Jess Jocoy makes atmospheric Americana for rainy days and twilight hours. It’s an honest, heartfelt sound, delivered by a storyteller whose songs ask big questions about her characters, her world, and her heart. On 2022’s Let There Be No Despair, she sinks deep into her folk roots, creating a soft-hued album rooted in the power of resilience and the search for silver linings.
Raised two hours south of Seattle, Jess grew up beneath the drizzling skies and lush landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. “I’m a mountain girl at heart,” she says, nodding to the scenery that shaped albums like her acclaimed debut, Such a Long Way, and its follow-up, Brighter Eyes, with the woozy, water colored beauty of her native Washington. She created both records in her adopted hometown of Nashville, a city whose songwriters had first captivated her attention as a child. Morning after morning, a young Jess would listen to records by Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert, and Shania Twain on her way to school, building the foundation for the unique sound — a blend of northwestern and southeastern influences — that would eventually take her across America.
It was in Nashville, not long after the release of Such a Long Way, that Jocoy found herself riding out a global pandemic that had cancelled her touring plans. She’d been on the fast track to success, earning national TV appearances on NBC Songland, airplay from the iconic radio station WSM (home to the Grand Ole Opry since 1925), and praise from outlets like No Depression (who hailed her “smooth blend of traditional country and folk sounds”) and American Songwriter (who saluted Such a Long Way‘s “mournful effervescence”). Quarantined in her adopted hometown for multiple months, she began creating 2021’s Brighter Eyes, a self-produced EP that glimmered with reverb, swooning pedal steel, and other cinematic touches.
She salutes the full spread of her abilities with her second full-length effort, Let There Be No Despair, trading the ethereal sweep of Brighter Eyes for an organic, elegiac mix of folk and sharply-crafted singer/songwriter sensibilities. Laced with violin, acoustic guitar, bowed bass, and light touches of amplification, Let There Be No Despair mixes autobiography with imaginative character portraits. “The Gardener” paints the picture of a Montana woman who, unable to bear children, coaxes new life from the cold earth by planting a garden of flowers, while the haunting “Waiting to Exhale” deals with trauma, abuse, and a survivor’s steadfast spirit. “Part of me feels like I may not have a right to tell some of these stories, because they aren’t my own,” she says, “but it’s the heartbreaking truth that someone out there has lived through these things. I sing for them, hoping they’ll hear it and know there’s light after darkness.” Trading empathetic fiction for fact, Jocoy also turns her focus inward with songs like “Jericho Walls,” which finds her taking honest stock of the barriers she’s erected around herself, then counts her blessings with “I Will Be Glad,” a song rooted in the passing of her father, her close relationship with her mother, and the challenge of sharing her love with another. Inspired by her mother’s rural hometown along the Arizona/Mexico border, she also turns “Living in a Dying Town” into a portrait of a defiant resident who’s proud of her roots and willing to fight for them.
Recorded at The Cabin Studio with co-producer Brandon Bell and drummer Matty Alger, both of whom had previously helmed Brighter Eyes, Let There Be No Despair features appearances from solo artist Lydia Luce, multi-instrumentalist Ethan Ballinger, and bassist Brian Allen. On an album filled with multiple East Nashville all-stars, though, it’s Jess Jocoy’s star that shines the brightest, pointing the way toward new horizons and sunnier days ahead.