"The Yorkshire Mistress Of Self-Expression..."
The Bleeding Obvious has one single member: Jessica Rowbottom. A self-confessed 'queerdo' from Yorkshire, she is back on the road touring her original LGBTQ+ piano cabaret show with new songs alongside old favourites.
The self-titled debut The Bleeding Obvious released in 2016 was a blaze of genres featuring an impressive array of vocalists, musicians and an orchestra. She followed it up in 2017 with the sophomore album and touring show Rainbow Heart: an odyssey about her LGBTQ+ identity and coming out of the closet.
Her new work however is rooted in optimism while firmly giving a big middle finger, with themes such as the Me-Too movement, “Pride-washing”, and the increasing transphobia within the UK.
"I wrote the first two albums during the Summers of 2016 and 2017," explains Jessica. "Wonderful sunny days, lots of time in my home studio which has plenty of natural light. After I finished each album I crashed mentally as the nights drew in, but this time queer negativity online was an extra 'bonus'. Don't get me wrong, I toured and it was fun - but it was a real effort to stay afloat sometimes."
"Then other things got in the way: Brexit, the pandemic, that sort of stuff. It was delayed even further, but it'll get there in the end - I’m optimistic life will brighten up, sunlight will return, we can fight the darkness."
Jessica counts artists such as Swing Out Sister, Saint Etienne, Roísín Murphy and M83 as influences and as a result her work sashays effortlessly between genres including pop, classical, electro, chiptune, spoken word and disco. An education as a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral during childhood influences harmonies and arrangements as much as her record collection.
She hasn't just been busy in the studio though - The Bleeding Obvious' second album Rainbow Heart led to a nationwide tour with dates in Bristol, York, Nottingham, Totnes, Brighton, Leeds and Manchester among others. She played to a busy off-West End theatre for Pride In London, was the guest of LGBTQ+ choir The Pink Singers for a sold-out show at Cadogan Hall in London, and led a thousand-strong crowd in a singalong of her new song One Girl Girl at Wakefield Pride. For someone who didn't want to do live shows that's something of a turnaround.
Jessica laughs, "This keeps coming back to bite me - when I said I wasn't keen on doing live shows, I'd anticipated one gig to launch the debut album! Mum bought me a proper decent stage piano when I launched the first album so I went back to my old music teacher from school days for coaching. Live cabaret followed and I'm addicted to it now!"
It all leads to favourable comparisons with the work of Fascinating Aïda and musical comedians Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin. A good thing?
"Oh I think so - humour defuses the stress of the situation. When I tour I meet all these wonderful people, queer audience members who come up after the show and say 'You just described my life!'. I don't think that'd happen if it was all stern and serious: folks identify with the gender and sexuality issues I sing and talk about, and will derive strength and be more open if there's a comedy side."
Activism by the back door? Quite probably, but it works.
Although Jessica favours a piano on-stage, her trademark musical layering is very much present in recorded work. Her home studio is affectionately known as The Fishbowl and contains a diverse range of instruments including keyboards, organs, and synthesisers, acoustic and electric guitars, an accordion, ukulele, omnichord, recorder, melodica, theremin and modified childrens' toys such as a Speak'n'Spell.
The Bleeding Obvious continues to perform live shows and plans to release the perpetually-delayed third album "soon".
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