“Unstoppable”, “intoxicating” and “magical” are just a few of the words used to describe musical collective the Nova Scotia Super Soul Review, who share the stage with legendary vocalist Bette LaVette tomorrow night at the Halifax Jazz Festival. Recently we spoke with Jessie Brown of the band.
What inspired you to take up music?
I had always had an obsession with my parents record collection when I was very little. I remember thinking that dancing meant running around my coffee table and singing along until I was sick. I also started taking piano lessons by the age of 6. My piano teacher, and her family, were a huge influence. All of the daughters were musical, and the house was always full of music. They owned a blues/jazz bar in Tantallon, and would also house young international musicians, so I was exposed to some very amazing music very early.
Are they the same reasons you do it today?
I don’t think the love ever really goes away. Anyone who spends any time in a vehicle with me knows its virtually impossible for me not to belt along, even when they don’t want me to. I still run around my apartment singing along to everything I can find. I've even acquired a large part of my parents record collection, and I became a voice/piano coach. I want my students to have as much fun as I did learning. I also am addicted to performing, no matter how nervous I may be beforehand.
What are the challenges of the vocation?
I think the obvious cliche is a musician supporting themselves. It’s cliche for a reason. I’m constantly juggling between teaching, session work, finding work as a backup singer, and trying to promote my own project while keeping my bills paid. It’s all work I enjoy so it makes the hours much more manageable. I also have extremely supportive family and friends that make all the work worth it.
What are the rewards?
There’s no better feeling than performing. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really amazing artists, learn from them, and create some really great friendships. It’s amazing to have that sense of community and be able to support each other. I’ve been fortunate enough to keep in close contact with a lot of mentors and I am so grateful to them. Then there is that amazing feeling of connecting with an audience. Feeling the energy exchange can be exhilarating, and hearing about their experience of your show afterwards is always rewarding.
What have been some career highlights?
I think the biggest highlight thus far has been the opportunity I, and my guitarist Adrian Dunn, had in November (2013) traveling to Nashville, TN. to record our sophomore album. Once again, an opportunity we were able to take advantage of because of a strong friendship built with a mentor, and the support of so many amazing friends, family, and fans. It was a lot of work to make sure we could make the dream happen, but was an unbelievable experience I will never forget. I think another highlight was having a well established writer from the 1960’s find me through social media after finding our version of one of her hits. I guess it goes to show how connected we really are these days.
Why are festivals like this one so important for artists?
I think these festivals are an amazing opportunity to present yourself to an open and diverse blend of listeners. The audience for festivals, especially Jazz based festivals, usually are attending many sub genres throughout the week. Being able to open for such a legend also puts you in front of so many people that you may never connect with otherwise.
What can audiences expect at your show?
For this show; a lot of variety. There will be six very different vocalists all coming together to put on a variety of styles within the R&B/Soul genre. We all have our own strengths and I can’t wait to see how that translates on stage.
What are your thoughts on the state of music in Canada today?
I can’t comment on the music scene nationally, but what I do experience from the East Coast and up to Ontario is how many amazing bands are out touring that so many people haven’t heard. With more and more venues closing, it’s harder to reach out. Yet, because it’s a business of perseverance, everyone keeps at it. I think it shows how dedicated some musicians really are to their craft and their fan base.
What's next on your musical agenda?
My band and I are just wrapping up a string of shows from an album release tour, that we were very pleased with. Next will be getting back to writing in the late summer for the next album. We’re also doing a lot of performances over the summer opening for some larger acts we love, and doing some festivals - such as the Harmony Bazaar Festival in July. After summer, more touring. More and more touring!
Nova Scotia Super Soul Review
(with Bette LaVette)
Wednesday, July 9, 8pm
Festival Tent, Halifax Waterfront