Jess Moskaluke is a name you need to get familiar with – this Canadian singer has everything it takes to become a superstar, and is already making waves with new album ‘The Demos’. Jess was kind enough to join me for a Zoom interview where we spoke about why moving to Nashville wasn’t an option for her, getting advice from none other than Shania Twain, releasing an album during covid, and a chance meeting that led to her hit duet with Travis Collins – enjoy!
Ciara’sCountry (CC): I am so excited to be joined today by Canadian artist Jess Moskaluke! Jess, thank you so much for joining me – your songs have been such a staple of my playlist this year, so it is an absolute honour to be speaking with you today.
Jess Moskaluke (JM): Oh my gosh, the pleasure is all mine! I’m so happy that you’ve been adding the songs to your playlists – thank you so much!
CC: Where exactly in the world are you right now?
JM: I’m in Rocanville, Saskatchewan in Canada, so a small town in North East Saskatchewan, just above the American border.
CC: I’m so glad you said that, I can never figure out how to pronounce Saskatchewan!
JM: Most people can’t, it took me like 31 years!
CC: Good to know I’m not the only one! I know home is something that’s really important to you – your song Mapdot has been hailed as an ode to small town pride. Can you speak a bit more about why home is so important to you?
JM: I think that everybody’s home is important to them in some way, but for me, it’s always been solidified by the fact that people have been pressuring me, encouraging me and challenging me to move away from this place, and I have a really hard time doing that. As I’m on the road so frequently, anytime I’m not on the road, I want to be by my family and my friends, so the thought of traveling even more on my off days to do that just didn’t make sense.
The pandemic has really proved you don’t need to – I mean, in this interview, we’re speaking from across the world to each other right now, so it’s clear that you can work from home, do things remotely, and be in a place that you love and that ultimately makes you happy. I get so much more inspiration from living life in a true real way than immersing myself in Nashville, Toronto, Vancouver, or wherever the city might be, so I’m really happy here.
CC: Can you give some more specific examples of how your home has inspired you?
JM: I should mention that my town is tiny – you probably know that by listening to Mapdot, and when I say tiny, I mean, I think there’s about 800 people in Rocanville where my husband and I live, so actually tiny!
I definitely think that there is such a thing as being famous in a small town – everybody is famous in a small town, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. I think that really prepared me for the music industry – it encouraged me to constantly put my best foot forward, to treat people with kindness and respect, no matter how they treat you. That’s been really crucial to me and really prepared me for this business as well.
CC: Was there a lot of support from people in your town when you started out?
JM: Yeah, absolutely. I grew up in a different town to the one I currently live in, but it’s in the same area and people in both my hometown and the town that I live in now have been nothing but incredibly supportive. You know, always cheering me on from the sidelines.
CC: How lovely! As well as Mapdot, another of your songs which I completely fell in love with was Halfway Home – I think it really blends pop and country so well, which is right up my street. If it’s not too ambiguous a question, how did you find that kind of sound?
JM: I feel like finding that sound has been my aim for my whole career. Shania Twain has always been my number one girl – she’s my favorite artist of all time, and I always loved that she didn’t just stick to one genre, she did what made her happy. She challenged those genre borders and was constantly reinventing her own sound.
I always wanted to do country, and I’ve always had some pop influences, but I didn’t realize just how much pop influenced my sound. I think that’s always just been what I’ve naturally wanted and tried to do, and also been sonically attracted to myself, so I think that’s just naturally what comes out of me!
CC: I, for one, love it! You mentioned Shania there – would she be a dream duet for you?
JM: Sure. I mean, why not? Actually a couple of years back, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Shania at the Canadian Country Music Association Awards. Myself and two of my really good friends who are also female country artists here in Canada had an opportunity when Shania was hosting the awards to pay homage to her, and she joined us on stage.
JM: I know, I’m dying now and I was there! She came the day before and we did a bunch of rehearsals, and she was really complimentary. The thing that I remember the most was she was encouraging each of us to play to our strengths. We were singing her songs in front of her with her coaching us – you’d think that someone like that would just want us to stick to what she did because she did it so flawlessly, but she really encouraged each of us to own our individual talents and make her song our own.
CC: Oh my gosh, I love that. Getting the inside scoop into what it’s like to meet Shania Twain, who doesn’t want to do that?
JM: I know, they say you should never meet your idols, but if your idol is Shania, you should definitely do it.
CC: Okay, adding that to my bucket list! Of course, I can’t mention your music without talking about your latest single Leave Each Other Alone with Travis Collins. Before covid, I lived in Australia and attended C2C Australia, so I was so thrilled to read that your partnership with Travis actually started there.
JM: That’s so crazy. Oh my gosh, I love that full circle moment! Travis and I met in Australia during festival season there – it was my first trip to Australia ever, and we got connected via email prior to my trip there. I wasn’t able to bring my own band to Australia so I needed to find a readymade band in Australia that could do the pop country sound that we were talking about earlier and would be happy to learn my songs.
A friend of mine from Nashville, who originally grew up in Australia, said ‘My friend Travis has a really killer band that would just crush your songs and probably would love to play with you’. That was Travis Collins’s band, so I was playing with his band the whole time that we were in Australia, and then later we got to mishmash our voices together on a song too! He and I just got on really quickly.
CC: Honestly, that sounds like fate – everything worked out so perfectly and you ended up with this brilliant song, which we’re playing all over the radio now.
JM: You know, it’s funny that you mentioned fate, because I had written that song maybe a year, if not longer, prior to meeting Travis. I was writing the song with some songwriters, and we knew that it could be a duet, but we wanted to be really cognisant of the fact that it might not be a duet. We wanted to write it lyrically so that it could be sang from the perspective of one person or two without having to change lyrics or anything around too much.
Usually, when I write a song, if I’m writing a duet, I typically have a specific person in mind, and I’ll write it in their key, I’ll write it towards a topic that I think they would sing about, and I didn’t get to do any of that this time. I just kind of thought, well, maybe this will be a duet, maybe it’ll never see the light of day.
I met Travis and thought, gosh, I love this voice, and I would love to work with him in some capacity. Then when we were recording my album The Demos, I thought that song needed to be a part of it, and what if Travis would do this song? Obviously he did and so many stars aligned over the last year that I can’t imagine that happening any other way.
CC: Amazing! Of course, you mentioned that your album The Demos was released during this weird time of the covid pandemic – how was the creation, production, everything that normally comes with an album, different from anything you’ve released in the past?
JM: It was very different, but I kind of chose to embrace that. To be totally honest, we weren’t going to do an album – the way the music industry has been going in the last few years, it seems as though releasing singles a few at a time has been the norm and the way that people best digest music, so I wanted to try that and see how it went. Then the pandemic hit, and I thought, my goodness, it’s going to be very challenging to get into the studio frequently.
As such, we decided to release an album and called it The Demos, because they are essentially the demos that I had, the way that I had written them that day and jotted them down when we were in the studio really quickly. Then we added layers to them, prettied things up and polished them a little bit, so we decided to include the ‘before and after’ versions of the songs, so to speak. That album probably wouldn’t have happened, at least not in that way, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, and I love that it kind of gave fans a little bit of a peek behind the curtain into how I write songs.
CC: I’d say maybe one of the few positive things to have come out of the pandemic!
JM: That’s how I’m choosing to look at it too.
CC: I totally agree with you that many artists are moving more towards just releasing single after single, and with The Demos, we’ve been blessed with four singles. If there was to be a fifth single, maybe a personal favorite of yours, what song would you choose to release next?
JM: Usually that’s a really difficult thing, and it’s funny, because when I asked other people this, nobody had the same answer. I think that’s a good problem to have, because it means they like a lot of the songs! Personally, I think that mine would be Nothing I Don’t Love About You. It just feels like it’s such a personal song without being sappy or something like that. It’s kind of a different sound for me that I really enjoyed exploring, so I think it would be something kind of fresh and cool.
CC: I do like that one! Nowadays when I’m scrolling through Spotify, I see the name ‘Jess Moskaluke’ and it’s an immediate ‘add to playlist’, but I think something that also really attracts me to songs is actually the song titles themselves. What in your opinion makes for a good song title?
JM: That’s a really great question. For me, it’s something that could potentially be unexpected. For something like Mapdot, I feel like that grabs people’s attention because not everybody knows what it means. I think they’re like ‘what the heck is this?’ and then it’s the songs job to explain what that title means, or what that song is trying to say. To me, a good song title is something that just grabs the person’s ear, and makes you think ‘what is that about?’ Or maybe it’s something that you think you know, and then the song kind of twists it and makes it something else. Those are two things that I think make a good song title.
CC: Like when a title is not necessarily obvious at first glance, but when you listen to it, you’re like ‘oh, yeah, I get it now’! I imagine music has been keeping you extremely busy with press and obviously releasing the whole album, but what do you like to get up to in your free time?
JM: I am so bad at answering this question! I don’t have a lot of free time, and I’m one of those weird people that fills my free time with more work. The pandemic has given me not a lot of, but a little bit more, free time. In the summer, my husband and I love to go camping, or quadding in ATVs. We live really near a beautiful valley out here, and there’s all kinds of beautiful trails. So I love spending time outside, or reading. I’m very boring! But I really do love my job, and I wouldn’t be spending so much of my free time working if I didn’t.
CC: That definitely doesn’t sound boring to me! In fact, I’m so glad you mentioned spending time outside because I think Canada is just one of the most beautiful places in the world so I would have been disappointed if you said you weren’t enjoying the beautiful outdoors!
CC: As well as Canada, we also mentioned your trip to Australia for C2C Australia – I find festivals like that such amazing places to find up and coming artists, but I also like to talk to artists about who they like too. Are there any underrated or emerging artists out there who you think deserve so much more recognition?
JM: Hmm, that’s a good question. There’s an artist here in Canada named Sacha who’s starting to make waves – her big song over here is called Standards, and I think she’s releasing new music soon. That’s a big one for me. Unfortunately, I haven’t been introduced to many UK artists yet, but that will happen as soon as I get over there, which will happen really soon!
I’ve been introduced to quite a few different Australian artists though – Melanie Dyer is a really great Australian artist that I met in Nashville a while ago, I love Sinead Burgess too. The girls have been killing it lately which is really nice to see.
CC: Speaking of the girls killing it, that’s where you made your first appearance on my show! You were one of my featured female artists, it’s great to hear what female artists you love to. I have one final question for you in today’s interview – what is one question you’ve never been asked in an interview, but would love to be?
JM: Whoa, oh my gosh, I wish I knew that! I might have to think on that and get back to you so you can ask it next time.
CC: I look forward to meeting you in person someday soon so I can ask it! Jess, it’s been such a pleasure speaking with you today, thank you so much!
JM: Me too! Thank you so much Ciara. Thanks for the chat!
I’m sincerely looking forward to catching up with Jess again, and hope you enjoyed my interview with her! You can check out Jess’s new album The Demos wherever you get your music, or tune in to Ciara’s Country 5-8pm every Friday on www.ukcountryradio.com to hear it on air. Stay tuned on Twitter @CiarasCountry and @Think_Country for more interviews coming soon – thanks for reading!