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March 16, 2007 | Author: Greg Phillips. pic by Marty Williams

johnjessThe JB Seed Arts Grant Fund was created to help develop genuine artistic expression in Australia. It was the brainchild of John Butler and his partner Danielle Caruana and since it’s inception in 2005, the fund has received over 700 applications and supported 66 arts projects throughout the country. One recent recipient of a grant was Melbourne singer/songwriter Jessica Paige.

The JB Seed Grant of $7,750 (the amount varies from category to category) allowed Jessica and her band The Paige Boys to embark on an east coast tour which they wouldn’t have dreamed of contemplating otherwise. Part of the money was used to employ a professional publicist to promote the tour and Jessica’s 6 track EP ‘Under My Skin’ which was released in November 2006.

Jessica found the application process relatively easy and the momentum gained from the consequent tour and publicity to be invaluable. “I sent in a CD and a bio and reasons why I wanted the grant … what I wanted to use it for,” explained Jessica “There was a panel of judges, who were musicians, and publicists and the radio people that would be helping us, and they chose three musicians and I happened to be one of them. It’s really gone into helping with my tour I recently did up the east coast, through to my CD launch.” It was not only Jessica that gained from the generosity of the JB Seed Fund, but also her manager/mother who was one of twenty people invited to join a management workshop in Katoomba.

For the twenty one year old Jessica whose musical influences include Don McLean, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, as well as her singer/songwriter dad Steve Romig, the growth of her music career seems to be happening in an organic rather than calculated fashion. “I’m a busker too. I busk in the Bourke Street Mall, so more and more people are coming to my gigs and I am able to advertise them while I busk. So I guess it is kind of happening organically, but sometimes it’s nice to have people help you pay for recording or give you some free recording time or whatever, because I’m trying to make the next CD too. It took me two years to make the last CD because I was broke. The busking helps build my audience. I get to meet a lot of wonderful people. I’ve met some really incredible people. I’ve got friends everywhere now. I walk into the city and I know everybody, and it’s just beautiful having a huge community,” said Jess of the busking experience, which is exactly how John Butler himself started out.

In the spirit of Butler, Jess decided to give her fellow busking mates a leg up too by organising a series of performances at Melbourne’s Manchester Lane every Tuesday night in March. Paige has certainly attracted a lot of attention on the streets of Melbourne, however it’s her My Space site where she has really been building an impressive fan base, with currently almost 14,000 visits accredited. Additionally, a contact found via the site may also see Jess travel to Italy in September for the International Buskers Festival.

As for her first full length album, Jess has grand plans. “Look, I’ve got enough songs for two albums. What I want to do is do a live CD, perhaps at Woodstock studios or somewhere. And primarily what I’d like to do is do that and film it all and maybe have an audience.”

In the immediate future, Jess had been asked to contribute one of her tracks to a CD which is attached to the new edition of Rolling Stone magazine. You can also catch Jess at one of her many residencies around Melbourne.

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