With a handful of awards to her name, including being named Best Original Solo Act at the 2015 Buffalo Music Awards and winning the 2014 Yellen Foundation Songwriting Contest for her single, “China Plates,” Buffalo-based singer/songwriter Jess Chizuk will release her debut LP, Lehigh Valley Line, on 16 September.
In advance of the album’s release, Jess took time to answer our 8 Questions.
BFoN: Favorite instrument
JC: Mine has always been the acoustic guitar, even before I could play it. I love the one I play primarily right now (a Breedlove), but I suspect my favorite guitar of all time is still out there somewhere.
BFoN: Favorite book
JC: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. I’ve probably read it seven times. A bit macabre, but it’s so well written.
BFoN: Musical influences
JC: A lot of older artists. Jim Croce, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac. But I also listen to a ton of new folk music these days: Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers, The Head and The Heart. Really, any artists that keep the focus on the lyrics and stories — that’s what I listen for and am always trying to improve on myself.
BFoN: Favorite album of 2016
JC: Hands down it’s Cleopatra by The Lumineers. Such an awesome record.
BFoN: Star Wars or Star Trek
JC: Star Wars, no question! I’m not big into movies, but I’ve seen every Star Wars film.
BFoN: Which member of the band is most like a Spinal Tap character
JC: By default, I guess it’s me. Never had much use for anything that goes to 11 though!
BFoN: First album you purchased
JC: I bought Dizzy Up the Girl by The Goo Goo Dolls when I was probably 13. The intro to “Slide” was also the first guitar riff I ever learned how to play shortly thereafter.
BFoN: Origin of your new album’s name
JC: I wanted to do a song inspired by some local history, and I’ve always really liked the ideas and imagery that comes with trains. The Lehigh Valley Railroad used to run through my hometown — Buffalo NY — and after a bit of research seemed like a really neat piece of history to write a story around. When the album was done, it seemed fitting to title it with the track that that had the most in it about the city all the other songs were written in and about. Hence, Lehigh Valley Line.
Many thanks to Jess for her time and thoughtful answers. Stream/download “China Plates” below.