This article is from Edition 02: Storytellers
Rosie Riley
Written by Rosie Riley
Published on 12th July 2020
3 min read
Jess Kilroy is a musician, conservationist and long-time rock climber. She's a storyteller with a twist.

Jess incorporates field recordings of natural sounds into her music and compositions to raise awareness of conservation issues and the rapidly disappearing soundscapes of nature.

The film Creek Sessions, which is about Jess and her music, won the Adventure Uncovered award at our film festival this year.

The film is great and Jess’s music is even better. We invited her to contribute to this month's Edition given the stories she tells though her music. 

We love how you use sounds from nature in your work, tell us about your creative process? How do you choose which sounds to use?

I enjoy incorporating rare sounds captured in nature (after a long, silent wait, observing in my soundscape field recordist blind) into my music compositions. I like to go to remote, wild areas and build a camouflage blind out of surrounding vegetation and wait for the wildlife to come to me. I prefer to use rarely captured sounds like the thumping beat of a rabbit’s foot on the ground, the playful vocalisations of otters communicating and the cry of a distant wolf. I sometimes use hydrophone recordings as well. 

Jess in Creek Sessions

How do you choose which stories to tell and messages to convey?

We all have a responsibility to use what talents we have to share the stories and struggles of wild places and help stem the tide. I can’t help feeling we are at such a critical moment in human history, in which the fate of the world quite literally hangs in the balance. Open lands and wild places, such as Bears Ears & Indian Creek, are under dire threat from human development, resource extraction, corporate exploitation, and climate change. 

I aim to bring awareness to these issues by creating music that incorporates the vanishing sounds of nature and donating a portion of proceeds to environmental protection organisations. 

Creative projects such as Creek Sessions, I hope, will connect the public to the natural world in new ways, and will encourage them to use their own talents to protect it. ⁣⁣

Tell us about a sound or an experience that has really inspired you...

I’m inspired by the complexity of birdsong. I’ve enjoyed using software to slow down and lower the octave of specific bird species and then incorporate this into my music. This makes it possible to listen to the many tones in bird vocalizations that are imperceptible to the naked human ear. It’s amazing how much information is being communicated in only a few seconds. 

"Strong Like Sinew" is a song created with all sounds from Indian Creek during the shooting of the film, for the film. All sounds are also in the sound design of the film Creek Sessions. 

The same goes for the songs in Gumbo, a short film we made of my residency at the American Prairie Reserve.

What advice would you offer an aspiring musician?

Keep going. The path of music and art is important, inspirational and deeply satisfying, however, it’s also wrought with disappointment, rejection and struggle. The reward does not always come in the approval of others and may not always manifest monetarily. If you choose this path, it’s wise to be aware of both sides. 

Ask yourself why? Why are you making art? Why is it important to you? The “why“ has helped me move towards a better understanding of myself and my music process. Keep going, true art takes time.

You can purchase The Creek Sessions album here. 100% of the proceeds go to protecting Bears Ears National Monument. 

Listen to Jess on Soundcloud.