Jessa Potts
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Jessa Potts

Cambridge, MA | Established. Jan 01, 2015

Cambridge, MA
Established on Jan, 2015
Solo Pop Soul




"Local singer gets first professional gig"

By Bonnie J. Toomey, Correspondent

FITCHBURG -- Singer-songwriter Jessa Potts will make her professional debut at Kelly's Backstreets Pub at 14 Mill St. on Friday evening.

Potts moved to Fitchburg when she was 2. The charming 19-year-old singer, who calls herself a "wee babe," will sing a selection of original songs and popular cover songs.

"The genre is modern, and some soul," said the vocalist. "Most of my repertoire is cover songs at the moment."

She took piano lessons with her elementary school music teacher, Donna Dik.

"She became another mother to me for years," she said. "I would go over to her house every December and help her decorate for Christmas, we would bake all the time."

Potts says Donna is the reason she got into baking and music.

"I'm not the greatest pianist, but I get by well enough so I can accompany myself," said Potts. "It's not good to have a big head on your shoulders."

When she was really young she remembers singing around the house.

She says her parents were not the kind of parents who tell their children how wonderful they are, even when they aren't. They never told Potts that she was "the best."

"They weren't mean about it; they never hurt my feelings or made me sad," she said.

Potts practiced the popular hits of Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Wherever she went in the house, whether her room, the kitchen or the shower, it didn't matter, she would belt out her favorite pop tune at the top of her lungs.
She says what did matter was the fact that she was singing.

In those early days she recalls her mom asking her to sing in another room and her dad saying, "You should stick to the piano."

Still, Potts pressed on and practiced thinking that her parents were just being realistic. She continued singing and writing songs, and practicing on her piano. Then one day she noticed her voice had changed.

"The first time they thought I actually sounded good was when I sang 'Better Man' by Pearl Jam," said Potts. "With dad, it was 'Hey, that sounds pretty good!'" she said.

Potts was 14 years old at the time.

"That was a transition for me, and it made a definite difference, even though my parents happened to support me with everything I did, and they still do. I don't know where I'd be without them," said Potts, whose mother is a filmmaker.

At her first high school Java Jam, a spring coffeehouse show, she sang "Skinny Love" by Bon Iver. She knew she was good; even so, she was surprised when the house erupted in applause. She remembers the friendly school custodians who'd open up the doors for her so she could practice in the band room.

"They came to see me sing," she said.

"But my absolute all time favorite moment, was when I sang "Let it Be" at a coffee house at Java Jam at Wachusett Regional High- a coffee house gig last spring. The staff member came up to me with tears in her eyes and said that my singing had helped soothed her after the loss of a student who had died in a car accident. I never knew him, but I could feel the sadness for everyone who did. It's those moments that make it all worth it,' said Potts.

After graduating high school, she attended Johnson & Wales. While there she realized she wanted to pursue singing.

"I went for one trimester for baking and pastry art, which was fun, but it's not what I want to do with my life," said Potts, who says she has lots of hobbies, including acting in a friend's film.

"She's a Fitchburg State University student working on a project for one of her classes," said Potts.

Painting is another of her hobbies and a way for her to tap into her visual side. She recently painted a friendly ice dragon on her wall.

"I enjoy it; these hobbies allow me to be creative," she said.

As far as practice, she says she practices the songs she really loves.

She said she recently enrolled in online classes Berklee College of Music's interdisciplinary program.

Potts says she's focusing on courses having to do with music business, production, and theory, though not geared to performance art; much of it has been helpful for handling the logistics of gigs and getting her music out there for people to hear. She says that she is taking a songwriting class as well.

"I have a lot of songs I'm working on; three originals which I'll be singing at Kelly's Backstreets Pub on Friday night," she said.

Working with Joe Aidonidis of Anonymous Animal in Fitchburg, the singer recently produced her first EP with songs she wrote.

"An EP, usually about four songs, is for beginning artists who need to get themselves out there on a recorded format. And then when you get at least two EPs, you have enough for a larger release," she said.

"All four have to do with romance for sure," she said.

Potts will be performing three of those works at Kelly's. The first, "The Lonely One," is her personal favorite, and is the subject of a YouTube music video that her film friends helped her produce.

"I love the way it flows, I love the way it builds, and I feel completely in it when I sing it," she said.

Potts, who says she can't imagine doing anything else, will also sing a song she wrote called "Confessions."

"It's about confessing strong feelings for someone who doesn't feel the same way. A lot of people can relate to it. It's a classic story of unrequited love," she said.

She will also perform "I'm Not Here For You," a ballad about one person using the other to quench loneliness, as Potts explained it.

"One I won't be singing is "In The Word Somewhere," said Potts, who recorded the song for the EP accompanied by guitarist Barney Lanman, who was one of Potts' producers at Anonymous Animal Studios.

Kelly's Backstreets Pub is Potts' first professional gig.

"I was looking for places to start performing, sending out videos, and I sent a message on FB and they replied in five minutes," said Potts, who was invited to play by owner Mike Kelly.

But when Kelly told her the gig would be three hours long it both terrified and excited her.

"My repertoire list is more than double what it was last year, but it still isn't as long as I'd like it to be, so I've searched for new songs and I am prepared," she said.

The brick-front Backstreets Pub offers a "relaxing refuge for socializing with friends, old and new" and has live music every Friday beginning at 9:30 p.m. For more information call 978-345-0758. - Sentinel & Enterprise


Still working on that hot first release.