Interview: “A Name That had no Expectation”

SCENE interviews musician, film composer and visual artist, Tessa Rose Jackson (aka Someone)

(Image: Ayman Zahir)

Tessa Rose Jackson spends twenty-six weeks of her year in Amsterdam, the other twenty-six in London.  It is the month of October 2023, and she is currently touring the UK with her band.

Jackson’s career as a musician developed quickly in her early twenties – but, being young and with a desire to experiment and compose eclectically, her headspace quickly became clouded. She felt an expectation to remain within the realms of the style her new followers were captivated by: “the problem is, when something is successful a lot of people get on board, and a lot more pressure arose to repeat myself.”

This feeling was impacting her ability to create, and so Jackson decided to rewrite herself using a name which erased her personal identity from her work. 

She chose Someone: “It’s not even gendered, there’s no indication as to what you should expect… and I kind of liked that because it paved the way for me to be able to do whatever I liked.” It brings to mind the renowned pseudonymous Neapolitan novelist, Elena Ferrante, who has spoken of the freedom that disguising her identity affords her – she can explore things in her art that would otherwise seem off-limits. Jackson can put her identity into her artwork without being directly attached to it.

Jackson uses a strikingly poetic analogy when she describes the constraints she felt before becoming Someone: “I always compare it with a painting… I was standing too close and all I could see was the brushstrokes and technicalities… I sort of lost track of the beauty of it and the bigger picture.” 

(Image: Bibian Bingen)

I now imagine Someone as more than a name, but rather a blank canvas – much more so than Ferrante, whose chosen name echoes other, existing Italian artists, not least the novelist Elsa Morante, thus creating context for her readers. Jackson deliberately eschews this. Jackson launches bright acrylic paint at this canvas of her own creation, before using a touch of muted watercolour – then comes sharp glass, silken wool; hers is a masterpiece of great depth.

She explains that her most recent album, Owls, was inspired by a road trip with her partner through America, where they drove the infamous ‘Music Triangle,’ New Orleans to Memphis to Nashville: “You don’t have to change the channel, it just does it by itself. If you’re around New Orleans it’s like Jazz and Fusion, and then you get to Memphis it’s bluesy and swampy, and then once you start nearing Nashville it’s like country.”

The amalgamation of genres within Owls was stimulated by the diversity of music encountered on the trip; I can’t help but draw a link between this style synthesis, and her initial motivation for becoming Someone.

Jackson uses her composition as an outlet for emotion, for things she struggles to articulate through speech: “I find myself on stage, and I’m singing words that are just so deeply personal… If I was saying this to you [the audience] in person I would never be able to say this. But somehow, I can sing it.”

Her songs often centre the vocal, which is melodic and dreamy. Her explanation resonates: “I believe you can make more impact when you whisper something than when you shout it… it’s about the power of subtlety and delicacy.”

When she is asked about her lead single on Owls – ‘I Guess I’m Changing’ – Jackson delves into her struggles with accepting that she herself is continuously evolving and growing: “It’s about embracing change, especially when it’s scary and you’re not sure… The idea of breaking out, that was a big thing.” Grappling with identity seems to be a significant struggle, but something to which her musical outlet has helped her come to terms.

Jackson’s platform is continuously building, but at a pace she is more comfortable with. The suffocation she felt from her original success when releasing music under her own name exposed her true preferences: “I’m a slow burner. I really like it now that I’m building a little group of people that are enjoying the fact that every album is slightly different.”

As for the future, Jackson plans to gradually write and release more music, with hopes of touring the UK with her band in 2024.

As for Someone, the name provided time for Jackson to experiment freely within her compositions, without living up to the expectations of echoing her initial work, but she is now ready to return to performing as Tessa Rose Jackson from January 2024: “It feels good. It feels like I’ve bridged the period of time I needed it for… now I’m at a space where I can sort of take it from here.”