Monday, September 17, 2012

Q & A with recording artist and Bash on Wabash performer, Jess Godwin

Singer-songwriter, Jess Godwin
If you attended the 2012 Bash on Wabash this year, you may have heard Jess Godwin perform. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon that August 26th, but Godwin was a trooper and performed for the small crowd huddled under a tent.

A singer-songwriter, Godwin is making a name for herself and could be pop music’s next big thing. We were impressed with Godwin’s poise and, dare we say, charm while performing under less-than-perfect conditions. She looked like a natural, but you’ll see from some of the answers to our questions below that this was not always the case.

SLC: Are you a Illinois/Chicago native?
JG: I was actually born in Atlanta. I moved around a lot as a kid (5 states and 13 different schools!), so I was constantly the new girl. We finally settled down in Chicago my freshman year of high school. I was able to find a lasting group of friends, and I quickly picked up the “horrible” Midwestern dialect. I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home.

When did you realize you wanted to be a performer?My mom is a performer, so I grew up watching her gig around town and appear in various productions of Godspell (it was the 80s). I’m not sure I always wanted to be a performer per se - I was incredibly shy for most of my life...but I always wanted to sing.

You studied voice at Vanderbilt University and also studied at Columbia College. Some pretty famous folks came out of both places. I imagine the experiences at each were unique. One being in the “Athens of the South” the other in the “Windy City.” Did you like one over the other?
You know, they were at total opposite ends of the spectrum for me...but both culture shocks. To be honest, I wasn’t a college kid. Sororities and frat parties didn’t make sense to me. I was always ready to be out and working. I definitely learned a lot from both institutions, but I won’t be going back for grad school any time soon.

Jess Godwin fans gathered and listened, in spite of
the rain, at the 2012 Bash on Wabash.
Who were some of your musical influences growing up?
Stevie Wonder! Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Fiona Apple, Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, John Legend, 90’s R&B, jazz standards...and Ella Fitzgerald. I wrote a lot of papers about her. Yep! I’m pretty sure my college essay was about Ella and how she sounds like she’s always smiling when she’s singing.

The song “Katy’s Side,” besides having a great pop hook, seems to have an underlying serious message. It deals with jealousy and not being satisfied with one’s physical appearance. What made you tackle this subject?
I have always struggled with the green-eyed monster. I think it’s a pretty universal feeling for most girls. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, but we neglect to see the good qualities in ourselves that other people might see or even be jealous of. I know that I am incredibly hard on myself, but instead of blaming myself all the time, the masochistic side of me likes to blame other people for my own self-loathing. It’s ugly, I know. “Katy’s Side” was a big release for me. When I was finally able to articulate how I saw myself through other people and poke a little fun at the situation (because it IS a silly waste of energy), I was able to cut myself a little slack and forgive myself for some of my imperfections. SOME being the operative. I’m still a work in progress.

You seem very comfortable performing in front of an audience. Was this always the case?
Why thank you! Heck no! I was a wallflower for most of my life. I couldn’t act myself out of a cardboard box. (Is that even something people actually say?) I always loved singing but felt really really, REALLY uncomfortable on stage. A few years ago, I played a lot of smaller piano venues (3-4 hour gigs). Something clicked then - I realized that the only thing an audience wants is to feel like you are talking to them. So I started engaging with individual people during and in between songs. Making eye contact. Trying to get them to want to engage back. Now I absolutely love being up there - when I think less about how I look up there and more about the people I am talking to, I have a lot more fun. I think they do, too!

What are your career aspirations?
I just want to use my music to connect with as many people as possible. And play in front of an audience every night. And make enough money so I can support my kids one day. And not have kids for a really long time. And make good decisions. And be a good person. And change the world.

That’s all.

If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be?
A trophy wife.

Tell us something that we don’t know about you that might surprise us.
I’m a big tennis player!

The video for “Katy’s Side” was filmed at the Blackstone Hotel in the South Loop.

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