The Way Forward: Jess Cornelius

The songwriter had to make her own music videos in quarantine — now she wants to make them for other artists, too.

Quarantine has helped me creatively in this way that I totally didn’t expect. It forced me to make my own music videos, which I’d never done before. That’s been really rewarding. 

When quarantine started, I had this deadline for release and I knew I wanted to make three music videos, one for each of the singles. I had a director lined up for one of them, and sort of a loose idea of how we were gonna make them. It all involved other people, with the locations, the crew, that sort of thing. Of course, none of that could happen anymore. We couldn’t just get in a car with a bunch of people and go to a location to shoot — no one wanted to do that. 

My partner is not a filmmaker either, but he upgraded his iPhone and we bought a stabilizer. I signed up for a subscription to Premiere Pro editing software and taught myself to use that. We started making these videos, and we didn’t know what we were doing but it was really fun. I realized that editing music videos isn’t that different to using music production software. It’s time-based, and clip-based, and there are whole banks of effects you can apply to different sections. I had more time to spend learning and working on the videos, since there wasn’t much going on.  

Being pregnant as well at the time was hard, because I wanted to see my friends and have them rub my belly and that sort of thing; I really wanted to see my family, who are all in New Zealand, and that’s been really tough. But, it gave my partner and I this creative project to work on, and pushed me to take control of that side of the artistic process. I’d always just left it up to other people — I had ideas for videos and was sort of involved in terms of production, but never actually filming and editing them, and seeing them through from start to finish. 

I think my partner and I will keep making videos. He really enjoyed finding that he has an interest and skill in that area, so I think he wants to do more. He has a pretty serious full-time job, and he used to make a lot of visual art but he doesn’t get to do much anymore, so it was a great creative outlet for him. With our child now, he’s had these ideas for a while now to make this psychedelic children’s television show, so I think making things for her as well would be really great creatively. 

Obviously collaborating with people is awesome and really crucial, and I definitely want to keep collaborating with other video makers and visual artists, but I think I’ll have more of an input now. I like knowing that I’ll be the one putting the footage together — it just made me so much more relaxed. In the past, I’ve been more insecure in front of the camera, and  more worried about the end result, because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of control. Also, having my partner film it meant there were no inhibitions — I could just dance on a rock or dance in the street, or just be a complete looney. And I was like, if I don’t like this, it’s not gonna end up in the video. It gave me all of this freedom.

I’m really interested to start making more video stuff, and not necessarily have me in it. I learned how to use all these really great cheesy effects in Premiere, and it was so fun. So I’d be interested in even making videos for other people or projects. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a whole new thing. 

Distance is out now.

(Photo Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells)

A lot has changed since Jess Cornelius began writing the songs that would comprise Distance.

For starters, she moved halfway around the world from Melbourne, Australia to Los Angeles. At the time, Cornelius — who was born and raised in New Zealand — had a few new songs and the idea of finally making a record of her own, excited to start fresh after several years as the primary songwriter in the Melbourne-based outfit Teeth and Tongue.

But the distance that Cornelius addresses over the course of these ten songs is hardly a geographical one. Instead, the album — her solo debut on Loantaka Records — finds a deft songwriter analyzing the space between society’s expectations for her and her own dreams; between the illusion of love and the reality of disappointment; between a past she is ready to let go of and a future she could have hardly imagined.

The album features contributions by Stella Mozgawa (Warpaint), harpist Mary Lattimore, Emily Elhaj (Angel Olsen), Stephanie Drootin (Bright Eyes), Jesse Quebbeman-Turley (Hand Habits), whistler Molly Lewis and special appearances by Justin Sullivan (Night Shop, Kevin Morby) and Laura Jean Anderson.

(Photo Credit: Rachael Pony Cassells)