Jess Kent moves from street busking to studio recording

British-born, Australia-raised vocalist Jess Kent isn’t sure how she arrived at the eclectic sound heard on her debut EP, “My Name is Jess Kent,” with its rap/dub mashup “The Sweet Spot” and the pop/hip-hop putdown of Internet villains called “Trolls.” Her reggae-musician father introduced her to diverse sonic delights as a kid, including Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” the Bob Marley catalog, The Who and The Police. “Then I started listening to The Kooks and The Strokes and Britpop records, and Oasis, of course, and it all formed a unique little blueprint, I guess,” she says.

Where are you right now?

I’m in L.A., in the Capitol (Records) Building, and I’ve been here a month, writing and recording my first album. And it’s really exciting to dive deeper into what we did with the EP and put together a new time capsule. The EP was done in Sydney, and Australia-centric. But now I’m having all these new experiences and traveling, so it’s me, but coming out in a whole new way.

But you started in Adelaide, just busking on the street with your brother on drums, right?

Yeah. Because we were so young, we thought, “Well, we can’t play gigs in clubs, so let’s get a little amp and busk on the street.” And that’s how we got a lot of our gigs – we’d play weddings and parties, and just busk on weekends. We did that for quite a while, and by the time I was 16, I’d started playing in bars.

What were some of your weirdest busking gigs?

Seriously – every time we would step out to play, you had no idea about the outcome of the show – every single day was different. Sometimes, other street performers would come through randomly, and we’d be like, “Hey! You’re that guy! Come do a card trick for us!” Or we’d give the guy on stilts a tambourine and everyone would be dancing. We were prepared for every eventuality.

Were there turf wars for key busking spots?

Oh, my gosh, yes! I busked in Adelaide, then a bit in Sydney. And even on the beach the turf wars are real. Some guy was like, “Can you not play here today? I got here at 5 a.m. to play my ukulele.” They would just squeeze me out.

What was the most you made in one day?

Well, we were teenagers, so we would literally be sitting around, wondering, “Are we going to play Playstation today or go busking? You know what? Let’s busk until we can afford a new pair of sneakers.” And that would be our goal. And some days we bought more than one pair.


Daya, with Jess Kent
Where: Social Hall, 1270 Sutter St., S.F
When: 8 p.m. March 14
Tickets: $20 to $22
Contact: (415) 777-1715,

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