Q+A: Country singer Jess Moskaluke
Over the last few years, Jess Moskaluke has become a dominant force in Canada’s country music scene. Getting her start in her hometown Langenburg, Sask., Moskaluke also became the first female Canadian country singer to achieve platinum since Shania Twain with her 2014 hit “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes.” The Charlatan caught up with Moskaluke ahead of her performance in Ottawa at the Grey Cup festival to talk about her new album, Past The Past, as well as her other recent successes.
The Charlatan (TC): What has this year been like for you?
Jess Moskaluke (JM): This year has been an absolute whirlwind. Like you mentioned, I got my first Juno, which was crazy and unexpected. We went Top 3 for the first time, which hadn’t been done by a Canadian country female since 2008. It’s just been so crazy and completely overwhelming in the best way.
TC: You are the first female Canadian country artist to achieve platinum since Shania Twain. For you, how does it feel to be held to that level?
JM: Well, Shania Twain is an incredible artist and legend, in my eyes. She is my favourite artist of all time, so not only to get a platinum record for a song that I believed in so much, but to then be held to the same standard as one of your favourite artists is just not something you could have ever fathomed. It’s just not something that you think about as a little girl. You don’t think about those accolades that come along with it. You really just think about getting up on stage and pouring your heart out.
TC: What are some of the other highlights you’ve had this year?
JM: I was able to perform at tons of festivals all across the country, it’s kind of unfair to pick highlights . . . I’m just so fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living and be welcomed back at these festivals year after year, so that’s a really special part about performing as a Canadian artist is the festivals.
TC: What was [the Juno Awards experience] like for you?
JM: That was very fun. It was kind of my first experience at the Juno Weekend. I had been able to attend, and I had been nominated for a Juno before, but I’d only ever been able to attend the actual awards ceremony/broadcast. The whole Juno Weekend experience was kind of what I think is rare in music these days, in that there were a lot of cross-promotions between the genres. Although I’m a country artist, I was celebrating the incredible year that pop records had, and rock, and indie, so it was really cool. That weekend, I was able to perform with the Arkells one night, so that was kind of a highlight for me as well, was really learning to become a fan of other Canadian acts outside of the country genre.
TC: What’s it like for you, meeting so many fans that love your music?
JM: It’s a thing I’m learning to live with because it’s a very unnatural life experience to have total strangers come up to you and tell you that they love you. I’m sure you can maybe put yourself in my shoes and realize that as a person, that’s kind of weird and something that you have to learn to live with, but it’s very appreciated and it’s just crazy to me that that’s even a thing that’s become my life.
TC: Who are some of your favourite artists you’ve been able to meet?
JM: I’ve had the pleasure of working with most people in the Canadian country music industry in some way, shape, or form. I’m very fortunate, I’ve been able to work with people like Paul Brandt, and Dallas Smith, and Dean Brody, and Madeline Merlo, and Meghan Patrick. The list really goes on and on.
TC: Do you want to talk about [Past The Past]?
JM: This album is my most recent project, and it was kind of a project that took a little bit of an unexpected turn. I’ve never had an album have a theme before in my career, so this was a first for me. I had just collectively put together the best songs that I could. Whether it was the best songs I had written or the best songs that people had sent me to listen to, and it seemed that the best songs were about break-ups, and moving on, and getting over somebody. That’s not where I’m at in my life right now, in fact quite the opposite. All of a sudden, the song “Past The Past” came along, which I didn’t write, but it came across my desk and I completely fell in live with it, and realized it was the missing link to this album. So, the theme as a whole is “Past The Past” and you can learn a little but more about that by checking out the album itself.
TC: What was the mindset behind going with a theme?
JM: Well, there wasn’t one because the theme came at the very last minute. “Past The Past” was actually the last song that we ended up recording, and choosing and selecting for this album, so that album was pretty much, I don’t want to say it was done, but it was pretty well ready to go, and then we recorded “Past The Past” and that was when the theme really came into play. That’s when I realized there was a theme. So, there really wasn’t a mindset. Sometimes things just happen in life and in music, and this was just one of those very fortunate coincidences.
TC: Why is [“Past The Past”] meaningful to you?
JM: I think if you just listen to the song, it’ll just give you the answer, to be honest. I don’t like to say much about each individual song and the way it relates to me because I really appreciate when the listener can listen to it and figure out how it relates to them.
TC: How would you describe touring with [Chad Brownlee, Paul Brandt and Dean Brody]?
JM: They were separate tours, so it’s kind of hard to wrap that all up into one statement. I was very fortunate to be able to get in front of their crowds because that’s part of the cross-promotion thing where some people that weren’t fans of me before might have become a fan of me afterwards, only thanks to Paul, or Dean, or Chad, or Bobby [Willis]. It was all a fantastic experience, that I would do all over again in a heartbeat if I could.
TC: What sort of things do you learn when you do these tours?
JM: You learn that it’s not as glamorous as it looks. You learn how to live in very, very, very close quarters with about 10 other people. You kind of just learn about a different way of living, which probably might not make sense to anyone who’s never lived on a bus. But yeah, that’s kind of the biggest thing I learned on those being my first couple of tours.