Image Courtesy of Jess Ribeiro & the Bone Collectors
To say Jess Ribeiro’s star is on the rise would be an understatement. The Darwin-come-Melbourne based singer-songwriter has, along with her band The Bone Collectors, managed to rack up a win for Best Country Album in the at the 2012 Australian Independent Recording Label (AIR) Awards for her 2012 record My Little River, has recently wrapped up a tour of the States and has just been shortlisted for the prestigious Australian Music Prize.
Ribeiro took ten minutes out of her busy schedule to chat to our very own Gareth Hugh Evans about all that and more, revealing some details on the new material she’s been working on and what it’s like writing on a possessed guitar.
Gareth Hugh Evans: It’s always lovely to chat to a Territory artist because I’m originally from the Territory as well. But you’re not based there at the moment are you?
Jess Ribeiro: Not right now. This time of the year I just keep wanting storms because it’s the wet season up in Darwin. I kind of expect there to be a big thunderstorm every afternoon and I’ve just got this massive longing in me. I don’t know how much longer I can stay down here in Melbourne. I’m supposedly based here at the moment. My main collaborator Rob [Law] is moving back to Darwin and our old drummer’s back in Darwin – they’ve all done their Melbourne bash so we’ll see what happens.
GHE: I guess that’s the hard thing. If you’re a musician Melbourne is the place to go. Somewhere like Darwin, while you’ve got opportunities, they’re a little more limited than they are down south.
JR: I suppose it depends on what kind of opportunities. What you want and how you want to live your life – everyone says that Melbourne’s the music centre of Australia and it’s just abundant, so full of people. Ed [Ammendola] from Augie March once said to me “Melbourne is like a fruit orchard. Melbourne’s where you grow the fruit and you have to export it – if you don’t export the fruit it’ll just go to waste”.
GHE: That’s a nice analogy, I like that.
JR: I like it – it’s good.
GHE: It’s really exciting to be shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize (AMP) as well this year.
JR: It’s really exciting. It’s just … yeah … I don’t know what to say! It’s a great honour to be up there with all of these wonderful people and I’m so excited to know who else is shortlisted.
GHE: Did you have to apply for the AMP?
JR: I didn’t apply for it, I don’t know how it happened. I know that with the AIR awards a manager or a publisher or an independent label has to submit for that but I’m not sure how the Australian Music Prize works. I tell you what happened – I came back from America and I was not in very good spirits, I was really downhearted about how the music was going. Then I got this email and I thought it was junk email because it was from Coopers and I was like “What is this? Some bloody beer campaign”. I nearly deleted it! I don’t know why I didn’t. I was so cranky and then I read it and I was like “Holy shit, a nomination!”. That was a massive surprise – it was just the best surprise ever, it was great.
GHE: That can only increase your exposure. I’m sure you’ve seen a few more likes on your Facebook page and that sort of thing.
JR: There’s been a few, yeah. So hopefully that happens. We’ve been doing this for a few years and we’ll keep doing it. I’m really excited about the next recording which I want to get onto as soon as possible.
GHE: That next recording is going to be a follow up to My Little River. Were you writing the new stuff you want to record while you were in the US?
JR: I suppose that Rob and I went for a really big drive … it’s so … it’s so typical of us. We spent so much time driving around Australia and driving through Central Australia and the Northern Territory. And then we go to the States and we go driving again through all these other kind of uninhabited landscapes. So I wrote a lot when I was there and it’s only now that some of the stuff that I’ve written has turned into potential songs. It’s just been a really nice time over the past few months just sitting down and writing new songs.
GHE: Do you write them with Rob? Or do you write separately and then bring a song to him?
JR: In the past what we’ve done is I’ve written half of a song, I’ve written the words and I’ll have a little melody, and then I’ve taken it to Rob and he’ll just do his beautiful guitar thing and then we will take it to a band. Maybe. Sometimes. But this time I have a feeling that it’s going to be a different process. That’s pretty exciting because I’m entering new land, something that I haven’t done before.
GHE: Do you think that writing in America will lead to a lot of American themes in the new music?
JR: Not necessarily. The whole time we were in America, for ten days, we listened to that PJ Harvey album Let England Shake. I know that it’s a few years old but we’re pretty slow to catch on to some of these things. I’ve got this feeling about something I want to do and we’ll just see if that happens. I’d like to make a really cool Australiana album – I don’t know what that means, I do in my mind. I don’t think the [American] sound has influenced us at all. We did buy new guitars when we were over in America. I got this old 1950s guitar that was made in Chicago and it smelt, and it still smells. When we were over there I hurt my back and my friend gave me some medicinal marijuana. We smoked it and then I seriously thought my guitar was possessed and had the ghost of some old seedy guy in it. That’s how stoned I got – it was really full on. And I did play differently! We were invoking the spirit of some old dirty blues guy. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.
GHE: That’s an awesome story to go out on! That’s so much for taking the time to chat to me, I really appreciate it.
JR: You’re welcome!
Jess Ribeiro & the Bone Collectors will be performing at Federation Square in Melbourne tomorrow night, Friday 1st February, as part of the AMP Alive concert. The AMP winner will be announced in March. My Little River is available from iTunes here.