I am so excited to introduce to you my brand new project.. It's a monthly playlist featuring only music by the amazing artists i personally know called JESSA & Friends!
As you might know, I LOVE curating and shining a spotlight on my incredibly talented and often under-celebrated musician friends, which i why pre-pandemic i ran two carefully curated music events every month in Toronto. Since live music is on pause right now, i had sooo much fun listening through my pals new music and putting together the perfect playlist for a 'Chill Indie Evening' to share with you. I hope you'll take a listen and follow the playlist on Spotify or on my YouTube channel since i'll updating with new tunes monthly, and for your interest, i included a short write-up on the tunes at the bottom of the post! xo
1. Merival – “Sinner”
Merival is a Toronto-based songwriter, vocalist and guitarist, and has an incredible vocal timbre that sucks you in and makes you think that she’s telling you a secret. The facility in her vocal range makes for some super cool melodies that sometimes remind me of early Joni Mitchell, and the chords in the guitar part and the string arrangement make this song especially beautiful.
2. Lydia Persaud – “Well Wasted”
I first met Lydia in Toronto as part of amazing acapella threesome The O’Pears, then she made a gorgeous solo album this past year that this song came from. On top of having a rich, gorgeous voice and totally authentic-to-self delivery, Lydia plays ukulele and guitar and makes sweet music that makes me wanna move my body.
3. Päter – “They Love You”
Toronto-based indie singer-songwriter Päter came into my scope through our mutual friend and collaborator Delta Will (who appears a little later on this playlist! p.s. Päter rhymes with ‘later’). Päter describes the project as “tongue-in-cheek tunes for silent resentment” and there’s plenty of lyrics that make me giggle. This tune was the best fit from the new album for a Chill Indie Evening but if you’re looking for indie rock, check the rest of the new album, SOLE.
4. Ro – “Fucked Up Over You”
I met Ro when i was on tour Australia in 2015 – we were both booked as performers at Fairbridge Music Festival in Western Australia. I was there playing with my trio under old project name The Jessica Stuart Few, and she was performing as a solo act. One of her sets took place in an old picturesque church with ridiculous acoustics and that’s when I became a fan. Since then, we shared a couple concert bills elsewhere in Australia and became friends, and now both of us have taken on new indie-pop projects! This song is adorable and Ro delivers it soo very well – if you listen to the other Australian song on the playlist you might start hearing the common thread in Australian indie music!
5. Delta Will – “No Skin No Bones”
Delta Will is an awesome Toronto-based indie project that stands out with its suberb production, songwriting and playing, AND Delta Will main man Charles Tilden happens to be one of my close friends too. Fun fact – we once made a video playing guitars and singing in a bathtub together for a YouTube series i was doing called “Bands In Pajamas”. This song has a wicked groove, and some stand-out guitar licks and lyrics and comes from Multitudes I and has been in high rotation ever since.
6. JESSA – “Not For You”
This is the anomaly song on my brand new album Simple Songs and was written in the moment after realizing that he and I could never make it work despite the massive spark and fire we had. I started the JESSA project to write indie-pop songs that people could sing along to on first listen, but when this one came out of me, even though it isn’t so pop, I knew it needed to be on the album. Producer Devon Henderson and I put this song into a special sonic place, and completed the arrangement with strings to bring out all the feelings. This song is very meaningful to me so i simultaneously hope it does and hope it doesn’t make you cry.
7. Bernice – “Glue”
Bernice is another awesome local artist I’ve crossed paths with many times since moving to Toronto – we shared bills back in the day with other projects, and we’ve played music with a lot of the same people. I super admire this band – somehow they are as weird as they wanna be, yet manage to catch the ears of indie-pop listeners and turn them into superfans. But mainly though, Robyn’s really pure voice and out-of-the-box songwriting paired with the wild tones and timbres of the sonic palette are the reasons to listen.
8. Oh Pep! – “The Race”
Oh Pep! is an Australian duo made up of songwriter/lead vocalist/guitarist Livvy and the extremely talented stringster/vocalist Pepi who plays mandolin and violin (and probably some other instrument i’m forgetting..). I was co-touring with another Australian artist who put on early Oh Pep! on as the soundtrack of our trip in 2014, and then months later Oh Pep! and i ended up connecting by chance and have been fast friends ever since. This song is one of my favorites – such amazing interlocking string parts, killer vocal delivery, great grooves and songwriting. Fun fact – I’ve seen these gals all over the world – off the top of my head we’ve hung all over Australia, Canada and the US, most recently running into Liv in Nashville last summer while working on the new album, and we co-wrote a tune called “Give It Back, It’s Mine” that i recorded in December in Australia and look forward to releasing in the near future!
9. Vivienne Wilder – “Forever for Tonight”
Vivienne Wilder’s voice grabs me from the first phrase here – another multi-instrumentalist based in Toronto (bassist, vocalist, guitarist) who I’ve shared the stage with on dozens of occasions in multiple of our bands. On top of the super expressive vocal delivery and charming song, I’m in love with this song’s dreamy vibe especially as reverb-soaked layers start creeping in for the outro.
10. Sintia – “All Alone”
I met Sintia through the music scene (our projects share a drummer!), and this song is part of a new project for her that I love. It reminds me of French pop groups like Stereolab, and Sintia seems to borrow a lot of chords from jazz but keeps the music really indie-pop and moody in the best way possible. Sintia just put out an incredible music video for a newer song called In Cold Blood that I recommend too. Fun fact: Sintia was a guest on my songwriters music series a year ago which has the brief of each artist “world debuting” a song, and we co-wrote something beautiful that hopefully will be recorded and released soon.
11. Becca Stevens – “Feels Like This”
I’ve only met New York-based multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/vocalist Becca Stevens a few times, but for several years her name came up when multiple fans told me that my music reminded me of hers. Becca is a killer vocalist and player with several fretted string instruments under her belt, and this new album of hers definitely has more of a pop feel than her previous – I love the sonic choices in the song’s opening and the chorus makes me gush, big time. Becca has some very impressive accolades that include playing in David Crosby’s band, and being a part of a bunch of Snarky Puppy recordings, so there’s lots to dig into in her catalogue.
12. Alexander Saint – “The Light”
This is a brand new one from Toronto-based songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Alexander Saint and is a call-to-action song – in Alex’s words “This is a song about taking the power back from those who hold it, the constant fight within ourselves and what we perceive as true.” I know Alexander really well from the music scene here, and we’ve actually played in each other’s bands and co-written a bunch of songs that I hope we do something with soon! Alex is one of Toronto’s hidden gems, and this new project is worth digging into including brand new video coming this week.