Raised in Airdrie, a small town near Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Jessica Ridley was a performer from the start, putting on shows for family and friends at the age of 18 months. Don Somerville heard her sing at her church one day and persuaded her to sharpen her songwriting down in Nashville. She made the trek at 21 and has been getting ready for Fit to Be Tied from then up to the album’s release in June on EMG Universal.
Produced by Somerville, Chris Omartian, Billy Simon and Michael Lee, her debut album takes about one second to rope the listener in. The opening track, “Fit to Be Tied,” is out of the gate immediately with a bouncy groove anchored by a four-beat kick pattern. Over this, Ridley unfolds a half-sung, half-rapped tale of a bride’s last-minute jitters just before walking down the aisle. Her tongue-tripping vocal on the verses, bookended by backbeat-driven choruses, skims playfully over the rhythm, teases a few laughs and even ends with the story’s moral — a bow that makes the package complete.
Written by Ridley with producers Lee and Somerville, “Fit to Be Tied” is one of four songs on the album that she co-wrote. She also makes the rest of these 13 tracks her own. Bob Carlisle and Dennis Patton penned her first single, “Flaming Red,” but its wistful first verse, rhythmic lyric at the top of the chorus and overall exultation, provide a perfect vehicle for Ridley. With minimal vibrato and underplayed phrasing, her voice relates a rainbow of expression and hits the high notes with neither effort nor effect. Whether letting the melody and plaintive narrative speak for themselves on “Cinderella Shoes” (Billy Simon) or pouring on the sass throughout “Hit and Run” (Bill Champlin, Somerville and Jim Windle), she brings the material to life in the light of her already distinctive style.
BOOK ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND: “The Bible and a Frank Peretti book called House.”
PET PEEVE: “Getting groceries and finding out you forgot one thing when you get back home.”
SONG YOU WISH YOU’D WRITTEN: “‘Stop Loving You’ by Toto.”
TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY: “Read My Lips.”
SOMETHING WE’D NEVER GUESS ABOUT YOU: “I’m completely terrified of spiders and strange showers.”