Today we’d like to introduce you to Jillian Bessett.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born and raised in Tucson to second generation restaurant owners. Mornings were spent bussing tables before school and begging my uncle for extra powdered sugar on my french toast. I loved singing and choir and the like but the idea of playing music as anything more than a hobby wasn’t ever really on the table. You get a job, work hard, you pay your bills. I heard Leann Rimes was “discovered” singing in the supermarket by a talent agent shopping the next aisle over—I still sing at the grocery store just in case.
The decision to really give it a go professionally happened in October of 2013. There were a few heavy transitions happening in my life at the time. I had two small children and was going through a divorce with their dad, I was retiring from roller derby—a sport that I loved and was a big part of my identity at the time, and I was navigating a new relationship with my now husband and musical partner Paul. That same period was when a local band Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl tragically passed away. I didn’t know them personally but was overcome by their story and the collective grief of the musical community at the time. Their video “If Only I” is so beautiful and heartbreaking. I watched it, crying in our studio with this feeling of overwhelming urgency to make. music. now. No waiting, no more wondering—just figure it out as I went. Where change and uncertainty had seemed so prevalent, music and shows now became a steadying constant in my life.
Since then I’ve put out a couple of albums, made some videos, gotten married and had a new baby. I really appreciate music for being there for me when it was tough and I am looking forward to creating from a place of stability and joy.
Please tell us about your art.
I create a layering of vocal loops recorded live on a Boss RC505 Looping Station. I’ll start with a percussive beatboxing sound and a bass tone then go through a series of harmony buildups and breakdowns. Sometimes I’ll run a keyboard or synthesizer through the looper and that opens up the palette quite a lot.
When I was on maternity leave this past year it became increasingly difficult to coordinate practices with a full band. I had to figure out a way to practice and create with a baby and that’s when I really dug into the 505.
The first time I saw the looper used live was by Holly Pyle (of the band House of Stairs). I was transfixed by this idea of being able to create harmonies on the fly. It was like watching someone play theremin and pull harmonies out of the air like magic—pure vocal alchemy.
Building a full and layered sound from one machine is as challenging as it is empowering. Learning how to adjust levels, and amplify the sound without feedback is an art form all to itself. There’s also a learning curve to building loops precisely and if you build it live there are more variables to keep an eye on. And just the logistics and cabling of electronic equipment means there can be a lot to load in. The payoff however is a rhythmic luscious soundscape that is definitely worth the setup.
Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
We’re living in such an incredibly unique moment. I love social media and the global nervous system of news that is available through it. I love that the right idea at the right time can be amplified instantly and echoed across the twitterers and have a million voices chime in. It’s nuts. I mean it is so humbling, right?
But it can also be overwhelming. There’s hardly time to react or pause before the next news cycle. I know I sometimes find myself stumbling over how to do that healthfully with the new pace of things. This particular musical project for me has been about using a song or a video to stop or slow the cycle even for a couple of minutes, curating and creating a reaction to one specific story and giving it space, time, and proper ceremony.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I play out live in Tucson and Phoenix quite a bit and have summer and fall tours shaping up in California and New Mexico. My very next Phoenix show is at The Trunk Space on January 18 with Shamika Moore.
You can find and support me by following me on social media or buying my albums available on my website at http://jillianbessett.com
- Website: www.jillianbessett.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jillianbessettmusic/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jillianbessettmusic/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jillianbessett
- Other: https://soundcloud.com/jillianbessett
Julius Schlosburg, Sprytime, David Anderson