Interview with Jessica O’Donoghue
Cut from the same cloth as the likes of Sarah Blasko and Alyx Dennison, is the Sydney-based self confessed dramatic pop singer/songwriter and mercurial talent in Jessica O’Donoghue. In search of something new, the reformed opera singer has now released a stunning debut EP entitled Emerge and the first single since the EP in Flow; that is making some serious impact of its own. AMNplify has been lucky enough to gain an insight into the world of Jessica O’Donoghue recently and below is the result – check it out!
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I grew up in a very musical family. My grandparents on both sides were professional musicians and my father, Rory O’Donoghue, was also a professional musician, composer and comedian. I was surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. As a young child, I sang on numerous TV and radio commercials that my Dad had written when it needed children’s vocals. I always loved being in the studio and I got paid quite good money back then for my session work! I have been singing and performing ever since! My Dad raised four kids as a professional muso, so for me I never questioned that I would do the same (not raise four kids, but be a professional muso!)
How would you best describe your sound?
My sound is ‘dramatic pop’. With a background in opera, it’s hard not to let that theatrical side filter through! My vocals are often described as ‘haunting’ and ‘epic’ and because of my classical training, I like to use a vast range in my voice, combining lower earthy melodies with high soaring vocal textures over the top. I then love to juxtapose these vocal sounds with electronic beats and synth textures which gives a pretty eclectic mix, plus I have a heavy Sephardic influence in my sound from my love of Renaissance Medieval music.
Who are your main musical influences?
I would have to say Sarah Blasko, Katie Noonan, Kimbra, Regina Spektor, Björk, Rufus Wainwright, Camille, Sting and Sia are the big influences on my musical sound.
What is the inspiration behind Flow?
Flow was written after I finished recording my debut EP Emerge. The EP for me was a massive processing of a very full on time in my life, so a lot of the songs on that album deal with pretty heavy themes and overall it’s quite dark. Flow was written when I had found some peace within and was gaining some perspective. While I still had a lot of stuff going on at that time, I wanted to write a song that embodied this idea of letting life ‘flow’ over you and not letting it drag you down into really dark places. Writing Flow was really like a big emotional release for me and a really optimistic change.
What are the themes explored on the Emerge EP?
Emerge is my debut solo EP, so there are a lot of things that I had stored up for many years inside of me that came out when I wrote this EP. It was a long time coming, so by the time I found the courage to write my own album I had a lot to say! Themes of loss, hurt and identity are big on the EP. Some songs deal with particularly traumatic things I went through. While my songs are always very personal, I try to make the lyrics a bit abstract so that my audience aren’t bound by my particular experiences and can hopefully relate to the songs’ meaning through their own stories and journeys.
What makes you different to similar sounding artists?
I think my eclectic musical background really sets me apart from other artists. My unique past of opera, musical theatre, jazz, Medieval Sephardic music and cabaret is a fairly unusual story and I like to think you can really hear all those influences in my sound. I often hear people say that they have never heard anything like my music before and they really can’t pin point my vocal sound to any other artist, so that’s nice I guess!
What would you be doing if you weren’t involved in music?
Honestly, I have never considered doing anything other than music in my life. If I wasn’t involved in music I would probably be wandering around like a lost soul!
What has been your most memorable career highlight to date?
I’ve had a few amazing moments in my career to date, like singing in front of tens of thousands of people (and being televised to millions of people around the world) at events like the Ashes Cricket Grand finals and at Sydney’s Carols in the Domain concerts. But moments like performing an operatic piece that has been written especially for me by one of the best composers in the country is also a really special highlight. I hope the next memorable moment will be receiving an ARIA award for best new EP release with Emerge (haha).
What is something you would like to achieve career-wise that you haven’t done yet?
Win an ARIA for best new EP release for Emerge!
If you could play any venue in the world, where would it be and why?
A massive dream of mine is to one day play my music at the Royal Albert Hall because I feel like I would be paying homage to my classical past in that venue as so many wonderful artists from many different genres have graced that stage.
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- Maggie Sapet