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Conversations with Jess Nolan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jess Nolan.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I’ve always been drawn to creative expression from the time I was very young.

My paternal grandmother was a painter and had a deep appreciation for the arts. She and my grandpa lived a few blocks from us growing up in NJ so I spent a lot of time at their house listening to classical music, dressing up & putting on plays, and then took my first piano lessons there when I was 8.

I was your textbook music nerd – sang in the choir, did all the plays/musicals, and helped arrange for the acapella groups I was in. When I got home after school, I’d write songs. I really loved that so much – felt like I was discovering a secret hideaway from the world by putting my thoughts to music.

Fast forward, I attended the songwriting program at the University of Miami and then took a leap of faith by moving to Nashville after graduation. I didn’t really know many folks here but it was cheaper than NYC or LA ha!

I’ve been here for 7 years now and have found myself amongst the most vibrant community of creatives. One thing I’ve always kept close to is how important it is to sow into the people around you. Collaboration is key. I feel we can only thrive as artists individually if we remember the importance of that.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Yes and no!

It can be difficult to exist in a concentrated creative environment like Nashville. Especially in a time when making music is so accessible. Everyone around you is writing & recording, playing shows, getting opportunities, succeeding – and that’s most of what we see on social media – the highlight reel.

That can really wear on your mind and create an inner voice that sees all of that as a threat to what you’ve got. I’m mindful every day about cultivating a different mindset. There’s room for all of us to create and thrive. My success is yours, yours in mine. We rise together.

I’ve also struggled with rejection from the industry for a lot of my time here. My music & brand doesn’t fall within a box and has changed over time so often meetings will end with something like “we just don’t know how to market this” or “there’s nothing like this to help model what we would do”. That used to get me down in a big way, but I’ve learned what I do is unique for Nashville, and that’s beautiful!

I refuse to confine myself to fit some kind of standard just to make money or please someone else. My job is to continue creating honest music for people I love. The success I gain and the legacy I leave behind from that intention are worth more than any amount of followers or money.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I wear many hats, and that’s how I like it! I have the art project that I write, sing, play, and co-produce for which has led to self-releasing a full-length album, an EP & a bunch of singles in the past 7 years. My next record is almost finished and I’ve never been more excited to release a body of work… more on that soon!

I also work with a number of other artists in town. Currently, I play keys and sing in Jenny Lewis’s touring band – I’ve been a part of Katie Pruitt’s touring & recording band since 2016. Other artists, you may have seen or seen me perform with are Joy Oladokun, Lydia Luce & Megan McCormick.

I love writing with people when I’m in town and have collaborated with Kyshona Armstrong, Hadley Kennary, Megan Coleman, Mary Bragg, and more. When I’m not immersed in the music world, I enjoy writing poetry & painting. I also mentor with the non-profit Girls Write Nashville.

The fact that most of the people & organizations I work with are womxn/womxn-led is something I’m incredibly proud of. I will always invest in shifting the focus towards femmes in music. We’ve been silenced and overlooked for too long. I’m an artist who wholeheartedly believes competition and advocating for each other is the way.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love the people! The farmer’s markets we have all over town are so special. I also love that we are close to great hiking & outdoor swimming spots.

Being a tourist destination and a quickly growing city isn’t ideal though. I worry those factors are sucking the character and history out of this place, and ultimately displacing people who have lived here for generations.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Taylor Ann Bogner and Noah Tidmore

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