Interview: Jess Helft

Jess Helft, a songwriter with her real self in each song written.

Hometown: Boca Raton, FL

Influences: NSYNC, Alanis Morrissette, George Michael, Spice Girls, Sheryl Crow

Genre: Pop

Favorite Venue: Bobby’s Idle Hour

Jess Helft envisioned going to music school during her first time at The Bluebird Cafe. She moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music. After graduation, Helft headed to NYC, where she worked at the same management company who manages Sting.

When did you start songwriting?

“I wrote my first song when I was 20. I really didn’t know how to play guitar until like my junior year of college. I started learning guitar and took a couple guitar classes..and learned from my friends.

My roommate in New York City wanted to be a songwriter, too. I was so inspired by her so I was like, ‘I want to do that. I want to start writing songs.’ It’s weird because it was always in the back of my mind when I was a little kid. I’d sing and try to write stuff but didn’t know an instrument. I think it’s always a thing I wanted to do but didn’t see it until I heard someone write a full song and play it for me.”

Have you co-written in Nashville?

“I did. You have to be able to open up with other people. Every time I write a song, I’m in this really weird zone and it’s hard to get into that zone when another person is there. I do want to try it again in the future.”

What is the process of songwriting for you?

“I’m always thinking and writing little notes in my phone. Then all of a sudden, it all comes together. I’m always forming ideas in my head for new songs. I don’t wanna write cliche things. I have to be connected to what I’m writing. Everything you hear in my songs is real.”

Like Helft stated, all her songs are about her real life relationships, insecurities, and empowerment. In 2015, she released her self titled, 90s pop inspired Jess Helft – EP, inviting fans into her life. The EP features ‘Let You Go’, ‘Just For Today’, ‘Broken Man’, and ‘Nobody’s Winning.’

Tell me about ‘Just For Today.’

“One day I was feeling how we all do sometimes like not happy with the way we look, not falling in love… So i decided for one day I’m going to give myself a little leeway to be proud of my body and to like myself and let myself fall in love. Someone once said, ‘shouldn’t you be feeling like that everyday?’ And I said, ‘yes but you should focus on 1 day at a time.’ It came from my insecurities.”

Do you have any pre show rituals?

“I drink something alcoholic…always. I don’t get too drunk, just a little buzzed to calm me down because I get nervous on stage. I always warm up before getting to the venue. I don’t rub a rabbit’s foot or light a candle, nothing like that [laughs].”

Why is Bobby’s Idle Hour your favorite venue in Nashville?

“It’s underrated and I really like that it’s a great place to try new songs at. The audience is receptive. The vibe is very chill. And they are a place for everyone, all levels of talent, to perform. Art is about acceptance, and everyone has something to say. It’s for anyone to get up there and do it.”

Want to see Jess Helft live? She regularly performs at writers rounds around town. Also, Helft will be playing at the Nash In Tune Writers Unleashed showcase at Blue Bar & Rack Room on April 18th.

Jess Helft Website




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