Exciting times for Jess

Lytham country singer Jess Roberts
Lytham country singer Jess Roberts
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Jess Roberts was always going to end up a singer.

Her dad, Michael, used to work at Great Birchwood, the country music venue in Lytham, and a young Jess would spend the majority of her time watching bands and soaking up the sound.

It’s paid off. Jess is now a singer-songwriter and despite picking up a guitar only a couple of years ago and playing in public only a handful of times, the 19-year-old has been nominated for a major award.

Even Jess herself seems a bit bemused by it.

“I think they just heard my music online and they must have liked it,” she said.

By ‘they’ she means the British Country Music Awards, which, after hearing Jess’s songs on the web, nominated her for a Horizon Award. “It’s for best newcomer. It’s quite exciting really,” she added.

Jess, who went to Holy Family school in Warton, then St Bede’s in Lytham, loves country songs – a result of her dad – but says it isn’t always easy playing that type of music.

“When I was growing up, and still now really, most of my mates were into chart stuff. They ask me which musicians and singers I liked and I’d be rattling off all these names and their faces would be totally blank,” she explained.

“I suppose it is quite unusual for a girl my age to love that genre and want to be a country singer but that’s just the way I am. My dad was crazy about music – literally all he does is play music. He even works as a DJ.

“I think he’s very proud that his influence has rubbed off and I’ve turned out to be a singer-songwriter.”

It speaks volumes about Jess’s talent that she is gaining a big reputation at such an early stage of her career

The teenager, who lists Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgrave among her influences and favourite artists, has yet to really get out on the road and test herself in front of a live audience.

“I’ve only just started playing gigs and doing the odd open mic,” she said. “I’ve done it the opposite way around – tried to get management before doing gigs. It just seemed more logical to me.

“The first time I played, at an open mic, I was shaking with nerves. I sang acapella and as soon as I started everyone in the room stopped talking and started listening and that was a real boost – it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Jess learned guitar aged 16 and has only recently begun writing songs. “I’ve got about 10 I’m really happy with,” she added.

What she won’t be doing, though, is deserting country music just in order to try and get more recognition.

“There’s an argument to say it might be easier to go pop to try and get further faster,” she added. “When you say to record people that you play country music it puts some off and that frustrates me.

“It isn’t all about cowboy hats and line dancing, or Dolly Parton or Kenny Rogers. That is a stereotype. Country music is about real things, real honest music, and I don’t want to stop playing that style - I want to stay true to it.”

Check her out on Soundcloud - it’s worth it.