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Jess Clemons playing guitar and singing. April 26th, 2023

Meet LEAF Songwriter Competition Finalist Jess Clemons

The annual LEAF Singer-Songwriter Competition, now in its ninth year, will take place at Spring LEAF Retreat, in Black Mountain, N.C., on Saturday, May 13, 2023. Eight singer-songwriters have been selected from across the country to showcase, compete, and network at the competition.

JESS CLEMONS (The Dalles, Oregon)

NewSong: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?

Jess: Folk/Americana with country and jazz influences. Norah Jones meets Brandi Carlile with a little Bonnie Raitt mixed in for good measure.

What is the first album you bought, and why?

Rusted Root — 1998 self-titled album. I was in eighth grade and their first album was hugely popular amongst my older sisters and their friends. It felt more lively and exotic than the James Taylor and John Prine and Tracy Chapman that were often spinning on my family’s record or CD player. Great singalong songs that didn’t always make much sense!

What is one influence on your music that might surprise us?

I am getting back into playing piano — which was my primary instrument from when I was a small child through college. I had the same jazz piano teacher from when I was five through high school — and he instilled groove and feel into my playing more than I realized until recently.

What projects are you currently working on?

This past year, a perfect four-piece band fell into my lap just when I was needing some musical inspiration, and we have just recorded a four-song EP to be released this summer.