Interview with Jessica Clemmons of Jess and the Bandits

Hello lovelies!

I'm so excited to bring you this interview with Jess from Jess and the Bandits. Not only is she a great singer, but someone who I believe is a great boost to the body positive/fat community now she's teamed up with Evans for their Style Has No Size campaign. Here's a little introduction to Jess and the Bandits:

Having debuted at #6 in the Official Country Charts with their debut album Here We Go Again, 1/5 Texan and 4/5 British country rockers Jess and the Bandits are currently gearing up for their debut UK headline tour this October, which follows on from their sold out London shows earlier this year.

Having received critical acclaim for Here We Go Again alongside support from BBC Radio 2 for the album's lead singles, ‘Single Tonight’ and 'You Can't Stop Me', the band are thrilled to announce that the new music video for their single 'Nitty Gritty' will be filmed in association with High Street plus size fashion retailer Evans.

Here's my interview with Jess.

What was your reaction when Evans approached you to be their Style Has No Size ambassador?

Oh gosh! I was honoured and excited. I love what the campaign stood for, so I was really, really excited when they asked me to do that. I think it's a really good fit, the two of us - being able to do this together.

Were you bigger/plus size when you were growing up?

Yeah. I went on my first diet when I was 9 years old. I struggled with my weight - the thing was my mother was a very healthy cook. She made everything from scratch and we were constantly playing outside and being very, very active. Definitely not like kids today. (Both laugh.) We actually spent time outside and for whatever reason, I've just battled my weight since I was a little girl. So it's definitely been a part of who I am, pretty much.

Was there anyone on tv you saw growing up that made you think 'Oh my God, this is a fat person on tv! I'm not an alien!'

You know what? There wasn't. There wasn't at all, because that was in a just shows how far we've come. That was in a time where if there was a fat person on tv they were being made fun of....they were the funny friend, or like on Friends when Monica was fat (I groan, remembering how shit that was to watch)... everything is made fun of and 'funny'. So I definitely didn't have anyone I felt I could look up to [on tv] and there definitely wasn't anything remotely fashionable either. Clothes that I remember wearing...because they didn't make anything above a size 10 [US] for teenagers so I was wearing big, baggy men's shirts and trying to hide my body. So I definitely didn't have any influences. I think kids are lucky today. They definitely have a lot more body positive influences.

How did Jess and the Bandits form? I take it you came together over a love of music, but how did it come about? 

Basically, to make a really long story short, I've been at this for a really long time. I've been travelling to the UK for music since 2006 and I was doing pop music, kinda pop soul, but nothing was making sense. The pieces of the puzzle were not fitting together and in 2012-2013 I decided to get back to my roots and go country, and at the same time I was on tour with The Overtones, opening for those guys, and this band of musicians were the backing band, and we ended up becoming fast friends. Then we were hanging out all the time, and making music, then they backed me up when I started changing my genre from pop to country, and then it just made sense. We're always playing together, we're writing together, and it was like 'Why don't we just become a band?' And they thought it was a great idea, so did I, and we did it. It was meant to be.

Who's your favourite country artist, would you say?

Gosh, that's a tough one because I have a lot of different ones for different reasons. There's people like Dolly Parton, who has to be in the list of favourites because she's Dolly Parton (Both laugh.) She's such an icon. I'm a huge fan of Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Miranda Lambert....a lot of these newer artists I love as well. Like I said for different reasons, but especially from a band perspective I love what Lady Antebellum does. I think they're just incredible.

I had an ulterior motive for asking this you see... (I explain I was a big fan of country years back, but haven't sought out any new country music, so I needed tips about new blood. I'm in kinda 1990 era Garth Brooks listening territory.)

You know, I just saw Garth Brooks in concert, like 3 weeks ago, in Houston where I'm from. I got tickets to see him and he's been out of the business for like 20 years and it's his world tour. I'm hoping it's gonna come over here because it was a-mazing! You would love it. Since you mentioned Garth Brooks, he is on the list because I was singing every single song at the top of my lungs at the concert.

Going back to plus size matters, what advice would you give to young girls growing up in a plus size body?

I would tell them to love who they are, try to accept who they are, even if they want to lose weight. I think for me, I've been that person who says 'I do want to be smaller', and at the same time there's this contentment that you have to find, otherwise you're going to feel like a prisoner. And you have to feel content, so I would tell girls: love who you are at every stage in your body whether that means you're bigger, or you're getting smaller. Because life is life, we grow up, we might have children, you may put on weight, you may lose weight, you may put it on again. The thing is, you have to find happiness in who you are otherwise you're going to spend your whole life hating yourself and life is too short for that. And you know, something I've learned, another thing which is huge is to let go of diets. Let them go. Don't diet. First of all it's been proved it can really ruin your metabolism and make things worse. If you wanna have a piece of cake, have a piece of cake, and then move on. Don't feel guilt. Just enjoy life, live life, don't overindulge, just be happy. Don't keep yourself from things that you want, and then I think we won't sabotage ourselves any more. I think that's what a lot of time happens. And then you find out you're a happier person. You start to love who you are, you don't have to stress out if you want to have dinner. (Both laugh.)

What do you think about all the health shaming and concern trolling on social media, and how these crappy articles in the media act as if a women puts on 4 pounds that she's the Antichrist?

It's so ridiculous. It almost seems like they've ramped it up because women are starting to love who they are. It's almost like the media's going 'Oh, wait a minute, we can't have people feeling good about themselves.' It's one of those things where as women we feel we have to look a certain way for men to find us attractive and I find it's such a shame. You find a lot of the time that the media pits us against each other so we end up tearing other women down because they're thin. Back to the Evans campaign, although they're a plus size brand, their hashtag is saying Style Has No Size, that is all inclusive, for all women, and that is so nice. It feels like that's something we can all agree on. None of us feel good enough, it doesn't matter what size we are, that we can all come together and say 'Actually, we're all pretty amazing so it really doesn't matter.'

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A singer. I was 5 I think when I told my mum I was gonna make records, and there was never a Plan B. There was never a back up plan, so fortunately so far it seems to be working out OK. (Both laugh.)

Before Evans, did you read any plus size blogs?

Oh yeah! I mean I've been following tons of plus size bloggers for a long time. There's a few in the States that I like to follow - Beauticurve, Garner Style, and there's quite a few actually in the UK that I follow as well so I've been on the whole plus size blog scene following everyone for a while. I like to follow both the UK and the Americans because I like to see the difference in the styles that we have, and it's great. There are so many now, and it's also a way of finding out new fashion brands, It's finally opening up to where we don't just have one option any more, or a handful of options. We have a lot of options now and it's great.

Linking in to what you just said, what do you think of British fashion - is there much of a difference [from America]?

There's not a huge difference but I find that UK fashion in general is a lot edgier. It definitely has that edgy fashion feel to it that you don't have as much in the States. It's just a slight difference in the way that Americans do things and Europe as a whole do things.

Do you ever get nasty comments and messages on social media?

Yeah, occasionally. I mean there's always gonna be that one. They wanna try and find your weakness so they go for the obvious, and as someone who's been fat their entire life, I'm like 'It doesn't really bother me.' I find it really funny when they're like 'Oh my gosh, look at you! You're so fat!' and I'm going 'What?! I had no idea. You just informed me of something totally new I didn't even know about myself. Thank you so much!' That's generally my response to people like that.

What is the meaning of life?

Ohhhh, that is like, serious! The meaning of life, I think what we're supposed to be doing is caring about other people, loving other people, doing things for other people. We spend most of our time, all of us, being very very selfish, and it's easy to be selfish. The more that we spend our lives doing for others the better we will be and the better the whole world will be. If we all did things like that, if we all cared for other people or tried to inspire other people in some way, it would be a better place. I don't know if that's the meaning of life but it's one of the things that should be done with life.

I don't know about you, but I'm more than a little in love with Jess now. Have a listen to some of their music (click through to see the video if you're reading via email.)

Here's the video in collaboration with Evans. I love it! It actually made me a bit emotional as I love the message behind it.

Keep in touch with Jess and the Bandits:


Thanks for reading,
Leah xoxo

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