(Originally posted March 30, 2012)
I met Jessica Kilroy several years ago at a music camp in Westminster, Maryland called Common Ground on the Hill in a songwriting class. We became instant friends and I fell in love with her voice and songwriting right away.
I am really glad to be able to share this interview with you on Jessica. She has been touring around Europe this summer and is now back in the United States touring around, check out where she is playing on her website, www.jessicakilroy.com.
Visual Victoria: How old were you when you first started playing music? What made you want to play?
Jessica Kilroy: I feel like I was born making music. Ever since I can remember, my favorite pastime has always been the fun process of creating and imagining sound, melody and different types of musical expression. Whether I was banging sticks together, running through the forest singing songs to the trees or playing an old Stella from the thrift store… making music has always just been a part of my existence. I began to play guitar for the first time when I was about 9 years old. My dad was given an old, broken guitar with a cracked body and a bowed neck. I had a lot of fun experimenting with it held in my lap Richie Havens style. I began to play guitar “correctly” at 13 when I found an old Stella for 5 bucks in a thrift store. I wanted to start playing guitar because it was accessible and some of my favorite musicians created beautiful music with the guitar. My father had an incredible record collection and was constantly exposing me and my siblings to great music including Joni Mitchell, America, Neil Young, The Stones, Zappa, Richie Havens, Fleetwood Mac and many other inspiring musicians. I suppose they’ve all influenced my music throughout the years.
Visual Victoria: What made you choose to lead the life of a traveling musician? Why not take another career path?
Jessica Kilroy: I’d say that the musical path chose me, I had other plans but the gift of making music just wouldn’t keep quiet!
Visual Victoria: Where have you traveled as musician and what are some of the craziest experiences you’ve had?
Jessica Kilroy: I’ve toured all over the US and through many other countries including France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, The Czech Republic, Greece, Switzerland, Hungary, Romania, England, and more. One of my craziest experiences had to be the 24 hr span surrounding my first French television appearance last spring.
In the security line from New York to Brussels, Kier and I had helped a nice Algerian family through security because their two children were very cranky and a bit hard to contain. At one point their little boy escaped back through security as far as the escalator. His toddler sister smiled as he dashed free of his mothers hold and slipped under the security tape, laughing, playing a tiny air guitar and head banging to some imaginary rock band revelling in his glorious escape. Thwarted by his patient but embarrassed, shoeless father, he proceeded to throw a massive and ear shatteringly loud fit as frantic, concerned security guards surrounded the family, taking this opportunity to assert their dominance in the area of “protecting the home land”. The parents were apologetic and exhausted by the end of the endeavor and as Kier and I helped them through the line the father expressed how grateful he was to have our help. It turns out both kids had vomited all over the back of the rental car on the way to the airport and the rental company hadn’t been very understanding charging them a large fee for the “damages”. They had nothing to clean up the kids with except a few napkins and no time to change them, so to cover up the overwhelming stench of vomit they stuffed moth balls in the kids pockets and back packs! Needless to say, the smell was awful! Finally through security and on our way to the gate, the man thanked us again and said “I hope you nice people are on the same plane as us” and Kier and I went on our merry way. We boarded the plane and just as we were about to get cozy we heard a familiar tiny voice rocking out behind us…the Algerian family was right behind us on the plane!
A few days later on a train to my first television appearance in France I became violently ill. I must have gotten bit by the awful bug that those poor kids had in the airport. It was a long few hours of violent vomiting, unmentionable bowel discomfort and disappointed, nervous, tearful moments in an absolutely disgusting typical European train bathroom with no toilet paper, water or soap. Many discarded sacrificed socks and numerous attempts to “pull it together” later, I emerged from the tragedy, walked off the train into the tv studio and performed like nothing happened…running to the bathroom at every commercial break. I still can’t forget the look on the faces of the make-up artists when I first walked in!
Visual Victoria: What is the hardest thing about being a musician?
Jessica Kilroy: Well, in my opinion, one of the hardest things about being a musician is also one of the most exciting: the constant ebb and flow of the road. The endless movement and long hours of traveling far from home can get to be tiresome and although I’m often surrounded by people, it can sometimes be very lonely. But the moments experienced between shows while in motion can be magical and are always unpredictable and ever changing.
Visual Victoria: When did you write your first song? What was it about?
Jessica Kilroy: I’d say I wrote my first “real” song when I was about 13 years old. The song was called “Fade Away” and was about the loss of the old self and the rebirth of the new.
Q: Who has influenced you the most in your musical career?
Jessica Kilroy: The people that have most influenced me are my parents, Joni Mitchell and my high school guitar teacher, Michael Atherton. Faith, struggle and the urgent need to express have also influenced me.
Visual Victoria: While out on the road, what do you miss most about home?
Jessica Kilroy: Silence, stillness and clean, fresh Montana water.
Visual Victoria: If someone wanted to go out on the road and asked you for advice, what would you say?
Jessica Kilroy: Know thyself. The road can be a rough place to be if a person isn’t mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually prepared. But I encourage all musicians to simply go. It’s easier and less stressful with a plan but there’s no school like experience and no wisdom like making mistakes.