to be amazing.
PW: Where did the idea for the #StyleMantra competition come from?
It was actually Evans who came up with that. We were talking about different mantras and they wondered what mine was, and I told them: ‘we’re all incredible, be you and focus on that.’ I loved the idea of having people who could include their manta and make it a part of the competition. I think it helped to bring a bit of awareness to the fact that, just because you’re a certain size, it doesn’t mean it has to affect your style and the way that you dress.
PW: What overall message do you think "Nitty Gritty," and the video when it’s released, has that you want people to understand?
Confidence. That’s what we want to come across and, you know, when I wrote this song, it was kind of like at the height of “All About That Bass” being crazy popular and even now it’s just one of those songs that you can’t help but like even if you hate it. Basically, the song was saying if you don’t have curves, then too bad for you, and that really made me want to write a song that included everybody, and that’s what we did. We wrote the song and it really does come across as one of those songs for everybody, especially women. Women can be terrible; we tear each other down and rip each other apart and we are judgmental. I think this song brings them together and I think that’s really going to come across in the video.
PW: In terms of your own body confidence, were you conscious of yourself and how you looked growing up and is that something you’ve become more comfortable with over the years?
Oh absolutely! I mean, I still have my moments, we all do, and I don’t think anyone will ever be immune to that, but as a teenager growing up I was really self conscious. I wasn’t comfortable in who I was. I wore clothes to hide everything. I think now, the older I’m getting, I’ve come to realise that, you know what? It really doesn’t matter because I’m going to look fabulous either way.
PW: Would you agree that society as a whole needs to change its attitude towards individuals who are of a bigger size?
Without a doubt, but I also think there’s been a backlash on both sides. Yes women who are of a bigger size are judged a lot, but so are those women who are slim. The plus-sized issue has always been there, certainly in my lifetime, and a lot of people have commented on how, more often than not, the clothes for bigger women are terrible – that’s why I’m so happy to be working with Evans, who do such an amazing job of designing clothes that can look amazing on a curvier figure. I think women especially, but also people in general, need to stop focusing on such a silly thing as what size a person is. It shouldn’t matter. At the same time, plus-sized women need to start finding confidence in who they are, because at the end of the day, if you’re confident, that’s all that matters. People will react to that confidence in a positive way.
PW: If you wanted women to realize one thing about themselves, what would it be?
I want them to realise that they are beautiful, they look amazing and they don’t have to hide who they are, or, on the other side of things, they don’t need to show everything off just because they want to get attention. You can look amazing and stylish and find things that are perfect for your body.
PW: You also grace the summer cover of BGP magazine and are set to reveal the official anthem for the British Plus Size Awards, “Beautiful,” shortly. Without saying too much, what can you tell me about it?
This song, in the same way that “Nitty Gritty” talks to all women, especially talks to those women who have suffered with low confidence, body confidence or even those who have been abused and suffered in that way. The song says that you need to realise that you are beautiful and once you come to terms with that and yourself, then it could change your entire outlook on life. I’m really proud of the song.
PW: You’ve recently been playing a couple of shows in the UK and have more lined up prior to your headline tour in October. How have they been?
They’ve been amazing and so much fun. We had a show in Wigan which was incredible and we’re off to Newcastle now. So far the shows have gone down really well. We were a bit nervous about playing the Cornbury Festival as we were on early, at 11.30 and we were like ‘we might not have much of a crowd’ – but it was packed. It was a great day for us.
PW: Is there any particular show or venue you’re looking forward to performing in when you return in the autumn?
I think we’re really just looking forward to the entire tour.We’re definitely looking forward to the Borderline show in London, but you know, we’ve got gigs in Manchester and Glasgow, so just making our way around the country on our own, in terms of being headliners is a little bit nerve-wracking, but we’re really looking forward to the entire thing.
PW: Have you got any surprises lined up?
Oh yeah, we’ve got some surprises. We’re going to throw in some more fun covers. We’ve got some great support that we’re going to be announcing soon, so we have some things coming up that we’ll announce closer to the tour. We can’t wait – we’re ready.
PW: For fans who haven’t seen you before, what can they expect from a Jess And The Bandits show?
Energy. Lots and lots and lots of energy. I love performing and the guys have so much fun on stage as well. We want people to leave a show of ours talking about it for days and so we definitely going to do our best to leave an amazing impression on everyone that comes. Get ready for a party, that’s all I can say!
PW: Do you at all mind the comparisons you get to the likes of Adele and other power-house female vocalists, or would you like to stand out on the back of your own talents?
I’m very proud of those comparisons. I don’t think I sound a thing like Adele, but she’s a phenomenal talent. She’s an amazing vocalist and great songwriter. Being put into the same category as her is a huge compliment for me.
PW: Finally then, what does the rest of the year have in store for you? Have you started writing for the next album yet?
We’re actually starting that next month, so we’re going to get together in August and September and start writing. Hopefully we’ll be making another trip to Nashville. You know, we’re going to ride this album a bit longer, it’s only been out since April, and we will probably even put a deluxe edition together, as there are songs I really wanted on the album but couldn’t fit on. It’s fun to think we can start planning for our next album; we’re excited about the future for sure.