Unknown Essex & its amazing musicians

Essex Band, the Jackson Line shared their answers to the questions from Essex Live — then Keith Porter added more. So, next time you might be strolling through a Chelmsford park, glance around you for that ‘secret underbelly of amazing musicians waiting to be discovered!

What was your reaction when you heard that Essex was getting its own country music festival? What are your thoughts on this? We first heard about it when the idea was being pitched, and we couldn’t really believe that it was going to happen. We got in touch with Georgie, who it turned out had seen us play before, and she was enthusiastic about having us perform. Chelmsford is used to big festivals, and country music is just getting bigger and bigger each year, so I think it’s a perfect match.

How do you feel about performing at a brand new country festival in Essex? We were one of the first acts to be booked, so it was a bit of a shot in the dark for us. You never quite know what the calibre of the other acts is going to be. But what the Dixie Fields guys have done is incredible – a mix of genuine Nashville stars like Lauren Alaina and the best of the UK modern country scene. It’s ridiculously exciting to be involved.

Do you feel differently about performing in your home county than elsewhere? Is the fan reaction different? It’s always a bit special to perform in Essex, as we tend to get much bigger crowds and people know more of our music. I think fans of Country music are actually really supportive of new acts, so I think whoever is playing at Dixie Fields will get a fantastic welcome.

Will you be performing any new material not previously heard? We’ll be performing lots of new songs! We launched our EP late last year, but have been writing a lot since then. The new material is all quite different. We’re inspired by a broad range of Country artists, so our new songs incorporate elements of Blues, Americana and Pop. We don’t feel restricted by having to play a particular sub-genre of Country, so can mix it up a lot with our writing.

What are your thoughts on country becoming more mainstream? It’s definitely happening, and it’s great to see. There’s a lot of debate about what is and what isn’t Country these days, but I think one of the most positive things about the genre is that it’s so accepting of different types of artists. You can find elements of Rap, Rock, Dance and Pop among Country artists, which we think has helped broaden its overall appeal.

What country singers are you a fan of or inspired by? Each of us has a different answer to this question, so it’s quite a wide variety. At the moment, we’re all enjoying Luke Combs, Ashley McBryde, and Brothers Osborne.

What’s your biggest career achievement to date? Releasing our first ever single last year, You Are Mine, was a huge highlight, as it was included on a prominent Apple Music playlist. We had very low expectations and were thinking 1,000 streams would be a good achievement. So far, it’s been streamed almost 60,000 times. We’re very proud of that!

Were you all born in Essex, or did you move here? We were all born here and have all lived here all of our lives. Jamie grew up in Braintree, Jim in Billericay and I grew up in Hornchurch, so we’ve got a good lot of Essex covered!  Me and Jamie actually met in Lincolnshire where we were both working at a Haven Holiday Park, but we instantly connected. When we came back from that summer season we stayed in touch, and after University I moved back to Chelmsford, which is when Jamie and I decided to form our first band together. Our first ever gig was at the Dog and Partridge in Great Leighs. Jim replaced Jamie in the band a few years after that, but the three of us kept being drawn together, and we all bring something different to the group.

What makes the Essex music scene special? Early on in our career it seemed like the Army and Navy was the centre of music in Essex, and when that went it left a big void. For a long time it felt like you had to go into London to play and build a reputation, but I think the music scene in Essex is getting better and better. There are more pubs playing live music now, live music venues are actually opening rather than closing, and it feels like there’s an open mic night within reach every day of the week. When we were mastering our EP we went to Abbey Road, and it turned out the mastering engineer lives two roads away from me in Chelmsford.  For Dixie Fields we’re putting on our full band. Our drummer is Piers Hewitt, who has played all over the world with The Boxer Rebellion. As a band, they’ve done it all. But I actually met Piers in the park when our kids started playing together! It makes me think there’s this secret underbelly of amazing musicians hiding in Chelmsford waiting to be discovered!

What do you like most about Essex? I guess that changes depending on how old you are, but for me I think it’s a great mix of towns, countryside and coast. There’s some beautiful scenery around, yet Essex rarely gets mentioned as a picturesque place to live.