Jess Swilks is making a name for herself as a singer songwriter here on the Coffs Coast and beyond, performing regularly and having just recorded her first single … Which is pretty impressive, considering music was just a hobby she enjoyed in her spare time outside of her job saving lives as an emergency nurse!
Hey Jess. Tell us about your association with the Coffs Coast.
I was born and bred in Coffs and grew up five minutes’ walk to the beach. It was great to grow up here – amazing mountain ranges, waterfalls, fresh water rivers to the west and the fantastic beaches all along our coastline. I have so many amazing memories and feel really lucky to share it with my family, friends and a great community.
When was the first moment you knew music wasn’t going to be just a hobby?
I have had some amazing opportunities and experiences in the last few months that have really helped to boost my performance confidence. I am really looking forward to doing more live gigs and doing more with my music … besides bathroom covers (if you check out my YouTube channel, that will make sense!) I am really happy with where I am now, because it did only start out as a hobby!
I grew up watching my brother perform, and that sparked my interest in wanting to learn to play guitar. It was my mum who encouraged me to start singing and has been a constant support – a big shout out to her!
Where I am now with music is a combination of the support and encouragement from all the people around me, especially my family and the Seccombes at Offbeat Operations. It still feels really surreal that I am actually out there playing music that people enjoy and want to listen to. Whatever comes out of it, as long as I’m doing it – I’m happy.
We hear you have just recorded your first single. How was that experience for you?
Yes, I have! It was amazing! I recorded with Rohan Hems from Engineroom Records. He is a one of a kind type of guy, and it was amazing to collaborate with such a talented musician. He was not only able to help me create the sound I envisioned when I was writing the song, but also added elements that just completely brought it to life.
I was really nervous about recording, I’m not sure of what exactly … maybe the pressure like, this is it … don’t blow it, or he won’t come back! Ha ha. But no, it was such a humbling experience, I had a load of fun, learnt so much and now I can’t wait to do it again!
What would best describe the style of music you play?
I guess my own style would be an acoustic/alternative vibe – a simple, natural, organic sound. Whatever genre it fits into, it’s from the heart, and I hope people can sense some depth to it. When I’m playing gigs I usually do a mix of covers, both current pop songs and the old school classics; I add my own style by changing them up a bit or stripping them back. I have recently been adding my original songs to my set list, and I’ve had a really positive response – which is cool.
When you’re not playing music, you’re helping save lives as an E.R. nurse here on the Coffs Coast, which must be a very fast paced and stressful job at times. Do you find you use music as a way to relax after a shift?
I do! Music is a way for me to relax in general; I have always used it to wind down or just escape for a while. Hours can go by, and I won’t even notice!
Nursing is another passion for me, and I feel so lucky I can nurse and do music at the same time. I like the fast pace, and I’m working in a role where I have the opportunity to help and care for people; I find that really rewarding. Besides music, I couldn’t really imagine doing anything else. Plus, I work with the best group of people.
You were on TV show The Voice last year; how did you find that experience?
It was crazy! I am really glad I did it. I totally pushed myself out of my comfort zone and made it to the round just before live auditions. The experience all round was so positive; I got some really helpful feedback, met some really lovely people and walked away feeling pretty proud of myself and on a bit of a high.
Many performing artists have suffered with stage fright at times; how have you overcome it?
Literally by just getting up there and doing it! I try to practice/prepare as much as possible. If I have time I will set my equipment up at home before each gig and check it’s working … three times over. Plus, a lot of deep breathing, that kind of thing ha ha. Each time gets a little easier, but I still do get nervous … Although, I have been told that the day you stop getting nervous, is the day you stop caring. I don’t think that day will ever come for me.
Where can we find out more about you/follow your artistic journey?
People can check out my YouTube channel – youtube.com/c/JessSwilks or my Facebook page – Jess Swilks Music.
The Plantation Hotel on the 2nd March, The Seaview Tavern on the 16th March and The Hoey Moey on the 8th March and 14th April. Would love to see you there!