Jessica Chalker feels like a ‘God antenna’. That’s the phrase used by the 26-year-old singer and songwriter from Summer Hill to explain how a stream of words will randomly appear in her head, leaving her as a conduit to make sense of them all.
If that is indeed the case, then her antennae certainly seem to be tuned to the right frequency, because she’s the young musician has received over 400,000 hits and YouTube kudos for her clip, ‘Said the raindrop to the seed’.
But despite her obvious gift, Chalker didn’t always have so much faith in her musical talent. “I always loved to sing, but I didn’t think I was any good,” she says disarmingly. “I don’t really have a Top 40 voice, so for whatever reason, I just never had the confidence.”
That lack of confidence led to Chalker shelving her musical ambitions in favour of a stint overseas. After living in London for two years and spending a third travelling, she returned to Sydney to “half-heartedly” begin studying psychology.
But the musical urge was a hard one to suppress, and it wasn’t long before Chalker lapsed and enrolled in some music classes.
Performing in a supportive classroom surrounding encouraged Chalker and helped boost her confidence. It was after taking these classes, in early 2008, that she began to post clips to YouTube, where much to her surprise, she developed a large online fan base.
It was the confirmation she needed. Chalker packed up her textbooks, pulled out her guitar and began to pursue a serious musical career.
In the last year Chalker has really come into her own sense of alternative new-folk style. Describing her music as “mellow and very lyrical,” Chalker’s raw and rich voice melts delicately into piano, strings and percussion harmonies.
Sticking firm to the simplicity of her original YouTube clips, Chalker described the recordings on her debut EP as “very honest and quite straight-up.”
“Music can be so much like fashion, so I tried not to be tempted by clever production tricks or gimmicks and just let the songs speak for themselves.
Following the launch of her EP in late May, Chalker will tour the East Coast with stops in all the capital cities, as well as Lismore, Byron Bay, Newcastle and Wollongong.
Remarkably, the thought of performing on stage still proves an uneasy one for the shy singer, who is used to playing to a webcam in her living room. “I used to be completely petrified on stage and it wasn’t an experience that I enjoyed very much at all,” she says.
“I guess no-one likes public speaking and when you’re performing songs, you’re essentially reading your diary to people.”
But with practice Chalker is coming to terms with her fears and even beginning to enjoy the experience. “Now, I quite like it. I like that audience interaction.”
With things going as they are, it seems the audience will very much enjoy their interaction with her too.
Jess Chalker will be touring throughout May and June, and will launch her five-track EP at The Basement in Sydney on May 26.
by Jennifer Lush