Interview: Jess Hitchcock on Unbreakable, songwriting and representing First Nations artists in the Australian music industry

  • Anna Blaby
  • June 28, 2023
  • Comments Off on Interview: Jess Hitchcock on Unbreakable, songwriting and representing First Nations artists in the Australian music industry


Unbreakable by the talented singer-songwriter Jess Hitchcock is out this Friday, 30th June 2023. In her second album, the proud First Nations artist serenades us with an achingly beautiful reminder that we can find power in ourselves to become unbreakable.

Unbreakable is a follow-up to Jess’s acoustic debut Bloodline (2019), which was inspired by her family origins from Saibai Island, in the Torres Strait, and Papua New Guinea.

After a spell as a jazz singer, Jess Hitchcock was contracted to the Short Black Opera company before being cast as Flinch in Opera Australia’s The Rabbits (for which she won a Green Room Award). The Rabbits was composed by Kate Miller-Heidke. Further, Jess has toured as Kate’s backing vocalist for the last seven years – including representing Australia at 2019’s Eurovision Song Contest.

Jess also worked alongside some of Australia’s most celebrated recording artists including Tina Arena, Lisa Mitchell, Archie Roach and Paul Kelly, joining the latter on his Red Hot Summer Tour this year.

I had the chance to speak to Jess about all things Unbreakable. 

Congratulations on the new album release! Unbreakable is coming out 4 years after your debut album of 2019. You’ve done a fair bit of work in between and I can tell you went for a bigger sound this time. Let’s go through the story behind that and how this album came together?

Bloodline was a love album that I put together and I really wanted to record the songs the way I’ve written them. Unbreakable is more of a push towards creating a fuller sound and also more of a commercial sound because that always plays into everyone’s thinking these days. I also wanted to create something I would be able to perform live so there’s a lot of live instruments in it, a lot of strings. I worked a lot with a violinist so I wanted to create something that can really draw people in during our live performance and help them take note of the story.

Everything that was added in is there to support the story. For me that’s how my songwriting works. It’s about supporting the story of the song and what the song is about.

What message were you trying to convey within your new album, Unbreakable?

The title track “Unbreakable” is sort of what the whole album is about. It is about overcoming obstacles especially from youth and letting those trial and error situations really shape the person that you get to become as an adult. For me it’s about using these traumas and the things that happened to you and building yourself to be better and stronger and more resilient.

You are such a storyteller and your songs have a deeply personal feel to them. I was surprised to hear that most of your songs are actually works of fiction! Tell me a bit about your process of songwriting and what inspires you to write?

Most empathetic people will always find a way to try and connect with what they are hearing and help support people through hard times. That’s sort of what happens with my songwriting; I hear these stories, and there are definitely bits and pieces of myself  and my own experiences in all the songs, but in the way of: I know how you are feeling even though I haven’t been through the exact experience.

Unbreakable is about me as a young person speaking to Piper [whom Jess mentored while working as Assistant Director of Australia’s Indigenous opera company, Short Black Opera]. Piper lost her brother and even though I haven’t ever lost a sibling I wanted to speak to her and say that what happens in our youth doesn’t have to define who we are as adults. It’s a letter about how I could find healing through music in a hope that Piper and other First Nations women I work with can take something from that.

I know it must be impossible to pick favourites when it comes to your own babies… but is there a song out of the album that is most precious to you? Why?

My favourite song might be “Baden’s Song”. It’s about my little brother who is a dancer. It’s just about him being beautiful and creative and just a total legend and I love him. He is the other creative person in my family and we have a lot of siblings so we really bond over that. It is a very uplifting song about being free and feeling free while performing on stage.

This was one of my favourites too! Such a dancy song, you can feel it’s written about a dancer.

First Nation representation in Australian music definitely went a long way in recent years and I know you are very passionate about contributing to this process. What are your thoughts on that?

A really great passion of mine is being a representative on stage. When I was growing up there weren’t as many First Nations women performing on stage like there are today. Now there is more reception to it and people are really coming out of the woodworks with their stories and music. First Nations artists are really making a dent in the music industry which I think is very exciting!

I’m so happy to be a part of this generation that is coming up and doing that and I am very passionate about nurturing young artists to come up to this world as well. It definitely hasn’t been easy for me and it continues to have its challenges over and over again but it’s a great industry to be a part of.

A lot of the people I work with are incredibly supportive and it is an excellent community. We all sort of pushing forward and I hope to keep going with that.

You are such a multi-talent! What’s next up for you? Another exciting collaboration? Attacking yet another genre?

This album is genreless and unlimited and I feel like this is where I am at the moment as an artist. I have lots of things happening with the opera and will keep doing a bit of everything. I actually would really like to write a country music album next! I definitely dived into it with “Homeward Bound and I always loved country music so I think it might be a natural transition. I’ll be touring Unbreakable this year starting end of July.

I am so excited for this one, big country music fan here! “Homeward Bound” is very country and gives us a taste of what’s to come.

Jess’s new album combines some great pop, indie and country tunes. I sure have enjoyed listening to it and hope you will too!


The album launch will be on Friday 30th June at Readings, Carlton – 6pm. Free – but please book HERE

You can buy Unbreakable on vinyl and other limited edition merch bundles HERE. Unbreakable will be released on the 30th  June – you can pre-save it HERE

Finally, you can keep up to date with Jess via her website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube

Header image credit: Tessa Thames

Anna Blaby

Anna is a Melbourne based mum, writer and storyteller.