The Voice's Jessica Hammond: "I'm In This For The Music, Not The Fame"

I sat down, well, Skyped, with Jessica Hammond to talk about battle rounds, talent shows and how she's feeling about being the favourite for The Voice
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I sat down, well, Skyped, with Jessica Hammond to talk about battle rounds, talent shows and how she's feeling about being the favourite for The Voice

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A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on here entitled “The Voice Is Worse For The Music Scene Than X Factor”. Now, I got a bit of flack for it, principally people telling me to lighten up and crawl out of Ed Sheeran’s arse. I should point out now that, while I think that the way Ed Sheeran got to where he is today is commendable, solid years of writing, recording and gigging wherever he could, I can’t stand his music.

My point is basically this: talent shows take musicians and turn them into celebrities. They become famous principally not for their music but for their personality. People will naturally vote for the one they like the most. As an example, Kitty Brucknell could have come out on The X Factor and sounded exactly like Florence Welch and still lost, because she was torn apart in the tabloids.

I also felt, and still feel, that The Voice is purporting to be something it’s not. It may put the focus on the singer rather than the soap opera, but the end result will still be the same i.e. acts with a short shelf life, and in a day and age where it’s easier than ever to be a DIY musician, then why would you want to potentially set yourself up for a fall?

Little did I know that when writing the article it would make its way to the family of one of the contestants on the show, the very first contestant on the show no less, Miss Jessica Hammond. Jessica’s mother Nicole pointed me in the direction of her own songs, many of which are available on Youtube, and also informed me that prior to appearing on The Voice she had won a PRS Songwriting Award, as well as won Northern Ireland’s “Search For A Star” aged 16, each of these accolades commending her songwriting predominantly. I asked Jessica and her mother whether they would be interested in giving their side of the story in an interview, why Jessica chose to go down the talent show route to build her career, and I’m happy to say she agreed.

Harry: Jessica, you’re preparing for The Battles Rounds this week, tell us about that phase of the competition, and why you got started in The Voice?

Well obviously it’s a great show, that’s why I decided to enter. As for the battles it’ll be tricky, because I’m not really competitive, I’m just a performer. Performance is the reason I got involved in the show and to get my own stuff and my own message out there.

Are you upset you don’t get to perform your own music on the show then? Did you ever broach the question with the producers?

I did ask yeah, I wanted to sing one of my own songs for the first performance, but I didn’t get to pick. The production team give you a list of songs to pick from, and Price Tag was on the list. So, it was my decision, but it wasn’t at the same time.

Do you worry about the way you might be represented on the show?

I was quite concerned that people wouldn’t see me for me, that they’d see me in a different light, but I think I came across ok in the first audition. I’m glad they showed that I’m not in it for the money, because I honestly am not. I’ve been doing this for eight years and I do it because I’m passionate about it. I’m not just someone who wants to be famous like you said. The main thing is my music and I want to continue to write really good music. I’ve been in the studio all day writing new songs and recording demos, because I love bringing joy to people. I know that because of the show I’ll be in the paper one day and someone else will be there the next, but I’m very grounded and I know where I’ve come from, and I’m very proud of that.

I’ve been doing this for eight years and I do it because I’m passionate about it. I’m not just someone who wants to be famous like you said

You’re building on your success in the first audition already and using twitter and youtube a lot to communicate with your fans. Regardless of what happens in the competition, whether you win or not, do you feel like you’ve already got what you need out of it?

In a way I suppose. I’m so grateful for every person that gets in touch with me, and I always try to reply, which surprises some people. But this is why I write. I write for people who want to support me, who send me letters and gifts and listen to my music. I like to surround myself with those people, not negative people. I get so many messages from fans who are going through hard times, and immediately I understand where they’re coming from. So yeah, I’m over the moon that my songs have already touched so many people. Regardless of what happens, I’ll always be grateful.

You tried out for X Factor when you were 14 but didn’t have a great experience, can you tell us about that?

Well I’ve always done competitions as a way to perform.. I’ve gigged obviously, all over Belfast and Ireland, but opportunities are hard to come by. Competitions are just a great way of getting your name out. For people to listen to my music is so important. The whole X Factor thing was blown out of proportion though, people were saying that I totally despised The X Factor which just isn’t the case. The X Factor is just a completely different show to The Voice. You have to go through so many rounds and be on the top of your game before you even get to the Blind Auditions, and you’re surrounded by professionals, people with record deals and publishing deals. That’s where I want to be. I want to be a respected artist. Even with my audition, when I watch it back I know I was pitchy here and there, but that’s something I have to take on board. I’ve only just turned 18. I know there’ll be people who judge me straight away, but I try to look on the positive side.

So was not getting on The X Factor a blessing in disguise?

Like I said, it’s a different show. With The Voice the people on here have been working their asses off for years and years, they just haven’t got the right breaks. The show is an opportunity for respected musicians who love to perform, and I’ll perform anywhere. I’ve done over 200 gigs in the past few years, and it was only last week that I got my first paid gig, which I put towards my new guitar – a Taylor JS-Mini. I still feel like I’m not full ready for the music business, I know I’ve got a lot to learn. I wouldn’t like to be thrown in right now when I don’t know half of what others know, it’d be like throwing a baby into a cage with a lion. I feel like I need a couple of years doing more gigs and getting more experience. I’m a hard working girl, so if I keep doing this then I’ll get where I want to be.

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