15 Jul 2024

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Jess Chambers


Recipient of the APRA Best NZ Country Song Award 2009

“I'm not aiming for perfection, I'm trying to capture the essence of a feeling…I write music very intuitively, almost unconsciously, it's a weird and wonderful thing." Jess Chambers on the mystery of music, Exposure Magazine

Love Jess Chambers

Plaintive, luminous, and complex, Jess Chambers voice rises from a depth of consciousness like a rare flower in today’s crowded music world.

Born to an American mother and Kiwi father, Jess Chambers spent equal time growing up in sunny California and the chilly South Island of New Zealand before settling in Wellington in 2002. In the close-knit and vibrant environment of New Zealand’s creative Capital, the singer/songwriter seamlessly bonded with likeminded musicians and established herself as a solo and collaborative artist.

As a solo artist, Jess Chambers shines lyrically with her heartfelt compositions and exceptional vocal talent. She’s performed nationwide as well as opening shows for international names such as The Fleetfoxes (Seattle), K.T. Tunstall (UK), Sarah Harmer (Can) and hometown favourite Bic Runga (NZ).

In July 2008, the release of her debut solo album 'Jess Chambers and the Firefly Orchestra' garnered her critical acclaim and helped launch an enduring and formidable musical partnership with Justin ‘Firefly’ Clarke who had returned home to New Zealand after almost ten years of living and working in Berlin.

Justin ‘Firefly’ Clarke brought together and conducted the 'Orchestra' featuring more of Wellington’s finest musicians, Samuel Flynn Scott (The Phoenix Foundation), Rio Hunuki Hemopo (Fat Freddy’s Drop, TrinityRoots), Tessa Rain (Fly My Pretties), Andy Hummel (Rosy Tin Teacaddy) and Rob Hinkley (Good Laika).

In the vein of Gillian Welch and Joni Mitchell, the album and live show shimmer with melody and lyrical honesty, the layers of strings and lush guitars delicately counter-balanced by Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori flute) played by Al Fraser.
The sense of community is palpable, especially on Jess Chambers’ captivating composition 'Island' that ends with an all ages sing-along - combining the sweet sound of seven year old Grace Ewens the lilting vibrato of Tessa Rain and the
deep bass tones of Rio Hemopo.

'Jess and the Firefly Orchestra' made their presence felt at WOMAD 2008, the two live shows receiving standing ovations. Another achievement was having her song ‘Island’ chosen by the Green Party as the sound for their 2008 election campaign. Although not overtly political in her song writing, Jess has an acute awareness of our responsibility to the earth and our need to protect and respect our environment.

The roster of other musicians and bands Jess Chambers works with include Rhian Sheehan, Module and The Upbeats, and her voice can be heard on remixes by electronica artists Minuit, Antix and Swedish trancers The Phony Orphants.

Her latest collaboration is with The Woolshed Sessions, a band that grew from a jam in a former shearing shed in Takaka Valley and featuring some of New Zealand’s most respected independent musicians: Age Pryor, Andy Hummel, Justin Firefly Clarke, Peter Hill, Lee Prebble, Brett Skinner and Al Fraser.

Their low-fi recordings captured the ambient resonance of the space the music was created and recorded in – a converted woolshed with bare timber floors, lined with plywood and clad in corrugated iron – and a new musical phenomenon was launched - celebrating original New Zealand songwriting driven by lashings of lap-steel guitar, lush vocal harmony sing-a-longs and banjo punctuations.

The limited edition album and live shows have been critically acclaimed, with Jess Chambers playing an integral part of the success, bringing to the project her most up-lifting, almost pop flavoured songs to date, of which ‘Stringing Me Along’ won
the ‘APRA Best NZ Country Song of 2009’ at the recent Golden Guitar awards in Gore.

Band Members:
Jess Chambers
Peter Hill





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