Earlier this year, Nashville based college student, musician, and songwriter Jessica Frech posted a self-produced video on YouTube of her composition, “People of Walmart,” a cheeky, home-spun commentary on a typical day at the mega-store. Armed only with her personality and a sturdy Epiphone guitar, the video became a fan favorite and soon went viral, logging over 4.6 million hits at last count. But the fun was just beginning.
Just before Thanksgiving on the eve of releasing the follow-up, "People of Walmart 2," Jessica got a call from Hyundai to write and perform in a holiday commercial for the Hyundai Assurance.
The first of Jessica's two Hyundai commercials begins airing today nationwide (check it out below) and both prominently featuring the Epiphone Emperor Swingster Royale. Meanwhile, “People of Walmart 2,” which features Jessica’s Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele, is up to 500,000 views on YouTube and the meter is still running. We caught up with Jessica in Nashville.
“People of Walmart 2” is up to 500,000 views and rising on YouTube. What did you want to do differently this time compared to "People of Walmart?"
We were definitely more prepared for the second one. I wouldn't say it was easier, but the writing, recording, and filming went a whole lot smoother since we knew what shots we were looking for and what direction to take it. In the planning stage, I decided to cut out a verse and chorus so that the song wouldn't be as long as the first one.
How did the Hyundai commercial come about?
: Well, their marketing team saw my first “People of Walmart” video on YouTube
and decided to show it to the Hyundai to entice them into having me do their winter campaign. After I found out that the marketing team won the client over with my “People of Walmart” video, I said, “Wait…what???” I found it hysterical that an accidentally viral video gave me the opportunity to do a national Hyundai commercial.
You are used to writing under pressure but until now it's been your own deadline. Did your writing process change since you knew the commercial was going to a world-wide audience?
: I think the reason why I found so much success with YouTube is because I stay true to my songwriting abilities. I wouldn't say that my writing process changed at all, all though I did spend more time fitting a potentially three and half minute song into 30 seconds for TV. That was a new experience for me, but I love the pressure!
Do you have plans to make an album and if so, what can we expect?
We just finished recording my holiday album, Pull My Finger to Hear Jingle Bells
, which releases December 5. But now, we're working on a full 10-track album to be released at the beginning of the new year. There will be quite a lot of new material that my fans have yet to hear, so I'm pretty pumped to release it.
Is there a part of your musical world that your fans haven't heard yet that will be a big surprise?
: If anything, the album that I'm releasing will allow my fans to get to know me more as an artist and as a person.
Are there songs or instruments you use to get you in the mood to compose?
JF: Absolutely. I love discovering new music, so anything fresh and a lot of new released music like Feist's new album and Florence and the Machine's new album, at least for now. I cycle through music quite quickly.
Many songwriters are constantly jotting down ideas for songs on scraps of paper. What is your writing process like?
I do keep an “idea journal” with me at most times. I didn't start doing that until my first songwriting class at Belmont, but I've found it to be helpful. Before then, I would just text myself ideas or lines that popped into my head throughout the day. Filtering through an idea journal has been much easier than filtering through a million texts.
What's your favorite Epiphone?
What can we look forward to in 2012?
My favorite Epiphone is the Masterbilt DR-500MCE. Best acoustic I have ever heard. Plays like a dream. Having two pickups on it is awesome when recording. You can get some amazing sounds out of it.
: When summer comes, I'd like to do some touring for the new album, and hopefully some more commercial opportunities arise in the new year.