Jess Novak Band - 10 Questions Music Interview
The Jess Novak Band is a passionate pop, rock, soul-pumped group from Syracuse, New York. Jess Novak takes center stage with a fiery fiddle, powerful vocals, guitar, piano, and percussion. Known for their energy, superb musicianship, engaging songwriting and ability to captivate any crowd, the Jess Novak band is on the rise. Keeping a rigorous touring schedule and reaching fans across the country – from Burlington, VT to Key West, FL to San Diego, CA – and with Novak playing more than 250 dates annually, their sound is polished and tight. Jess Novak (violin, guitar, vocals, piano, percussion, looping) works with Byron Cage (Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker, Otis Taylor) on drums; Anthony Saturno (Atkins Riot) on electric guitar, Jabare Mckinstry (Chris Ames Band) on bass and Gavin George (Strange to Look At, BSG) on drums to create a powerhouse sound, often with Nick Fields on trumpet. The result is a band that hits the soul with a great sound and lyrics that resonate with people around the world.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
My brother Jon definitely inspired my love of music. When I was 8 years old, he was 18 and exposing me to artists like Kool and the Gang, Cream and Jaco Pastorius. Though I was playing classical violin at the time, I remember telling my mom I wanted to play like Jimi Hendrix. I knew exactly how I wanted to play music at a young age because of him. That music moved me even as a child.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Playing at Jones Beach with Devon Allman. Jason Isbell played before us and Gregg Allman played after. I got to sit in for a song and just be around all of that. It was completely insane.
What has been the high point of your music path?
I'm in it right now. The band has hit its stride and feels like a family. I'm really enjoying doing virtual shows on Twitch. I get to make music with my boyfriend, Ben Wayne, and we even recorded in Nashville together. Everything keeps growing and improving all the time. Though it's a strange time for music as we're all forced to stay mostly home, it's also one of huge opportunity. I get to reach audiences around the world from my house every day.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
It usually hits me like a punch in the face. It is never forced. Usually I have ideas rolling around for a long time and pages of notes that instantly come together. I find the theme or the thread to tie them all up and know exactly what thoughts to string together. It's really fun. If it's difficult, I know I'm not on the right track. I honestly believe my songwriting usually comes from somewhere else and I'm just the vessel to put the pen to the paper.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
The biggest challenge is finding your audience. There are SO many amazing artists out there right now and SO many ways to listen and connect to them. It's easy to get lost in it all. But I'm a firm believer that if you're good and genuine, there is an audience - probably a big one - for you. All you need to do is find them, but that's difficult when people's attention is constantly being fought over. People say it's impossible to "make it" now aside from a select few, but I believe the opposite. I think there's room for everyone, you just have to find your niche and work really hard to put out quality material to keep them engaged.
And if I could ask the industry to change one thing it would be to take the focus off social media BS and put it back on the music and the actual talent. That's something I love about live streaming. People are getting to sit in a living room with musicians they love. The facade is gone. The big stage and makeup and outfits are gone. It's much more real. I want to see more shifting towards that. It's intimate and raw. That's always what's drawn me to music. I love that.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
What an impossible question! No Doubt is one of my favorite bands of all time. I would love to share the stage with them and feel that energy. Gwen and I could do push-ups together when we sang "Just a Girl" ha! Or, Tedeschi Trucks Band. My band is definitely modeled off of them: female lead, male backups, horns, that big, soulful sound. It would be really tremendous to share the stage with a songwriter I cover all the time.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
They're like a family party. I always cook for the band and then we hang out and jam in the basement. I feel like a kid again. We throw ideas around, laugh a lot and have a good time. My band is so good, that I know I can trust them to learn their parts, come with new ideas and make the songs better as we play them. We're a team, so it's never stressful or forced. It's fun and easy because they're such professionals.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
"Anchor"(which will be on the next record). I was asked to be part of the Acoustic Guitar Project which is a worldwide program where a guitar is passed around songwriters in a city. They each have one week to write a song with it, upload it to the website and then there's a big show at the end of the series where everyone shares their work. I put so much pressure on myself to write the best song of all time, that I squashed all my creativity. I wrote at least three songs that week and drove myself crazy because I hated them all. I just kept trying to be someone else. They were fake. It wasn't until the final night having the guitar that I wrote "Anchor" - which is all about realizing that you will just be a weight to those around you if you're not true to yourself. That song took so much pain and aggravation to write, but now it's one of my favorites because it is SO real.
What's coming up in the future?
I want to get the band back in the studio in January 2021! I love how the band makes all of my songs better than where they started. I can't wait to get the next few down. We're also making some more music videos, which is something I really love because placing visuals with the music has always been a love of mine. I wanted to make music videos for a living when I was a kid.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
My website is the gateway to everything!
Connect on Spotify.
Stream on Facebook