In a rare silver lining for the cloud of the COVID-induced lockdown, Jess Moskaluke has found a reason for gratitude. “In some ways I’m thankful for the pandemic, as my new album The Demos might not exist without it,” the Saskatchewan-based country singer-songwriter explains.
“Before this happened, I had thought I’d just go the singles route, writing every few weeks, then releasing the best material as singles. With the way I write, however, that wasn’t the reality anymore, as I couldn’t go to Nashville for writing sessions.”
Moskaluke adapted by returning to her catalogue to find some favourite demos of tracks that hadn’t made it onto a record. Three of these songs now appear on The Demos, in both demo and finished form, alongside her 2019 No. 1 hit “Country Girls,” “Halfway Home” [another hit], and some other previously unreleased material. The hybrid collection debuted in iTunes at No. 1 upon its February release.
Moskaluke has achieved many such Canadian successes, since releasing her first single in 2012. She won the 2017 JUNO Award for Country Album of the Year, for Kiss Me Quiet and, from 2014-16, was a three-time consecutive CCMA Female Artist of the Year Award winner. With her 2014 hit “Cheap Wine and Cigarettes,” she became the first Canadian female country artist since Shania Twain to achieve CRIA Platinum status, and she’s also notched Gold certifications for “Take Me Home” (winner of a 2017 SOCAN Award) and “Kiss Me Quiet.”
The Demos is the first full-length on which Moskaluke has co-written all the material. “I’ve always had the mind-set that the best songs will always win,” she says. “There are stronger outside songwriters than myself, and I’m always honoured to sing their songs when they’re a perfect fit. Still, it’s been a goal in the back of my mind to pen every song on a record.”
The diverse group of co-writers on the recording includes her longtime producer Corey Crowder (Florida Georgia Line), Emily Shackelton, and Liz Rose (Taylor Swift).
“It’s been a goal in the back of my mind to pen every song on a record”
While acknowledging she remains “a singer and performer first, and a songwriter second,” Moskaluke stresses, “that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy songwriting. I’m so thankful that being a singer led to songwriting. If there’s a song I feel I got just right, I love singing it more than anything else, and that adds to my love of the writing process.”
She’s found that the Nashville-writing-room approach to country composition suits her personality. “I’m not the type to just sit down with a guitar and write that way,” Moskaluke says. “I’m a very collaborative person, and I do best writing with other people, when there’s energy in the room.
“It was only when I signed my first Nashville development deal that they encouraged me to get in a room with writers and learn how to write. I’m so happy they did that. It turned into another part of my job that I adore. Some people say that [co-writing session] format stifles creativity, but that’s how I learned songwriting over the past 12 years. Plus, I work best when I can schedule and set aside time for things.”
Moskaluke has made inroads in the Australian and U.K. markets, but for now is resisting the siren call to attempt to break in the U.S. “That’s a tough conversation,” she says. “I’d like to have a family someday, and I don’t want to be completely absent from them. Chasing the U.S. market is like starting over again. Doing all those radio tours, and [spending] weeks or months away from your family, I don’t know if that’s something I’m overly interested in.”
“Right now we have stuff going on in Canada I’m excited about. I love this country and the industry here. We set our artists up for success, and you really can have a career here. That’s a cool thing.”
Moskaluke emphasizes that she’s an artist who prefers to look forward, not back. “I’m so focused on what’s coming next, and how I can connect better with fans without being able to play shows. My hamster wheel of a brain up there is constantly turning!”
In a rare moment of reflection, she says that, “I just thought music would be a hobby, but it turned into my career. I don’t take for granted how lucky I am that this has become my path in life.”