As soon as she hit 18, Jess Cornelius said goodbye to New Zealand and headed elsewhere. While she goes back regularly to visit family, her musical roots are more grounded in Australia. She notes how she played back home when she was younger but being underage at the time left her out of the bar and club scene. Older now she said, “I’d really like to soon. I think the scene is pretty strong there, so much great music has always come out of New Zealand.”
As for right now, she won’t be playing there, as her tour with Paul Kelly is underway here in the states. Tonight she’s got a day off, but over the next few days, they’ll be in Colorado, Utah and up in Canada. After which they’ll make their way down the west coast to LA where they’ll close out their run at The Roxy. We talked about what she’ll do while in town, her latest video, and her upcoming release Nothing Is Lost, out October 27th.
Kendra: You had Teeth & Tongue but are now moving away from that a bit with this new album. What sparked the change in direction?
Jess Cornelius: Someone gave me a beautiful old nylon string guitar and I started writing a bunch of songs on it. They didn’t seem to need a band or a lot of dense arrangement, so I saw it as an opportunity to do a “properly” solo record. I ended up recording the songs with electric guitar and playing them live like that, but it’s still all solo. I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. It’s really impressive when people can hold a room just on their own.
Kendra: You’ve said you’re a lot more personal on Nothing is Lost. Was there something holding back those personal sentiments during Teeth & Tongue?
Jess: Not really. All my songs have their beginnings in personal events or idea, for better or worse. I do sometimes try to write with some kind of remove, write stories about other people and things that are disconnected to myself, just for a change. And to broaden the subject matter.
I mean no one wants to just whine about themselves all the time, even me. But for this record, I just happened to have a lot to say at that particular time, and I didn’t try to make the songs about anything or anyone else. It’s a blatantly self-focused record. I guess some people will hate that but that’s fine. Maybe the next album will be a concept record about overconsumption or something. You never know.
Kendra: Watching the video for “Jealousy,” it’s a bike ride through a neighborhood at night. Strangely enough, it fit the song perfectly. Overall very haunting. Was that the direction you wanted it to take?
Jess: Yes, I wanted it to be like a scene in a movie where nothing happens. Like something has already happened, and something else might be about to happen, but right now…just riding.
Kendra: You’ll be on the road with Paul Kelly throughout the end of October. The tour ends out in LA at The Roxy. Will you be doing any touristy things when you’re in town or do you usually just stay close to the venue and focus on the performance coming up?
Jess: I was in LA for three weeks before the tour started and I have another three weeks there when it ends because I really love LA and I’m planning to spend a lot of time there. I haven’t done any touristy things though. I don’t even know what classifies. I did go see a film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and saw Johnny Ramone’s headstone. That was great. I’d like to go out to Joshua Tree or Big Sur.
Kendra: What’s up next for you after this run with Paul?
Jess: Back to Australia for some EP launch shows and then back to LA. And I want to start the next album.
Kendra: Say you’re going to take a bike ride down the boardwalk at the beach when you’re in LA soon. What five songs have to be on your beach bike ride mixtape?