Jess Moskaluke’s new album and her first full-length release is called Light Up The Night. The first single, Good Lovin’, has already burned up the charts and the second one, Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, is poised to follow.
Like Justin Bieber, the pretty chanteuse was discovered on YouTube where her sensational country covers created a huge following for her. This led to the 2012 release of her first recording, Catch Me If You Can, an eight-song e.p. of original songs that proved beyond a doubt that she was more than just a cover girl. The accolades began to pour in with a win for Best Female Artist at the 2013 Saskatchewan Country Music Awards; she repeated in 2014 and also added a Best Song trophy for the aforementioned Good Lovin’. This is pretty heady stuff for a small town girl from Langenburg Saskatchewan, population 1,000.
“I never really imagined myself doing this,” she admits during an early morning phone call from her home province. “I’m kind of a realist so I thought that I’d probably end up with some sort of an office job or government job. A career in music was always something that I really wanted to have and I had visions of it happening but it was never something that I fully believed would occur.”
Jess wrote or co-wrote four of the ten tracks on the album, and the remainder were hand-chosen to capture the vibe of the project. The album is surprisingly upbeat even if many of the songs such as Strong As It’s Ever Been and No Show, are about volatile or failing relationships. The singer says that whether the songs were originals or came from outside sources, she connected with all of them in one way or another.
“Everything I put on here was somehow relatable to me,” she says. “I’ve only been writing for about three or four years so it was about finding the best songs that I could, and I’m certainly not too proud to use other people’s material. I connect with all of the songs because some are about things that I’ve experienced around me and some are about personal experiences. The song Used is about a submissive relationship; I’ve had conversations with some of my girlfriends who say ‘I think he loves me but I don’t even care because I don’t think he really wants to date me’. Dating is not the way it used to be. Good Lovin’, on the other hand, is about a great relationship and luckily that’s something that I have right now.”
The subject of liquor finds its way into several tracks including Cheap Wine and Cigarettes, When He’s Drunk, and No Show (‘Sitting at a bar with a bottle of wine’). While there’s no mention of trains or jail in the songs, the drinkin’ and hurtin’ aspects appear to be a bit of a throwback to traditional country music. For Jess, however, traditional does not necessarily mean Hank Williams or Johnny Cash.
“I was born in 1990,” she says, “Anything before that isn’t something that I grew up listening to. For me, country is Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Paul Brandt and Martina McBride. I’m more of a new country person and that’s why most of the songs are upbeat. There were a couple of ballads on the e.p. but I wanted to have a lot of singles for this album. The only true ballad is the title track, Light Up the Night, and it will eventually be a single. It’s an easy listening song that I wrote and I think will be perfect for the summer.”
Jess likes to mix up her live set with a blend of original songs and covers and, in keeping with her new country origins, the covers tend to be latter day such as her stirring version of Hayden Panettiere’s Telescope. With the success of Light Up the Night, however, one wonders if she will be dropping some of the covers in favour of more album tracks.
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“We’re definitely still going to do covers,” she confirms. “I started out by doing covers and for me to stop now would be would be like walking away from my fan base who got to know me through the whole YouTube thing. It would be like saying ‘Oh, 20 million views, that doesn’t mean anything to me, I have my own stuff now’. They found me through covers and that’s how I got my start, but certainly we’ll be incorporating more original music now that we have it.”
The singer recently completed a whirlwind promotional tour for the album that took her across the country. For her Toronto appearance she had a very hot three-piece band that was augmented by Ali Raney from the country/rootsy band The Lovelocks, on fiddle and acoustic guitar. The joint was really jumping and the band and singer sound like they’ve been in sync for years, even though that’s not the case.
“North America is huge and I can’t fly my band all over. My guitar player is from Winnipeg and he’s really the only permanent fixture at my gigs. The rest of the band are local players so I have a band in Toronto, a band in Nashville, a band in Los Angeles and a band for shows around here. You might say that I have a band in every port.”
If having a career in music that’s heating up isn’t enough, Jess has a second iron in the fire in terms of a hot lip gloss line that bears the title of her new album. She says that her foray into this area was also courtesy of YouTube.
“As well as music videos, I had been doing make-up tutorials on YouTube. I came across Natalie Sexton, the owner of the Sexton In the City accessory line, and I completely fell in love with it because it so suited my own style. Natalie had a little bit of a smaller company at the time and since we both wanted to grow our businesses, it made sense to collaborate and make our own products together. We originally wanted to name the ten colours after each track on the album but I realized nobody would probably want to buy a lip gloss called Used. Instead, we chose names that had something to do with myself or my personality.”
One wonders if any of Jess’ personality found its way onto the album track Show You Crazy, a song about a spurned lover. The female in the song is in an absolute rage and she uses her ex’s key, which she secretly copied, to confront him about his infidelity.
“No, that’s not me,” she laughs. “I wrote that with two good friends of mine. We saw a Twitter account called OverlyAttachedGirlfriends, or something like that, a parody account of girlfriends that go a little too far. That was the inspiration for us to write something about someone that couldn’t let go. We wrote it for fun and it ended up being one of my favourites on the album.”
So Jess doesn’t have a pink rifle like the girl in the song?
“No, but my boyfriend’s sister does…I’m looking at it right now…that’s where that line came from.”