If you’ve not heard of Jessica Ridley until our Tweets announcing the line-up for our very first Throwdown 2012 Festival, don’t worry, because this month she is our Introducing… featured artist.
Just watching Jessica with her blonde hair in the video to her US debut single, Flaming Red, and noticing the huskiness in her voice, you can’t help but think of pop singer, Pink. However this is where the similarities stop. Whereas the aforementioned pop star has a rawer edge to her voice, Jessica’s has a warmth to it, but it’s her sparkling green eyes and friendly smile that makes her less intimidating, oh and the fact she’s also Canadian!
A natural-born performer who started talking early as a toddler, Jessica was singing by the time she was about 18 months old and was soon entertaining at family gatherings so much so, that her parents bought her a t-shirt with the words ‚’Help, I’m talking and I can’t shut up’ emblazoned on it!
By the time she was seven or eight years old Jessica had begun to write songs as well. As she grew up in her hometown, near Calgary, Alberta in Western Canada, Jessica listened to musical influences as such George Straits, Martina McBride, Shania Twain and Reba McEntire whilst her peers’ choices were the pop acts of the day. It’s no wonder then that she dreamt of being a country singer.
However it was at the age of 21 and happily settled as a wife and mother with two young children, that her childhood dreams were about to become a reality when Jessica was spotted singing in church by her manager/producer Don Somerville, who saw her unique talent, and offered her the opportunity to record an album.
As she puts the final preparations for the forthcoming release of her new single, The Highway, UKCM caught up with Jessica Ridley to find out more about her.
UKCM: You were ‘discovered’ at 21, already happily married and with a young family, when you were spotted by Don Somerville, who offered you that golden opportunity. What was your reaction?
I had always wanted to be a wife and mom AND a singer/songwriter. When I was living ‘the dream’ raising two babies, I never imagined that the other dream was still a potential!
So it was incredibly exciting and also a very tough decision — do I stay here in this place, where I’m happy and content or is there even more out there for me?
With much support from her husband and family, and under the mentoring of Somerville she was to visit Nashville for the first time soon after and then regularly over the next few years to participate in workshops with Music Row’s finest to hone both her vocal talent and her song writing skills.
UKCM: What was it like to go to Nashville for the first time?
It was literally a dream come true! Landing here for the first time, I knew that I would one day call this place home
UKCM: Your time and effort travelling to and from Nashville over the years were obviously well spent as you not only co-wrote four of the tracks on your album, but you’ve also gained international status with releases in the Asian market last year as a song writer. How did this come about?
I love writing period! I write for myself and for anyone else who wants me to. Two of my favourite co-writers are my manager Don Somerville and a friend/one of my producers Michael Lee. Michael has tons of connections in the Asian market so we were always writing to hopefully have songs cut across the Pacific. It was a Korean artist that cut a song of ours called Eternity To You.
I think I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a songwriter over the past couple of years. My manager calls it ‘writing up’. When you write with people who are better than you, you can’t help but get better yourself. I love co-writing, and I always want to write with people better than me because you learn so much!
Having started the process of writing and recording her debut album in 2007 whilst pregnant with her third child, the journey to its final release hasn’t been without professional hiccups along the way as well as another further arrival of an unexpected but still much loved bundle of joy (yes Jessica is a mother of four!).
In between babies, recording her first album, performing and writing (phew!!), Jessica finally released her first single Hit and Run in Canada in 2009. Not long afterwards, the single was picked up by ECMA radio stations, which ultimately lead to its international release in 2010.
This was followed up by Bluer Than Bluegrass, which was released internationally in 2010 to much success, especially in Europe.
Taking it all in her stride, Jessica continued to play shows across the US and Canada. Finally in Autumn 2010, she released her debut US single Flaming Red, the video of which provided her with the ideal platform for her natural performance. The single was released to the rest of the world six months later.
Jessica’s 13-track debut album, Fit To Be Tied, finally made its released in 2011. Whilst nine of the tracks were written by established top writers including James Dean Hunter (Kenny Chesney), Jeff Silvey (George Strait) and Bill Champlin (ex-frontman of the 70s’ rock band Chicago), Ridley co-wrote four of the tracks, including the title track itself, which was released internationally as a single and once again did very well in Europe.
UKCM: You seem to have taken it all in your stride as, it’s been quoted as—‘She’s wonder woman dressed up – some days as a country singing sensation – others as a wife and mother of four. Jessica Ridley does it all – with style and grace unparalleled’. — How do you achieve that enviable balance of being a mum and having such a full-on demanding career?
Gosh, it’s not easy But I’m doing what I love.
I have an incredible husband – if I’m Wonder Woman, he’s Superman!
We work really well together as a team and try to keep ourselves grounded with lots of family time. I think the only reason I’m able to do this is because I’m doing what I’m meant to do.
Along the way came opportunities to appear at a global talent showcase in Nashville in early 2011 which ultimately lead to her opening for Luke Bryan in Michigan that following August.
To date, that was the most exciting experience I’d had in my musical career. It was the most people I’d played for (2,500), the tour bus was incredible, my band was phenomenal and Luke himself was so wonderful. The fair treated us like gold and my family actually travelled to see the show so it really couldn’t have been a better experience!
As much as Ridley enjoys being in the studio, it’s really the live performances that fires up her. Having opened up to a 2,500 capacity audience for Bryan, she then went on to play in front of 17,000, when she got the opportunity of opening the 2nd night of the iHeartRadio Festival as a result of winning an ABC reality show called, The Big Time.
UKCM: What was it like to play in front of 17,000 people?
THERE ARE NO WORDS! I always say that there’s only one down side to getting that opportunity; now I ONLY want to play for crowds that large!!! It was like coming home—into a giant living room full of 17,000 of my new best friends I loved every second of it.
Spending increasingly more time on the road as she showcased her band, promoting her CD across the North American continent, meant increasingly more time away from her young family, so therefore earlier on this year, Jessica, with the support of her husband, finally relocated to Nashville to be at the heart of country music, not only creatively but spiritually. A big move for somebody who had grown-up and ultimately ended up living in the same house with her own family since the age of three!
UKCM: You finally decided to relocate to Nashville with your family. How are you settling into your new home?
This has been an awesome experience! We LOVE our new home and the kids are making all new friends. We just feel so much like we’re where we’re meant to be. We certainly miss our family like crazy but we have no intention of ever leaving Tennessee.
UKCM: You’re one of our Throwdown artists, Chris (Bloy, UKCM’s founder) said you were so up for it when he approached you. Although it’s still a live performance, are you looking forward to it? How do you think it will go?
I am excited to play for anyone who will listen to my music and what I have to offer.
I am totally looking forward to it and to “meeting” the other artists. I hope it goes off without and hitch and that we can do it every year!!
This will also be my first European live performance too!
With the release of a Christmas single, The Spirit of Christmas which also featured fellow labelmate, Chris Cline, during the 2010/11 Christmas seasons, and further showcase of her talents at the Aristo Global Show during CMA Fest week in June this year (which also included our last month’s Introducing… featured artist, Raintown), Jessica is not only starting to make a name for herself but also overseas as far a field as Europe.
UKCM: Even though you’ve started to make a name for yourself across North America, you’re also achieving success overseas, were you surprised by this, as for some country artists never achieve that international status.
I was definitely surprised! I owe a lot of that to Cameron Tilbury (UK based music promoter) for getting my music out there to international radio and I want to thank you for supporting me as well!
UKCM: Your journey to where you are now has been delayed by the odd detour or two, some people in your situation with a young family etc., would have been deterred by this and given up, but you’ve remained determined, yet grounded through it all. What was it that gave you the strength to do it? Was it your family’s support, your faith or just thinking life is too short and you sometimes you just need to go with the flow?
YES! You pretty much summed it up there in your last sentence. My faith above all keeps me going – I had a pretty incredible experience early on when I was tempted to quit and I really felt that God told me not to give up, and my family is so behind me that I couldn’t bear to let them down now And lastly, that really always has been my mentality – you can’t win it all if you don’t risk it all!
UKCM are delighted that Jessica Ridley will be performing as part of our very first (of what we hope will be of many to come!) Throwdown Festival on Saturday 24th November (time to be confirmed).
Look out for UKCM’s review of Fit To Be Tied coming soon.
Jessica’s current album Fit To Be Tied is available on iTunesUK.
Her Christmas single The Spirit of Christmas is available on iTunesUK