Someone, a.k.a Tessa Rose Jackson, is both sat in a musical niche, producing superbly atmospheric and personal music, and also one of the more complete and thoughtful musicians you’re likely to come across. In fact, she sits in a very similar toned down realm to one of my bigger obsessions of 2023, Arny Margret.
From the stunning and downbeat ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’, to her beautiful latest offering ‘Owls’, which comes complete with its own unique form of artwork (a kind of vinyl-based animation activated using an app), Someone is nothing if not inventive.
She’s also sensationally good – I’d highly recommend sticking a track or two on whilst reading the below:
Music, art, video… your creative world seems to span a wide spectrum. Do you see all these things as one big connected whole?
I do indeed! When I was a kid, I used to write these wild, outlandish stories and was sure I was going to be a writer when I grew up. Then I fell in love with music and my love for storytelling just got morphed into the whole. I see myself as a professional dreamer, almost. I like imagining myself in make-believe places, making up sounds and situations that don’t exist or are a colourful embellishment of reality. Anything that tickles the imagination is gold for me.
Can you tell me a bit about the mini movie and how it came to be part of Tribeca?
Another person I know who is a professional dreamer is my dear friend David Spearing. He is a film director, and we bonded early on in our careers over our obsession with quirky, heartwarming stories. We’ve made so many music videos together by now and we see it as an opportunity to create these ‘mini movies’, as we like to call them. Not your average music videos, but proper little stand-alone narratives, usually totally over-the-top when it comes to design and aesthetics and always with a little nod to sci-fi, or magical realism. For ‘I Guess I’m Changing’, I had the idea for a story about an android stuck in a sterile,
controlled cubicle with no knowledge of the outside world, just doing the same routine, boring tasks day after day after day.
And then one day, she discovers a hint that there may be a bigger world out there, far more colourful and exciting than she’s ever imagined, and that sparks her to start rebelling, breaking the system and ultimately freeing herself. For me, it’s a direct translation of what the song is about: allowing yourself to zoom out sometimes and seeing the patterns you’ve worked yourself into – and finding a way to
Joseph Bisat Marshall is an incredible set designer who we always work with, and he built this magnificent, clever set that could be transformed into different cubicles for the different stages of our android’s day. Hannah Mason is an incredible dancer and performer, and she just deep dove into the role of the android. We spend three days together fully immersed in making the film, it was a proper little magical bubble. And when it was done, I was so proud of it that I took a leap and submitted it to a bunch of festivals – not really expecting to get into any as there is so much competition out there. But then out of the blue I got a phone call that the film had been selected for Tribeca Film Festival in New York!
It was quite surreal, we were overjoyed and so honoured, of course.
Tell me about the experiences that inspired ‘Owls’
My partner Darius is also a musician, a keyboard player and fellow producer, and we sometimes collaborate on the Someone material. We were on a road trip through America, from New Orleans through Memphis and up to Nashville. There was something so crazy and other-worldly about the experience, there was so, so much music but also the culture and the vibe was so different from what we’re used to in Europe and the UK.
Especially while we were on the road, when we passed through proper rural America, it felt quite dark and ominous at times. Just this feeling that there was so much going on beneath the surface, a lot of things left unsaid, a lot of unknowns. Plus – we were watching the last season of Twin Peaks at the same time, so I think that put me in a certain kind of headspace too.
While we were there, I started writing a story in my head, fuelled by my surroundings… the combination of sweet romance and a lurking, mysterious dark side. In fact, when we got home I wrote a full screenplay for an indie, arthouse musical called ‘Owls’. Perhaps one day we’ll make it.
You use field recordings in the record. How do they help you to place your music in a particular time and place?
Those recordings were actually made on the road during that road trip, and are a nod to the narrative of ‘Owls’. It was very much a journey-based story, so we used these recordings to place each song in its corresponding location, just giving a hint as to what that journey might be. From a river, to the local bar, into the car with a freaky glitching radio, to the forest and ultimately ending on the beach.
It’s all very subliminal of course and it’s not like I expect anybody to distill the narrative from this, I like the fact that it might just be enough to spark the imagination of the listener. Perhaps they could start imagining their own story in their heads.
The vinyl version of the record looks pretty special. Can you tell me how that came about?
So, I am also a graphic designer and I was looking for a way to incorporate a hint to the screenplay in the artwork. I discovered a technique called ‘phenakistoscope’ making. It’s basically a way of creating animations on a flat disk, that can be seen to move with the naked out when the disk is spun at a very specific rate… and there is a way to design them to work on a turntable set to 40rpm!
So I created all these little animations, abstract snippets of scenes from the screenplay, and put them all together into these intricate discs that are included with the album. 11 of them, one for each song. When you put them on your turntable and let them spin, all you need is a dark room and a strobe light app (which I designed specifically for this!) and the whole disk will spring to life, the scenes will start to play out. It’s genuinely like magic!
Did the ‘Artistic Struggles’ series of pictures reflect a time where you were finding things hard?
Absolutely. When I get stuck with music and it all feels a bit uninspiring or dusty, I find myself gravitating to making visual art because somehow, there is less pressure on that for me. I can just play around, let my subconscious wander around and kick up a few stones.
When I was in a bit of a rut, I created this abstract series called ‘The Artist Struggles’. It’s all just simple abstract elements, circles and squares and triangles, and the first and last imagine in the sequence are perfectly controlled and balanced. That was my interpretation of: artistic control and peace.
But in the middle… all hell breaks lose, the elements get jumbled and moved around and it feels very hectic. And that, for me, is the creative process. Little moments of serenity amid the chaos.
If you had to introduce yourself with a single track, what best sums you up?
I think I would say ‘Strange World’. It’s a track from my previous album, ‘Shapeshifter’, that was written during lockdown and it’s just very, very purely me. The combination of intimate, very human sounds, fingers on strings and un-processed vocals, but then slowly the dream world starts to creep in with some shimmering synths. And the lyrics are all about dreaming yourself into a memory, which is something I do a lot.
You must have one of the least googleable names in music. Do you care?
Ha! You are so right. To be honest, I do care. It was a very conceptual and artistic choice, picking the name ‘Someone’. But it has proven a challenge that I think I underestimated. However, when people want to find me, they do find a way. So perhaps that’s an asset – the people that connect with the project do it for real!
I believe this will be your first Irish show. Do you have any particular expectations?
That’s true! I am very, very excited. I’ve always wanted to play in Ireland because so many of my touring friends have come back ecstatic about the role music plays in the culture. So much appreciation and knowledge of music just braided into the Irish way – and I can’t wait to sample it!
What are your hopes for ‘Someone’ in the future?
I hope to play my songs many times to many kind people. I hope to write another album soon, and incorporate my experiences on tour into that one, so that it’s forever captured like a diary entry. And I hope to create that indie arthouse musical together with David Spearing, one day. Perhaps it will be ‘Owls’, or perhaps a different story. But it’s a concept I have very much not abandoned and still feel very excited about.