It’s been a heck of a 17-month run for Jess Moskaluke, beginning in April of last year with release of her first album ‘Light Up The Night’, and culminating in her second straight Female Artist of the Year Award at the 2015 Canadian Country Music Awards in September. Now she’s looking to close the year with another notch on her lipstick case in the form of her new EP ‘Kiss Me Quiet’, the title track of which is already making noise on the country charts. The only thing missing to date is having one of the roads in her hometown of Langenburg, Saskatchewan named after her.
“That’s not happening,” she says with a big laugh during a mid-day phone call from her current residence in Rocanville, about 50 kilometers from Langenburg. “You know winning the award feels a lot like the first time around, but it hasn’t really kicked in yet and I don’t know if it ever will. It just feels so surreal.”
Jess calls the first single a “different kind of love song” and although the title suggests a reflective piece and begins with a laid back dobro-guitar combo, the song’s roaring chorus soon kicks it into high gear. In the video we find the singer in contrasting settings; first she’s in party mode and then she’s kicking back surrounded by a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
“I have a hard time sometimes when it comes to love songs because they can be a little bit too slow or overdone,” she says. “What I really like about Kiss Me Quiet is that it’s a love song but it’s not that ‘I can see the stars in your eyes’ kind of thing. It’s about a young love but I feel like everybody, no matter what their age, can relate to it. The setting for the video was just beautiful. The party scenes were shot in Vancouver and the next morning we took a helicopter up into the mountains. I honestly don’t know where it was shot; we were just flying around and spotted a mountain that we thought looked nice, so we landed and did the shoot.”
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Kiss Me Quiet is only one of two songs that were not co-written by Jess, the other being the heat-carrying ‘Lightning Bolt’. Producer Corey Crowder, who was also behind the board for her last album, served as her co-writer on the original tracks. The result is a collection of songs that appear to have a slightly fuller sound than her past work, and her most impressive vocals to date.
“I think the fuller sound actually comes from maturing , knowing who I am, knowing what’s acceptable to radio today and knowing what my fans want to hear,” she begins. “I wrote more of the songs this time around and I know what I wanted them to sound like. Corey seems to be my best writing partner because we both have the same vision and it really helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of.
“As far as my vocals go, now that people are hearing the new tracks I’m receiving a lot of comments about my voice that I hadn’t considered before. I guess it makes sense that my voice is growing because I’m singing every day as opposed to once or twice a week. I’ve been touring my butt off.”
Lyrically, perhaps the strongest numbers on the EP are ‘Take Me Home’, which is a contemporary cheatin’ song, and ‘Good For You’, which is about the manner in which you move on after a fizzled relationship. If Jess sings them with real conviction it’s because they hit close to home.
“Take Me Home is based on personal experience,” she says. “The song is saying ‘I’d love to go home with you, but I know you have a girlfriend so I don’t get to do that.’ It was a little bit therapeutic for me to write and I can only imagine I’m not alone in having felt that situation before. I think that’s probably one of the more country tracks on the album. Good For You is another track that was more healing for me than being intended for a specific audience. Rather than saying things to a person when a relationship ends, sometimes its takes more strength to bite your tongue and move on in a classy way.”
The EP closed with encore versions of the title track and Lightning Bolt that are stripped down to just Jess’ voice surrounded by acoustic instruments. Lightning Bolt is particularly effective in this setting as banjos and unplugged guitars that were difficult to discern in the electric mix, come to the foreground.
“Yeah, when you add a bunch of elements in a full production some of the instruments are almost hidden; they become almost rhythmic as opposed to hearing the actual picking. Sometimes doing a song acoustically countries things up a bit. I love doing pop-country because that’s who I am and where my heart lies, but I grew up listening to some pretty country stuff so I love stripping it down because it takes me back.”
Jess is closing the year in a big way as she’s joining Dean Brody and Paul Brandt on a number of dates on their Road Trip tour. She’s pumped about her first opportunity to play arenas, particularly because she’s performing with two artists that she looks up to, and she expects the shows to be of the high energy variety. When she completes those dates Jess is looking forward to some down time after a hectic year, spending time with her family and polishing her twin CCMA trophies.
“Actually, my mom keeps those awards so we’ll see what she’s going to do with them,” she laughs. “After the break maybe we’ll add some songs to the EP to make a full record or start working on a whole new project. We’ll see what the fans want because that’s what really matters.”
PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN ELSON