Texan songwriter Jess Williamson is busy constructing her own world.
New album 'Cosmic Wink' is out now on Mexican Summer, rooted in her acoustic guitar but utilising layers of synthetic sound.
A gorgeous listen, it's driven by a lyrical awareness that delves into her own life while continually seeking out the universal.
A fine record, we touched base with Jess to chat about her literary influences in Their Library...
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What is your favourite book and why?
I can't choose! This first question has made me put off this interview for a week because it's such a tough one, ha! But I can say that East Of Eden by Steinbeck is probably my favourite novel I've ever read.
What other authors do you like?
I have to get real with y'all and say this whole interview is hard for me because I went through this period of a few years where I was super against collecting physical objects. I wanted to have a very minimal amount of personal property, and this included books. I was against buying books. My room mate at this time OWNED a book store and I barely bought any books from her because I didn't want to own objects.
But I have since realized that collecting objects helps us remember who we are. When you have a physical bookshelf you can look at it and it is this wonderful mirror of your taste, your knowledge, the works you've absorbed that make you who you are. This interview is further confirmation that I need to create a personal physical library no matter how much my Sagittarian nature wants to keep a light foot print and be able to pack up and move at a moments notice.
Alright back to the matter at hand - I like Joan Didion, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Vladimir Nabokov, Albert Camus, Milan Kundera, Flannery O'Connor, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Carl Jung, Djuna Barnes, Hermann Hesse, and many more!
What draws you to certain books?
I've been really into non-fiction for the last two years and this includes self help, spirituality, new age weirdness, and what I like to think of as witchy woman 101. Lately I've enjoyed reading about topics like understanding and using the spiritual gifts of the menstrual cycle, Jungian interpretations of the Tarot, Love Addiction, and "the subtle art of not giving a fuck".
Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
The Invention Of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares. This was recommended to me by the previously mentioned book store owning room mate. We read it in the Farewell Books (the store she owned in Austin TX) book club and it is one of the most incredible books I've ever read. It has stuck with my consciousness and it kind of rolls around in my brain like a dream. I highly recommend this book to anyone!
I realise I'm not selling it at all right now, I just don't know what to say about this book without giving too much away. It's beautiful, go read it!
Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
It's weird. Not really, to be honest. Other people's music influences my song writing the most, not books so much.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am on tour and I brought all the wrong books. I thought I could force myself to use these long drives to get a lot of good reading done and of course the opposite is true. I get easily distracted and read nothing. I am attempting to read Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung and it's not happening. I'm not reading it.
I also for some reason brought The Portable Jung which is a comprehensive collection of Jung's writings and another book I am not reading. I need to bring lighter stuff on tour. Something juicy to keep me engaged or I just end up staring out the window or staring at my phone.
Two of my bandmates have read Cosmic Trigger by Robert Anton Wilson on this tour and now I am starting to read it. I'm only on the prologue so far, but maybe this a book I will actually read on tour.
What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
My mom read me the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My earliest memories are her reading me those before bed.
Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
I definitely did not. As a teenager, I was more into downloading free records from Napster and updating my live journal.
Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn’t finish?
Yes. I am one of the many who have tried and failed to finish Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
Would you ever re-read the same book?
I don't think this really counts, but Songwriters On Songwriting is a collection of interviews by Paul Zollo with great songwriters about their songwriting process. I re-read these quite often.
Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
I read a short story in high school called How To Talk To A Hunter by Pam Houston. It's not that well known and probably not considered a great work of literature. But for me when I read it I felt like the narrator in that short story was going to be me one day. Which honestly is kind of sad.
She lives alone in the mountains with her dog and has this ambiguous relationship with a man who doesn't love her enough. But as a high schooler reading that story I was like whoa, this is what it will feel like to be an adult and I'm going to be like this lady. I still love the story.
Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I pretend to read more that one book at a time but usually someone is getting neglected. I think I'm a one book kind of gal.
Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
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'Cosmic Wink' is out now.
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