Her voice is haunting, otherworldly. Jess Kerber entrances her listeners like a siren song on the edge of the ocean breeze, with her magical vocals and ethereal writing. In a world so big, she has made quite the name for herself. Jess Kerber won the Lollapalozza Scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Having just graduated from Hammond High School, she is an immensely talented individual, inspired by bluegrass and folk music. Her style is mature, poised, and carefully crafted. Kerber’s future will be worth following.
In this interview, we’ll get to hear from Jess and find out more about the Siren herself.
You released your debut album "Falling Forward" in July, which must be incredibly exciting. Let's talk about your process of writing and how you developed your unique voice.
I became serious about writing when I turned 13 because I realized that when I sat down to write, all other problems or issues in my life disappeared. I know a lot of people have set methods when they write songs, whether that be writing the lyrics or the music first, but for me, each time I write, the process is different. "If I Ever", which is the last song on my album, I was reading quotes from Neil Young one night and lyrics just started flashing in my head, and I got to my guitar and started writing music for the phrases I was hearing.
My biggest vocal influence of all time is Joni Mitchell, and I think my writing style has been inspired by hers a lot as well - kind of in an ethereal manner, like you said. So I've grabbed lots of sounds from her and other vocalists such as, Norah Jones and Susan Tedeschi.
What was creating an album like?
Creating my album was super riveting and pushed me to be completely in the moment while I was recording. I recorded all seven tracks in three and a half hours, which kind of came to me as a shock at the end of the day, saying most albums take three and a half months at least! But "Falling Forward" is an entirely solo album, so I only had to worry about myself, which means I could just get in there, do my thing, and then go on.
Talent emanates from you, and the Berklee College of Music obviously thinks so as well. What are you hoping to accomplish while in Boston?
The learning process never, ever stops, so when in Boston, I am planning on experimenting with new musical ideas to enhance my songwriting and growing my musicianship as a whole. While at Berklee's Five Week summer program last summer, I was able to meet and connect with so many different people from a multitude of cultures, that are just as passionate about music as I am, which supplied such a rich community. And as much as I enjoy solitude, I truly love being in good company.
Are you interested in forming a band, or would you prefer to stay a solo artist?
I've only ever performed as a solo artist which has allowed me complete freedom over my music; something I've gotten a little used to now. I think if I ever found myself surrounded by musicians with a similar vibe that would give us room to flourish together; I would totally be up for a full band setting.
What advice do you have for your fellow, young musicians that are just starting out?
Focus on what YOU are doing. And practice...way more than you think you should or already are. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to get caught up in somebody else's wave, which distracts away from your own light you impart.
What artists are you currently listening to?
Recently, I have been listening to Sara Jarosz, who is a phenomenal instrumentalist, vocalist and songwriter in the folk/bluegrass realm, which is always my home plate. I've also been training my ear by sitting down and really focusing on simple and straightforward pieces to dissect the beauty in a few words or four chords in a song, so listening to artists like Sufjan Stevens or maybe even Kacey Musgraves, provides such a soul-calming manner. The tunes just sound good. And also, a band I am completely mind-blown over is the Marcus King Band, which mixes southern rock with blues and pure magic.
What do you hope the future holds?
Hopefully in the future, I will be able to be a successful singer/songwriter and continue to do what makes me the most whole. There are so many years left to live and so much more work to be done, so for now I'm just going to keep moving and pushing and enjoying all that comes my way and we'll just have to see!
And finally, Nutella or Peanut Butter?
Honestly, I will have to say peanut butter over Nutella. Don't get me wrong, Nutella is fascinating in itself, but peanut butter can be so versatile at any time. You can add chocolate to peanut butter for a treat or jelly to peanut butter for lunch; you really could never go wrong.
You can find Jess Kerber on Spotify, iTunes, and several other streaming sites. I personally recommend the songs “Ten Years” and “Anyway”.
Until she leaves for Berklee you can find her live every Wednesday night at Brady’s. She will also be playing at the Ghost Light Theatre, located at the Columbia Theatre, on Hot August Night, August 24th.
Dara Calmes, a junior Art History major at Southeastern Louisiana University, holds many roles at KSLU 90.9 FM, including content contributor, Social Media Coordinator, and Student Music Director.