TIM HUGHES talks to singer-songwriter Jessica Goyder.
SHE’s travelled the world, earning fans wherever she goes. But for the launch of her debut release, singer-songwriter Jessica Goyder has chosen a venue that is about as homely as it is possible to find.
In an act she describes as a show of thanks for the support she has had over more than a decade in music, the honey-toned pianist is performing in a hall holding just a few dozen people in her Oxfordshire home town.
Saturday’s show at The Shed, in Charlbury, will give music-lovers a chance to hear an artist described by industry insiders as one of the UK’s brightest prospects, in the place where it all began.
“I wanted to pay tribute to the place and community,” she tells me. “Charlbury has a wonderfully musical core, and it’s where things started for me. The only guitar lessons I had were in Charlbury, and many friends there have helped me. I still come back a lot.”
The night will see her releasing her self-titled EP, the culmination of more than a decade of planning.
“I am a ridiculous perfectionist and, in the past, have also been too shy to release what I’ve done. This EP is my debut but it doesn’t feel like it as it follows a decade of songwriting. I have loved putting it together though – as that’s where the magic happens.”
It has been a long journey for Jessica to get to this stage. She has spent the past decade moving between South America, Spain, France and ultimately to East London, where she now lives.
Growing up in India and Ethiopia, where her father Hugh, now a Charlbury Morris dancer, worked for Oxfam, she has also spent time in Australia and the Far East. That love of travel has instilled in her a gentle wisdom, easy-going charm, optimism and sense of excitement; all good qualities for a songwriter, whose blend of jazz, rock and soul has been described as beautiful, ethereal and uplifting.
The lead track on the EP, Find Your River, is particularly telling.
“It was inspired by a moment in Spain when I was going through a particularly uninspired period. I was living in paradise but feeling down and off-track. The song is about coming back to Oxfordshire and finding myself again.”
One inspiring encounter was with the man who became her mentor – legendary French producer Jean Roussel, who has worked with everyone from Bob Marley and Dusty Springfield to Cat Stevens and Deep Purple.
Jessica stayed with the veteran keyboard wizard at his home in Versailles.
“He is incredible,” she recalls. “He told me to come over, so I got a nightbus from Barcelona to Paris and went there to stay. He made me sit down and play all my songs.”
Roussel loved them, could not believe she wasn’t more famous and inspired her to aim high.
Jessica’s natural curiosity has also seen her getting involved in a wealth of creative side-projects, including co-directing an animated music video of one of her tunes, and the cutting-edge world of phone apps. She is working on an app based on her music and on a website that allows people to thank those who have done good turns by pledging favours in return.
“I was so busy with my music I wasn’t getting the chance to thank people,” she says by way of explanation.
Saturday’s Shed gig will see Jessica joined by Shannon Harris, cellist Emma Butterworth and guitarist Kristian Borring.
While it hardly compares to Glastonbury Festival or Sir Richard Branson’s Kensington Roof Gardens, where she has previously graced stages, she couldn’t be more excited.
“I want people to come along and enjoy a night of gorgeous music in a cosy, intimate venue,” she says. “The Shed is where I have played some of my favourite gigs...and now it’s time to go back.”
* Jessica Goyder plays The Shed, Nine Acres lane, Charlbury on Saturday. Doors open at 8pm. Tickets are a fiver. Bring a bottle. For more details go to http://jessgoyder.com