With a fiddle on fire, powerful vocals, and a fierce band behind her, Jess Novak and her band, a pop, rock, soul-pumped group from Syracuse, New York, bring hardcore passion to every performance.
Known for their energy, superb musicianship, engaging songwriting, and ability to win over any crowd, The Jess Novak Band continues to ascend with their third studio album and Novak's ninth, to date. Their latest EP, "Standing Now" features Jess Novak on violin, piano, guitar, and vocals, Anthony Saturno on electric guitar and vocals, Byron Cage and Gavin George on the drums, Nick Fields on trumpet and vocals, and Jabare Mckinstry serving rhythm on the bass.
Their second single from the EP, “Northern Lights", recorded at Hobin Studios in Central New York, is a slow-burn ballad where the band shakes listeners to the core. Built upon the striking elegance of sharp keys and a groove-infused rhythm, the song has us swaying from side to side as the instrumentation moves us both literally and figuratively. The sweet resonance of the slow tempo cascades in a graceful attempt to take over our thoughts as the lyrics speak of earnest love.
The delicate yet powerful vocals from Jess Novak practically shatter upon the moment when they touch down. Reminding us to follow the light, even when times get tough, we can’t help but swoon over the composition that is, “Northern Lights.” Taking some of our favorite elements from numerous genres, Novak bends the rules as she serenades us, accompanied by the raw talent the band exudes both as a unit and individually.
Each instrument has a moment to shine as they all share in a spotlight as bright as the Northern Lights themselves. Novak has us delving into an emotion-filled journey through the entirety of this record as it explores themes and genres. Welcoming us into their arms like a heartfelt hug, we brace ourselves for the luxurious display of warmth that JNB so effortlessly conveys.
Listeners can expect to see this track put to visuals with the forthcoming music video to be released in 2021. In the meantime, we're just taking in all that Novak has offered us thus far; and we’re not complaining one bit.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, Novak, and congratulations on the release of, “Northern Lights,” off of your six-track EP, ‘Standing Now.’ We must admit that it was extremely easy to fall into the emotional grip of this record. Could you please tell us about the recording session that brought, “Northern Lights,” to life? This was a song that was both painful to write and such an important release. It was inspired by a Beth Hart song, "Tell Her You Belong to Me" and an incredibly moving performance of her playing it solo at an acoustic piano. I knew I had to write something with that heart-wrenching emotion. The recording session to do that was really beautiful. I remember the engineer (Brett) stopping me and saying that Anthony (electric guitar) was really blowing him away because he was feeling the song so much and he could hear us on the same wavelength. Brett said, "Anthony is with you on this song," and I knew the weight of that statement. I love when that happens in music. When you naturally align with the musicians around you, it's really tremendous. That absolutely happened with "Northern Lights". It was powerful. Was there a particular moment or story that inspired the intricate lyrics to this song? I remember writing this at a time when I just felt like I was spinning my wheels, which happens in music. It's easy to spend so much time, energy, and money trying to reach people and getting lost in the social media madness. There are just so many talented people in the world and that battle can be draining. Many of the lyrics were also about me coming to terms with another difficult reality: I perform with my boyfriend, Ben Wayne, and he's really incredible. He writes songs so effortlessly that they all sound like they should be on the radio. It's amazing, but can be daunting to keep up with. He's so charismatic and naturally draws people in with his wit and humor. It's easy for me to feel like I can't live up to that, or fade beside it. But to live in constant comparison is no life at all. The lyrics in this song are me wrestling with the idea that maybe I'm not shining so bright because my constellation is burning up from a lack of love - from myself. Not him. Not the world. It's about me realizing that all these other factors don't matter. Screaming to God to "make me right" is about me fighting with myself. We all get there, wrestling with what we are and doubting our own power. This song sounds like it's begging for a partner, but really, it's a realization that I need to not give up on myself. That's such an important lesson to keep learning.
With multiple members in the band shining their talents at various times; do you happen to have a favorite part in the creation process? Every part of it is beautiful and amazing, but I really love that energy when you bring a song to the group and they start feeling what you're feeling and interpreting it and then make it better. My band is so talented that I know I can always trust them to get right on the same train I'm riding and know just how to make it go even more smoothly. Once everyone starts adding to it and feeling it, my absolute favorite moment is when the other members look around and know we got it. Specifically with "Northern Lights", I'll never forget when one of the drummers, Gavin, said, "That's the one." It was so pure and honest and I take that to heart. When someone believes in a song I wrote, they believe in me and in the band, and I feel that on a profound level.
What can we expect in terms of the visuals that will be released in 2021 for, “Northern Lights?" Making the music video for this was really fun. Obviously, I pictured a lot of star and northern lights imagery. I wanted it to have that ethereal visual to match the music. At the same time, I also wanted elegance, but for it not to be boring. The Khangle dress I wore was really the glue for that. I had picked out a black, sparkly, asymmetrical gown that was stunning and I thought it looked like a night sky. But when I went to pick it up, it wasn't available. I tried on dresses for an hour with Anthony's girlfriend, Eliza, helping me throughout. And finally - the LAST dress I tried on - was it without a doubt. It was so different than what I had imagined, but it was dramatic, unexpected and the beaded details make it look like a white night sky. It was another moment where I knew the universe was working with me.
2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone. What has been keeping you inspired to create music? What advice can you give another artist who's finding it difficult to do so? I hear a lot of people living in disappointment because they're living in the past. They keep wishing for a pile of holiday gigs and recording sessions and that's just not how things are right now. I find my inspiration in the beauty of what IS the current reality. For the first time in my life as a musician - I can stay home. I can cook. I can focus on the business side of things without being pulled in all directions for all gigs and events. I can reach people in new (and maybe better) ways with platforms like Twitch. I can write without pressure. I can teach more (virtually). I can paint again. I can do more podcasts, interviews, virtual gigs, etc. If you look at what you've lost, you'll always be disappointed. But if you look at the opportunity that has stepped into that void - you'll be overwhelmed with the possibilities in a great way. Honestly, I'm grateful for the time to refocus and take advantage of the new landscape, one that I really like as an introvert. Every day I get up and play a show from my home studio to people in Iceland, Texas, and Germany. That's insane. I always enjoy a good, creative challenge and we are living in a beautiful time for that. To people who are struggling - look at what you CAN do and dig in HARD. Don't just dip a toe in, jump in, and go for it. The more genuine and committed you are - the more things will work out. It doesn't mean you'll be famous overnight. But it does mean that you WILL attract your audience and find a happy way to get by, and if you're like me, your entire life will continue to change for the better. Go for it.