NewTracks New Artist: Jessy & The Volunteers

NewTracks New Artist: Jessy & The Volunteers

This one’s one for all those struggling with insomnia, those who really aren’t relaxed about watching 2020 slip away in a state of lockdown, those who’d definitely prefer to be dancing than waiting. Jessy & The Volunteers are a big enough band to include sax and trumpet, and a charismatic singer (Jessy Wadeson) who brings the high energy focus for their funky groove. You might have come across their fun Phone Face video mid-2019, but either way watch out now cos Time Is Laughing. The single was featured on NZ On Air‘s NewTracks compilation this October.

What’s your given name, where are you from and what do you play?

Jessy Wadeson, Ngāpuhi, grew up in Taranaki. I play gat and dabble in keys for writing purposes, but the voice box is my main instrument.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

Kapahaka at primary school is where I found my passion for belting. Musical theatre throughout high school – I was Nancy in NPOS’ ‘Oliver’ at age 18 where I had some valuable singing training. But mainly self-taught through listening and singing along to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Dusty Springfield, Janis, Jewel and Cher (lol) in the ’90s, haha. I was also part of a singing/dance troupe in Wellys called ‘The Young New Zealanders’ in my 5th form year; my mum used to drive me down to Wellys from NP every other weekend to rehearse and perform. I learnt a lot that year.

Any other projects might we know you from?

Our J&TVs lockdown live streams streamed from our basement at Level 2; also Phone Face our debut music vid in 2019.

What’s the background story of how Jessy & The Volunteers came to be? 

After starting a few original bands, singing in many others and travelling and playing solo for years , I was in the USA and realised a) I needed a band as my voice was too massive for my rhythm guitar, b) NZ was really the place I needed to be to gain the support of my own country. So I moved home to dedicate myself to starting a band. I called my old drummer Julian Green (from my band in Sydney at age 20), and asked if he’d be the bones of my team.

I moved to Auckland 3.5yrs ago and got my networking pants on. I started going to open mic nights and meeting potential musicians to be in my band. I found my home and support through Ema Barton & her regular team at Portland Public House in Kingsland. Tom Tyer-Drake, (my new friend and our live sound engineer) practically formed the original band. Sam Nash (Siobhan Leilani, Round Buddah) quickly jumped on board on the bass and Julian, Sam and I started jamming out some of my songs on my Kingsland porch. I then told Tom, ‘I need a keys player’, and Tom put us onto Siaosi ‘George’ Naua on the keys to fill the sound out a bit more.

I found a house with a basement and we got to rehearsing before I even had furniture. We played our first show in our basement after about 6 months. It was a hit. Tom ‘Facebook-lived’ us and I was contacted by producer Nathan Judd (Hipstamatics, Kiko, Lou’ana) from Rageous Records the following week. I was playing the gat at that stage and knew it was restricting my vocal gymnastics, so we recruited Alex Pyle, a jazz muso on the guitar and got cranking on the live scene.

Since then we’ve lost Alex and George overseas but we’ve gained a couple of girls – Francesca Parussini fresh out of high school – jazz whiz on the keys and sax; and experienced in many art forms Florence Fitz, driving the bvs and trumpet. Lane Twigden (Those Lethals) has been our main man keeping the blues alive for us on guitar the past couple of years, and we also have the astonishing Jordan Neal on the drums and percussion. We’ll be a 7-piece in the new year!

How has your music evolved from your beginnings in songwriting?

As I grow as a person, I have more interesting things to write about. The usual heartbreak/love songs still feature but I like to branch out a bit more in terms of concepts. I’m way more into developing my ideas now rather than being cathartic with it and just putting them on paper.

Songwriting used to be a way of detaching from my emotions (and I didn’t like anyone to hear my songs for years), and now it’s more of an art form which I love to share and hopefully touch people with. I’ve learnt tonnes about song arrangements and production throughout the years and now I’m not afraid to try things that might sound weird by themselves knowing the potential awesome convergence. 18-year-old Jessy would put her fingers in her ears when she heard a synth – now I can’t get enough of them!

How did you come up with the name for the new song?

This single Time Is Laughing came with the chorus of the song. Was looking for something catchy that people could relate to. The song was written in 2017 but felt the timing was perfect this year as many people are worrying about their time ‘wasted’ in Lockdown, so might be able to relate.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date? 

Opening for Katchafire to a sold-out crowd at Meatstock Auckland festival in Feb earlier this year. Then having the Katchafire lads tell us that our set was Meeean! hehe. We were then booked to go to Oz and do the Sydney version, but that fell through (thanks Covid) – hopefully next year!

What makes Time Is Laughing stand out for you as a single?

The bass, the bridge and the synth featuring Kiri Kainamu-Wheeler. Oh and the video is pretty hilarious.

What’s the story behind Time Is Laughing?

Wanted to bring some James Brown into this song and didn’t want to go too deep with the lyrics as most of my fav funk songs are pretty surface-like. It started with ‘Alex- give me a funky riff’ – da da, ba da da da (ya know), then I just started singing some words on the spot. A lot of the musical development was done in the studio with Nathan Judd at Rageous Records. Added in some horns last minute. It’s about going too hard – to the point of delirium, whilst simultaneously being laughed at by the inanimate time, which you really shouldn’t worry about at all. The moral of the song – life’s short, stop caring and just dance!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical?

That synth solo just before the lyrics come in at the bridge. Also a fan of the BVs ‘should you be afraid’ in the outtro – getting pretty jazzy for me but all about it.

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Stop worrying about wasting time, enjoy it, be kind to yourself, DANCE!!! (And put it in your roadtrip playlist please!)

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

Was looking for something ‘breakthrough’ with this one – something radio-friendly that would get stuck in people’s heads!

Who else is in your team?

I am a self-managed artist and play most of the roles. Thanks to Covid I’m no longer a self-employed travel agent and have been thrust into full-time musicianship, so I have been spending a lot of time researching, getting advice, practising the admin/management side of things. I would like to get that down packed and hopefully start managing another artist in the new year. My band help me with things if I ask – like we’ve been making our own merch. I write and co-produce all the songs with Nathan Judd at Rageous Records. The first time we’ve used a publicist this time. We used Woodlane, Hayley Fisher for this song.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Follow us on your fav socials platform and you will see: All the stuff we’re releasing throughout summer including our debut album early 2021; we just launched a Youtube channel to hit the online market so hit subscribe as some cool stuff will be coming out on there in the new world. Oh… I’ll be singing with Ahoribuzz for the Aaron Tokona tribute show in Tauranga on Oct 23 including Kara Gordon as front man, Joel Shadbolt and Francis Kora. I get to rap in this set – way out of my comfort zone and I love it.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

Troy KingiShake that Skinny Ass

Lou’Ana – Eye to Eye


Had any NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others?

Yeah, we’ve never had any funding… Yet… Advice? Don’t give up! Believe in yourself. Do your research and work hard.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I love KEXP and NPR’s Tiny desk. I also dig Ria Hall‘s new podcast, ‘Say something with Ria Hall’; She’s real

Who did you make the video with?

The video concept was brainstormed by the band. I think they just wanted to document me going crazy on camera, haha. Then our producer Nate directed the video and he had a grand time ruining my hair and makeup, and then had me swing on the roundabout in my nighty in the middle of the night. It was freezing. Many many hours went into this track and video…

Made with so much love. I borrowed some beautiful dancers from Melinda Palmer‘s Mt Eden Dance academy. Melinda guest taught me ballet a bit when I was a young sprout. It was an honour to have Emerald, Jay and Erin on shoot with us. Extreme low budget with losing my job so HUGE thanks again to all those who donated their time (and houses) for the art. Camera by Aaron Wakely and I can’t give enough props to the young man who does our editing Jacob van Pelt – absolute magic what he does.


New Tracks is a compilation of new music from New Zealand artists which is distributed to broadcast and online platforms on the first of each month. Previously the Kiwi Hit Disc, New Tracks is one of the ways that New Zealand on Air promotes kiwi music to the industry, radio, streaming services, and media. To apply for New Tracks you must have a completed, airplay-ready song and a promotional plan.

Any last words?

Thank you to all our fans! We love you and can’t do it without you. xxx