Compelling, vivid stories from the heart told emphatically by graceful vocals, accompanied by little more than an acoustic guitar. These are the building blocks for most of Jess Chizuk’s songs. The young singer-songwriter has her musical roots firmly divided between both old folk tunes and new indie music, but the result of this combination is her truly captivating writing. It has been garnering the attention of audiences in her hometown of Buffalo NY and beyond. Drawing on life experiences, honest stories, and the city she calls home, her music is soulful and truly genuine. This award winning songwriter already has an impressive catalog of accomplishments at only 22 years old. Aside from supporting national artists like Howie Day, Davina and the Vagabonds, and Dylan Jakobsen, Jess was the recipient of the Best Original Solo Act award at the 2015 Buffalo Music Awards, the winner of the 2014 Yellen Foundation Songwriting Contest, winner of the Folk category at the Smoky Mountain Songwriting Festival Songwriting Contest, a semi-finalist in the 2015 Songwriter’s Serenade Contest in Morovia TX, and a top five finalist in the singer/songwriter category of the Great American Song Contest – a contest receiving submissions from nearly 2000 songwriters worldwide.
Jess’ first release, Shine A Light On, came out mid-2012, produced in Los Angeles by serious and talented industry professionals. “I had a blast really working in the studio for the first time, and that’s when I got serious about making music,” she says. “But I knew within that year I had a different direction I wanted to take my songwriting and sound.” This began several years of thoroughly exploring her songwriting abilities, working towards creating something 100% self-driven.
China Plates was the first song to emerge from this practice. Winning the Yellen Foundation/Buffalo Music Hall of Fame Songwriting Contest in 2014 made her an award-winning songwriter at just 20 years old. “To this day, getting that phone call was one of the happiest moments of my life. It’s amazing to be recognized for what you love,” she says. Released in March of 2015, Jess took China Plates across the country, picking up awards, nominations, and recognitions as she went. This, along with an incredible local reception to her new sound, spurred the idea of a sophomore release.
Now, scheduled for release in September of this year, Lehigh Valley Line is a true singer-songwriter record. It’s not over-produced, it’s not flashy, and it’s not even backed by a full band. The focus is all on the songs themselves, with each telling a unique tale of its own. Themes of love and longing are present throughout the extremely thoughtful and well-developed lyrics, as are a few homages to the Buffalo backdrop in which the songs were created. And as always, Jess’ smooth and airy vocals tie things together and tell the stories she’s penned with strong emotion. “This is my most favorite project,” she says. “I listen back to the tracks and say, ‘This is who I am right now, put down in words and turned into songs. This is me.’”