We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeff and Jessie Ross and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeff and Jessie, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
Hello, we are a husband and wife singer/songwriter duo originally from Gig Harbor, Washington; just outside of Tacoma. We met back on September 3rd, 2011 and our relationship blossomed right alongside our musical adventures. We started writing songs together and eventually formed a small band with our good friend Thene Aldergreen, called The Frosted Hearts. For eight years, we played together all over the Puget Sound region of Washington and had a number of guest musicians and singers joining us during our shows. Eventually, after an apartment, first home, adopted puppy and marriage, we made the decision to disband and the two of us relocate to the Phoenix valley in 2018. JEFF: Prior to meeting, I had taken six guitar lessons back when I was twelve, but I got bored playing the same thing over and over again. After that, I wanted to learn what I wanted, so I listened to music I enjoyed and learned by ear. I started playing seriously again in 2000 and then played the electric guitar in a very short-lived band in 2009. It wasn’t until 2010 however, when I started performing acoustically at local open mics throughout the Tacoma area and showcasing my own original work. I was very fortunate to be a part of a fantastic community of artists and musicians. Most of us knew each other’s songs, so some nights ended up being a collaborative effort, rather than a single solo player, even if the evening was billed for one artist. It allowed all of our styles to evolve, and I know I’ve taken a few tidbits from my friends over the years. My songs are often story driven. I like to consider myself primarily an acoustic guitar player, with my technique modeled after the great Lindsey Buckingham (of Fleetwood Mac). Challenging myself in learning a lot of complicated fingerpicking styles is something I take pride in and feel really helps in my songwriting. This motivated me to record my first two EPs in 2012 and 2014, which Jessie helped me with and performed harmonies on. JESSIE: I come from a very musical family. My mother started playing the piano, guitar and violin from an early age and always encouraged my sisters and I to create songs and sing together. Both of them are accomplished musicians in their own rights and, back when we were still up in Washington, we would perform together, I have fond memories of us singing along to the radio on the way to church every Sunday morning or taking the old school tape recorder we had, going into our parent’s bathroom, which had the best acoustics in the house, and locking ourselves away for hours creating short jingles, accapella songs and melodies. Our dad had an old record player, and we would always ask for him to play his collection of albums . I grew up listening to Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchel, Phil Collins, Randy Travis, Ella Fitzgerald… the list could go one. As a teenager, I found myself still loving the classic 60’s & 70’s rock and Big Band jives instead of the more current pop bands my classmates were obsessed about. When I began writing songs, the lyric styles and strong story telling from those artists brought out the same creative impulses in me. It wasn’t until Jeff and I met that, with his encouragement, I decided to really try and learn an instrument and perform my original songs. When we perform together, we switch off on who takes the lead and who accompanies the other. We support each other’s style.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
JEFF: In regard to my music – I had started out doing what I had wanted. I learned my own way of playing the guitar. I had taken lessons for about 6 months to get me started, but my teacher at the time wanted me to repeat “Smoke on the Water” and “Johnny B Goode” over and over again that I didn’t feel like it was something I wanted to continue doing. When I had started learning on my own, I was creating and writing acoustic melodies and songs that I was very proud of. I had taken those songs and started performing them at open mic nights. To get listeners attention, I would throw in folk versions of popular songs. After a while I started becoming an artist that make folk renditions or pop songs, which is something I really didn’t want. I was much more interested in writing and creating my own music. That’s one challenge that became difficult to overcome – I would much rather perform my own music instead of learning cover songs that I didn’t particularly like. These days, I highlight my own songs and Jessie’s original music in a set instead of relying on cover songs. JESSIE: For me I think my biggest accomplishment as a musician is the fact that I am one. While music has been a part of my life since I was young, it has also been a big challenge for me. It’s one of the few areas in my life where I second guess myself and have to continuously find my footing. I can be my own worst enemy sometimes and question my progress. There have been many times when I felt that I wasn’t good enough or worth listening to. That’s why I’m proudest of our newest album, “If I’d Only”, which contains originals songs written by the both of us. This is the first album of ours to do so and we both choose to record songs that are important and personal. It can be a vulnerable thing putting your music out there for the public to enjoy but also critique. Especially since I was actually fighting a pretty nasty cold when we recorded it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We live in Surprise, AZ which is still technically considered a somewhat new town, having only begun its rapid developmental growth a little over fifteen years ago. New businesses are coming in consistently but there is still a lot of beautiful farmland surrounding us. Despite this however, Surprise has a lot to offer. There are some great locally owned coffee shops to get your morning jumpstart from, including Gathered Grounds, Boyer Bakery and Chaos Coffee, all which started as small pop-up kiosks but have each expanded and developed loyal customers. There’s also Spencer’s Place, which is a fantastic brick and mortar coffee joint with a wonderful Special Needs employment program in place. There are also great music venues within the greater Phoenix Valley, such as Jarrod’s Coffee, Tea and Gallery, JoJo Coffee House, Fiddler’s Dream and Bergies Coffee Roast House, to name a few.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
JEFF: When I was in high school, I watched a PBS viewing of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Dance” concert from 1997. It was Lindsey Buckingham’s performance during the concert that inspired me to learn his unique style of playing. I had been learning to play guitar on a generic ‘learner’s guitar’ for a couple of years at that point – but it was the concert that really inspired me to focus on a unique style. This was many years before Jessie and I met. JESSIE: Recently I joined a group on FaceBook for Tenor Guitar players, which I transitioned over to as my primary instrument after being a ukulele musician for the last 10 years. It’s not a very common instrument to see though, I have most people assuming it’s just a large baritone ukulele, and I found myself beginning to feel like the black sheep within the music community. I love this instrument and, due to a soft tissue condition I have in my hands, it’s the one that has allowed me to accomplish the most. I decided to reach out to this Tenor Guitar group and their support, advice and enthusiasm has helped to combat my fears and lack of self-esteem. It’s been such a joy to connect with them, some from the other side of the globe, and be a part of this sub-community.
Youtube: Jeff and Jessie
Other: You can also find our music on BandCamp, Amazon, GooglePlay, Apple Music and Spotify.
Amy Aranyosi Jennifer Preston Chushcoff Sophie McGill Jimothy Danger Martin