An eccentric troubadour hailing from the lush island of Tasmania, Jesse McCormack is a bold and curious performer not easily forgotten. Materialising on stage in a vibrant, passionate flourish of purple bohemianism, he showcases a style of music that he likes to call “Swedish-infused acoustic Celtic folk-rock” utilising a small arsenal of eclectic instruments and a voice that’s been known to reduce grown men to tears and rowdy pubs to awed silence. He has been described as “a great storyteller, and a beautiful, warm musician” and with good reason; every song he sings has an intriguing tale behind it.
Since he was a child, Jesse has tried his hand at many artforms, including theatre, dance, photography, creative writing, and stage magic, to name a few. It was music, however, that tugged at his heartstrings and truly captured his soul, and he now ardently chomps up all the singing and playing experience he can sink his teeth into. This experience has seen him touring extensively in south-eastern Australia, and also briefly in Singapore, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Denmark, and Sweden. He has performed to audiences of 5 and audiences of 500, in everything from house concerts or cramped café gigs to major events like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, or Hobart’s Festival of Voices. He is a member of a number of Australian bands including inter-generational trio Velvet Sledgehammer and classical-folk fusion duo Zoukin, and has not only collaborated with some of the most prominent emerging and established artists in the contemporary Australian folk scene (such as Sarah Calderwood, Lily and King, The Fiddle Chicks, and some or all of the members of Co-cheòl in various combinations), but also with performers who are making a splash with European audiences (including Joel Hagen, of the Swedish folk group Jaerv, and London-based composer and electric cellist Jo Quail). Many of these artists have had some kind of advisory or motivational input into – or have even been a guest musician on – Jesse’s latest album Enchanted Forest, which will be launched in 2018.
Like most – if not all – folk musicians, Jesse harbours a deep-rooted respect and fascination for old traditions, yet he contrasts this with a continual striving for innovative new creations. This juxtaposition is manifested in somewhat peculiar arrangements: an ancient traditional ballad with an electric guitar solo between verses will immediately follow up a Eurovision cover accompanied by Celtic bouzouki. Jesse enjoys transforming existing pieces of music into something unexpected, but in the last few years has also begun composing songs of his own, centred around very particular topics, such as the blissful dilemmas of inter-continental bromance, the soap opera dramas of rival medieval jongleur troupes, and confronting the dark side of the human psyche.
An experienced hitchhiker, Jesse combines his love of music with his fondness for travelling to form a creative practice reminiscent of the wandering minstrels of old, moving from town to town, sharing their songs with all who will listen in exchange for a warm meal in their belly and a soft pillow beneath their head. This constant exposure to the diversity of human life, and adoption of such simple needs has – along with an upbringing in a small town by parents who encouraged him to dream big – induced yet another set of contrasting qualities in Jesse’s lifestyle: local approachability and global ambition.