ARTIST NAME: The Jess Novak Band
SONG TITLE: Treat Me Right
ALBUM TITLE: Fireworks and Fairytales
GENRE: Pop, Rock, Soul
Jess Novak takes no prisoners. With a fiddle on fire, powerful vocals, and a fierce band behind her, this pop, rock, soul-pumped group from Syracuse…
Known for their energy, superb musicianship, engaging songwriting, and ability to win any crowd, this is a band on the rise.
Having touched audiences across the country – from Burlington, VT to Key West, FL to San Diego, CA – and with Novak playing more than 250 dates annually, the sound gets tighter with each show.
Jess Novak (violin, guitar, vocals, piano, percussion, looping) works with Byron Cage (Tommy Castro, Joe Louis Walker, Otis Taylor) on drums; Anthony Saturno (Atkins Riot) on electric guitar, Jabare Mckinstry (Chris Ames Band) on bass and Gavin George (Strange to Look At, BSG) on drums to create a powerhouse sound, often with Nick Fields on trumpet.
Novak’s work is being played on radio stations worldwide (WTYT 960, D.C. Coast to Coast, Women of Substance Radio, IndieOutbreak) and written about at home and across the ocean.
Novak has played such prestigious rooms as The Cutting Room (NYC), The Saint (Asbury Park), and Nectar’s (Burlington, VT), opened the 23rd Annual Chenango Blues Festival (with headliner, Ronnie Earl), and performed with groups and artists including Devon Allman, Tas Cru, Jimmy Hall, Ghost Town Blues Band and members of Butch Trucks and the Freight Train Band.
Novak released her solo debut album, “Bad Habit”, in December 2013.
Her group, The Golden Novak Band, released their self-titled debut album in August 2014 and their follow-up, “Rodeo”, was released in October 2015.
The Jess Novak Band released “Inches from the Sun” on November 5, 2016. The album won a Syracuse Area Music Award for Best Pop in March 2017.
The band released a live album (Jess Novak Band Live at the Nelson Odeon) in June 2017 and released “Fireworks & Fairytales” in November 2017.
On December 31, 2018, Novak released “Fear is the Cage. Love is the Key.” a double-album featuring members of JNB. In October of 2019, Novak released “Rise” with Ben Wayne. The four-song EP features tracks recorded in Nashville, TN with some of the best in the business, including guitarist Jeff King, producer Bill Warner and songwriter Kirsti Manna.
Novak has played with projects spanning Ladies Night at the Palace (an all-women show) to Vinyl Albums Live to BeatleCuse, providing a strong musical background, easily adaptable to any situation or genre.
She’s been nominated for Best Female Vocalist in the Best of Syracuse competition four times and won the award in 2018.
She placed third in the 2016 Country Showdown sponsored by WOLF 92.1FM.
Her work spans hip-hop beats to throw-back soul to straight-up pop making for music that engages any listener.
Novak was also the cover girl for Syracuse Woman Magazine in September 2016. See it all here.
Novak also won the Indigo Productions Songwriter Series in Syracuse for her song “Rat a Tat” in July 2018.
Tell us your source of inspiration.
Life inspires me. Every day I find myself writing songs in my head based on a word I hear, a conversation I have, a movie I watch. There are so many stories to tell, so I feel constantly inspired all the time.
Discuss how you develop your music style.
There are a lot of people I admire who can play songs just like they hear them. When they go to cover a song – they do it exactly like the original. I think that’s amazing – and something I can’t do. I can’t help but reinterpret everything I hear.
So, my style is based on my constant reinterpretation of everything. All the artists I love the most, idolize, want to be like – I feel like I’m just a reinterpretation of them, so my style is a big mix of characteristics drawn from so many places. The result is a style that’s all mine and I love that. Love it or hate it – it’s distinct and that’s what I want.
Elaborate on multi-genre music.
I’m bored by albums that sound like one continuous song and so many artists are like that. Often, it’s because they’re encouraged to get a style and stick exactly to that, so fans know what they’re getting. That makes some sense as people like what’s familiar – but as a listener, I think it’s incredibly boring.
So, multi-genre music brings pieces of all different types of music and finds a way to make them work together and complement each other. This is especially at work in my band because everyone comes from a wildly different background.
My favorite part of making an album with them is the time we sit down, and everyone adds something, and the result is at least five different genres slammed together. You can’t duplicate that. It’s the energy of many people mixed together. I love it so much.
Tell us the best means of reaching fans.
Being genuine. This comes across on all platforms. Whenever I post something, it’s because it’s important to me and I feel it’s necessary to share it. That’s usually pretty effective in reaching my fans.
Likewise, getting out and pounding the pavement is also effective. And when I do and I’m face-to-face with fans – I’m genuine and that’s still the best way to connect then, too. It’s easy to get caught up in the “most effective” platform, but really, I don’t think it matters. I think it comes down to what you’re sharing and how real you are whether it’s face to face or on any of a hundred social networks.
Discuss the process involved in launching a musical career.
Endless work. Endless determination and tenacity. The process begins when someone tells you you’re good. Then you start playing, creating, being encouraged and you think it’ll just snowball into whatever you want. In some ways it does, or it did for me. Once the ball was rolling, I knew it wouldn’t stop. But it’s fuelled by my work ethic.
As you grow as an artist, in what you create, you have to grow as a businessperson, marketing professional, social media manager, booking agent, everything. The process is never-ending and limitless.
Tell us how to develop a lyric to a full song.
You start with an idea. You have something to say. So, then you start deciding on how you want to say it. Will you tell a story, speak in metaphors, etc. Whenever I get stuck on a song, I just go back to the beginning – what am I trying to say? What feeling am I trying to get across? I think if you stick to that, you’ll have better success.
I also feel the words and chords need to match, so that helps inform the lyrics. You’ll feel how things fit with the chords, the meter, and it usually comes together naturally. I think the more forced it is, the more you can tell. I’m always about being real.
Tell us how you come up with a melody.
That usually just happens. When I have something to say, I have a mood in mind. That mood dictates the chords, the scale. Then you start trying melodies within that to build the song. Maybe there are people who do it in a more precise, mathematical way, but I’m all about letting it flow out of me.
I think we’re just vessels made to communicate something a little bit beyond us.
Tell us your ideal type of recording studio.
If I could build it – I would want a huge room, preferably in a cabin in the middle of the woods where it’s totally peaceful and quiet.
I’m a big fan of recording live, but with isolation if possible, so a big room, with glass walls, so the band can see each other.
When you play live, that’s the energy. It’s the way everyone reads each other but can also close their eyes and feel the music, too.
And to be fully in the music, I need to be away from the bustle of life, so being away in the woods is like a dream for recording. In the woods – or at the shore in the winter when it’s peaceful and dead and you can go stare at the ocean anytime you need to restart.
For me, a recording is intense. You need a place where you can really work and a place where you can really detach. For me, that’s nature – and ocean or woods/mountains are the best for it.
Describe the factors you consider in a good song.
Soul. I don’t care about the style, the kind of lyrics, the instrumentation, the form, none of that.
The key to a good song, to me – is purely about if you can feel it and believe what the artist is communicating.
I’m a fan of very clear lyrics, but it isn’t necessary. For example, I love Gwen Stefani. So much of her early No Doubt songs are straightforward, and I love that. You can tell that she means it.
But I also love Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan who have very poetic ways of communicating things. And again – you can feel it – in the words, the delivery, and the music.
I think once a songwriter gets rid of the notion that you need a certain formula to have a great song – the better you’ll be.
I have four-chord songs that kill every time. Then I have songs, I think, that are very in the Bob Dylan vein – that don’t have as much success.
The idea of a “good song” is difficult to describe because everyone has a different interpretation of that.
But I think if you’re real and communicate your soul – you’ve got it.
Tell us how you impact your listeners with your songs.
Music has been such a gigantic part of my life, it’s overwhelming to hear how my songs affect people.
I’ve had lots of fans tell me the songs got them through a situation or they can’t stop listening to it because it strikes a chord with them.
I’ve had people tell me they’ve cried listening to some of my songs or performances. They FEEL something, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do – help someone feel something.
Tell us about your working experience with producers and music directors.
I’m all about collaboration so I love working with producers and directors.
I love hearing the creative input of other people. It’s invigorating to me and I love it when I start with one idea and it transforms into something bigger and better.
Robyn Stockdale, who has done a lot of my album artwork, is a great example of this. I will give her the seed and she will make it bloom into a whole garden. That kind of collaboration is amazing.
Tell us how you feel after the completion of a song.
Proud, but also aware that it’s just the beginning. I feel that songs are like kids. You have them, create them, and then they keep changing – becoming themselves. It’s amazing to see.
Tell us your worst song and state the reason.
I’m critical of so many of my early songs because to me, now, I feel like they lack direction. I didn’t think them through enough to fine-tune certain aspects.
But, incredibly, some of them are STILL my most asked-for songs! So, it’s hard to say they’re bad when people still love them. That’s also why my answer to what makes a good song was so broad. You never know! And different things resonate with different people. As long as you’re being genuine, I think you’re onto something.
Tell us what you will change in your music.
There is inevitable growth in my music all the time. You can’t help but keep learning new things and interpreting life.
I’d like to get more comfortable on guitar to expand what I can do instrumentally, and I think that will change my songwriting, as it has in the past. Every time you learn a new chord, a new instrument, you make another leap. It’s fun when that happens, like the beginning all over again.
So, I hope to keep growing and that will change what comes out musically.
I also hope to keep expanding my topics. It’s easy to write about yourself at the beginning – it’s what you know best. But it’s fun to expand that and write about books, characters, the world, imaginary situations to express an idea, etc. as you get better at communicating ideas.
Tell us what is special about this release.
This song was inspired by Anna Kendrick’s Cup Song. Everyone kept asking me to play it and eventually I realized – it’s just words to a beat. I can do that.
So, I wrote this song when I was feeling a little mistreated by a potential boyfriend. It was my warning to him. The rest of the song was, again, the brilliance of asking my bandmates to contribute what they felt.
I remember Anthony, my guitar player, picking up a beer bottle when we played it at a gig and blowing into it. I freaked out and knew we had to add that to the song in the studio. It’s amazing how those brilliant little ideas come together. You have to trust your team. When you do – everyone gets better and the songs benefit.
Tell us about your future goals.
I recorded in Nashville last year and I’m hoping that will help bring some new traction to my career.
Music is all about networking. I don’t need to be a household name, but I do want to share my music on a bigger level, play more shows to quiet, listening audiences, tour further, etc. I write music to be heard, so I want it to be heard on a greater level.
Tell us how you overcome obstacles.
Music is one of the most infuriating businesses because there are absolutely no guarantees. There’s no ladder and when you stay long enough or work hard, you don’t just move up. And sometimes you watch people much newer, younger, or maybe not as good as you fly beyond you.
The only way to overcome all of it is to stick to your belief in yourself and not give up. Every time I feel upset or frustrated, I use it as motivation to get better and work harder. I view every obstacle like it’s gasoline on my fire – not water.
Elaborate on the song.
I feel like women are taught to tolerate more than they should have to…
This song is a declaration to be treated right. It’s also a warning – “don’t stand a chance, I start a fight.” It’s saying not to underestimate me and that I realize, “you’re full of (sh)it, just like everyone else.”
I’ve found myself in a lot of situations where the man thinks I won’t catch on to whatever the game is that he’s playing or that even if I do, I won’t call him out on it. Wrong.
Elaborate on your artist’s name and the title of the album.
The Jess Novak Band was a natural move from a previous band I had that used two last names from the group. I didn’t want people to get confused when I changed the name after that member left, so I kept it as simple as possible.
The name of the album, “Fireworks & Fairytales” is two of the song titles put together. The two songs speak directly to one another, so I thought it was a cool way to draw attention to both. I also loved the imagery that came with that and the wings on the cover demonstrate that fairytale aspect.